When we reviewed Vertigo on the Wii back in 2009, Ken identified some things he enjoyed about the game and some elements that definitely were consistent with its budget title status. Unfortunately, none of the things that troubled Ken have been fixed and all of the positive elements seem to have fallen off a building… something you’ll become quite familiar with if you pick this title up.
Vertigo takes the Marble Madness formula of a round object on a precarious track and adds a few powerups. All of the modes from the Wii version (Arcade, Career, Practice, Time Trial, and Xorb Bowling) have all made it to the portable release. If you’ve played the original arcade trackball classic, you know exactly what to expect… almost. The biggest problem with Vertigo is the graphics. I’m typically someone who can look past visual rough patches, but with this type of game, it’s simply not possible. There were too many times that I had to stop completely to figure out which graphical assets were supposed to be the track and which were just empty space that would lead me to my doom.
Additionally, there are artifacts (gates and powerups) that you simply can’t get on the track you are supposed to be on, leading to even more confusion. I suppose that the developer thought this would give a sense of depth and that, on a later track, you might recognize passing through the gate you had previously seen out in the distance. In practice, though, the graphics are so bland and monotonous, that it is impossible to tell one area in a particular set of tracks from another.
Career mode provides a bit more investment in your custom Xorb, which can be upgraded with Manna from winning races. This currency can be spent on improved acceleration, braking, air control, and traction. I maxed out my Xorb in two races, though. It’s unclear if there is better equipment to invest in or if the customizations are simply cosmetic because the game comes with no manual.
That’s right. No digital manual. I still have no idea what some of the power ups (like Anchor) do or how to activate them, if they have to be activated at all. The most you get from the game is a simple control overlay at the beginning of every race that suggests that boosting is handled with X, airbraking with O, and the overhead cam with Triangle. Through trial and error, I discovered that the camera is rotated with the L/R bumpers. The overhead cam sounds like a great idea in theory. It is plagued with two problems, though. First, it isn’t a toggle. You have to hold Triangle to keep the camera switched. Additionally, there is no way to invert the camera rotation. The combination of these makes the overhead view unusable and useless.
I found out the hard way that airbraking is a powerup (and not an innate ability). The only way this was made clear was that I accidentally picked up a nondescript icon and the word “Airbrake” flashed in the middle of the screen. Images of power ups, gates, and other key game elements would have been useful in some sort of tutorial or manual. Instead, Icon Games decided to leave it up to guesswork.
Overall, the game’s presentation is lackluster, confusing, and counterproductive. The visuals and sound are outdated and don’t even stack up to PSP launch titles like Wipeout Pure. The Xorb Bowling mode should have been a lot of fun, but the pins aren’t pin shaped and the sound of hitting them is dull and uninteresting.
Additionally, I hit a few glitches including in my first race, when my Xorb went over the edge and got stuck. It didn’t explode due to being out of bounds, I couldn’t move it, I couldn’t access a menu of any type, and the only way to fix the problem was to quit the game. If you pass through a checkpoint and pick up a powerup too quickly, you’ll never find out what you just gathered. When going through tunnels there is regular visual clipping and I often had the sound drop out on me for a second or two at a time.
These are mistakes that just make the game impossible to recommend. If you are craving this type of game, I suggest going back to one of the Monkey Ball titles. Vertigo won’t scratch your itch.
Review copy provided by publisher.