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'Velocity 2X' review: New school speed, old school charm

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Velocity 2X

“Just one more level,” I told myself more than a handful of times as I played Velocity 2X. The game took a few levels to grab me, but within minutes of playing, I was hooked.

Before players are inundated with a bunch of big-budget action games and shooters—Destiny releases just one week from now­— today, developer Futurlab managed to slip in their space shooter Velocity 2X. It may not be able to compete with the bombast of releases coming in the next few months, but I likely won’t enjoy such a wholly crafted and purely fun experience this fall as Velocity 2X.

Velocity’s story is relatively simple. You play as Lt. Kai Tana of Earth, who, when trying to find her way back home, befriends an alien whose race has been enslaved by the evil Vokh. Tana decides she, with the help of her new friend, can free them. But the story serves more as a framework for the game’s 50 incredible levels.

Velocity, as the sequel to Velocity Ultra, continues the series’ callback to classic arcade shooters like Defender and Galaga while also introducing sidescrolling gameplay more reminiscent of Super Mario Bros. When controlling Tana’s ship, the screen constantly moves upward, and players must pilot the vessel through a series of winding pathways as quickly as possible while freeing every prisoner in sight. When Tana is on her own, the player can walk left or right while exploring the halls of alien prisons, moon bases and other locales as she opens locks and collects crystals.

Both styles of play, which are often interwoven into the same levels, are all about mastering the game’s namesake—the speed and direction of your character. Every level grades the player’s performance on speed, points amassed, and crystals collected or prisoners freed. Velocity makes controlling the ship and Tana easy enough, and the game takes the time to introduce and provide room for players to learn each new skill.

Velocity is at its best when the player understands how important the speed and direction are and learns to control them. Failing in 2X, meanwhile,  is always a result of not fully taking stock of the situation. I always had every tool I needed to beat a level—it was only a matter of figuring out how best to use them, and the elation in doing so makes for one of the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita’s most satisfying experiences. A few levels near the end can end up quite confusing if you lose your way, becoming almost too complex for their own good, but they do little to ruin the overall experience.

Velocity 2X may well fly under the radar for some, especially with the onslaught of fall releases. But Futurlab has assembled such a wholly enjoyable package that guarantees I will mutter to myself, “Just one more level,” many more times in the weeks to come.