I used to be quite the 2D scrolling shooter aficionado. Whenever a new one would come out, I would eagerly pick it up looking for that addictive experience of ducking and weaving through a veritable bullet hell and shooting down massive bosses.
However, I found I was getting less and less excited with each release as it felt as though they were either treading on proven grounds, or introducing mechanics that weren’t entirely interesting. Eventually, I lost interest in the genre and left it on the sidelines.
Years later, little did I know an HD remake of a PSP Mini would rekindle my love for the genre again.
While there is something akin to a story in Velocity Ultra, it is entirely unnecessary fluff. It’s like that inedible piece of melon cut out to look like a flower on a platter of food. It’s nice that it’s there and all for the presentation, but it would ultimately be put on the side and ignored while the meal is being enjoyed. Having said that, the objective here is to save survivors (get points) and destroy the enemy. As simple as that might be, it’s in the game play mechanics and how they all fit together that really makes this title shine.
2D scrolling shooters have a tendency of trying to cut out a niche for itself by adding a particular gimmick unique to itself and in Velocity, which would be the ability to teleport. After playing through the first few missions, I was shocked by how incredibly useful and fun this ability was to use in a multitude of ways.
The teleportation was done either through the use of the touch screen or by holding down the square button and selecting the location where the ship will appear. I personally used the old fashion non-touch option because I felt taking my fingers away from the buttons to press on the screen wasn’t working out for me too well. There was also the ability to quicken the scrolling speed of the screen by holding down the R1 button. Together with those two mechanics combined, I had a great deal of control not only in the movement of my ship but also on dictating the speed that I was comfortable moving around in.
During the missions types of “critical urgency”, I found myself never letting go of the boost button while zipping across the screen through obstacles using the teleportation all while grabbing all the survivors along the way. It reminded me of the same kind of exhilaration that I felt playing a classic Sonic game during its best moments.
As I continued on with the game, bombs that could be fired in four directions were introduced and along with them, switches that needed to be fired on in specific order to be deactivated. With creative placement of the these switches, the game forced me to react at a moment to moment basis where I was figuring out what I needed to do fractions of a second before I needed to do it. It certainly put my reflexes to the test and I enjoyed myself all the more for it.
Lastly, warp points that I could place to teleport to by accessing the map was introduced and while it wasn’t present in all the stages, it was used during the more puzzle based stages to make complex, multiple paths in certain missions possible.
The culmination of all these various mechanics combined to something that simply felt right and entertaining right from the start with minimal learning curve thanks to its intuitive nature and helpful on-the-fly hints.
This is one of the few titles I could truly say that I was hooked from the moment I picked it up and that’s high praise indeed as I can only say that about a handful of elite games. However, all is not space lasers and warp drives as the game does suffer from a few flaws.
First of all, I played through all fifty main campaign missions and clung to a hope that I would eventually fight a massive boss and it never happened. I’m not saying that every game of this genre needs to have boss fights but when I thought of the possibilities of how such a fight would play out, it felt quite unfortunate that there weren’t any presented in the game. Just think, dodging a barrage of bullets using the teleportation, warping right next to the bosses weak point that need to be damaged in a certain order at the right times as the boss changes forms, there’s just so much potential there for a fantastic boss fights using the mechanics of the game. Still, if the ending of the campaign is to be believed, there is a sequel in the works so one can only hope.
Lastly, there are bonus stages unlocked by finding secret badges hidden in the main missions but these bonus stages were far from interesting and after playing through about five to seven different ones, I had no desire to play through any of the other ones. While they aren’t entirely terrible, compared to the excellent level designs and pacing of the main campaign, they felt relatively flat. So instead of playing through the bonus missions, I found myself playing through the main campaign again to compete for a higher score on the leader boards.
In the end, Velocity Ultra stands as one of my favorite 2D scrolling shooters and a pleasant surprise that harkened back to the day where I was eagerly looking forward to each new release in the genre.
It’s a testament of how interesting game mechanics and excellent level design can elevate a title to heights only a few could dare to strive for.
Fun Tidbit: During the tougher Critical Urgency missions, try to beat it without ever letting go of the boost for an exciting experience!
Review copy of game provided by publisher.