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VVVVVVoluptuous

[This review was edited by Devon N. Campbell, and he did such an amazing job; I've been so thankful to have his brain working on this to make it shine. Thanks so much, Dev!  -Bryan]

VVVVVV.  What’s in a title?  Seems pretty diminutive, dunnit? Maybe it refers to the six main characters, all of which have names starting with the letter “V.” Maybe it’s talking about the five crew members you’re rescuing: remember, the roman numeral for five is, in fact, “V.” Or mayhaps the game’s speaking of the zig-zags you’ll find yourself making flipping around its maps. It could even be a bit of homage to the death spikes you’ll be familiarizing yourself with in great depth as you play. How about the World Wide Web (WWW), the only place you’ll find this game?

Whatever VVVVVV stands for, the title raises the question: what is it?

I think the term “psychotic physics-breaking anti-gravity simulation” sums it up pretty well. Should gravity suddenly reverse itself, will you be ready for the new world you find yourself in? I think playing this would certainly prepare you for that situation. Terry Cavanagh, the game's creator, would leave you to decide.

 
Ah… this isn't right!  Where's that "Drink Me" bottle…?
 

Now, I know what you’re thinking:  Bryan.  Those graphics are nasty.  My Apple-IIE rendered more impressive stuff than this.  My response to this is: Absolutely.  I’ll ask you to pause reading this and…here. Play around a bit.  I’ll wait. 
 

 
You should have realized three things before coming back: You could count the pixels on the screen; the music sounded like it came from your Nintendo Entertainment System; and there were only three buttons.

These facts all coalesce into one profound truth: Perfection.

 
You can’t fault the graphics because they’re working as intended and, as far as functionality is concerned, frame the game just fine. The music is fitting, engaging and sufficiently busy enough to keep your attention.  You find no problems with the game’s controls because the controls are working as intended. You press right, you go right. Left, you go left.  Press space and gravity reverses.  Any deaths incurred are of your own volition.  Any successes are proof of your mastery of the game’s controls and navigational components.

And that’s just the start. VVVVVV has no artificial gates to progression: From start to finish, you play the game on your terms.  You can play as little or as much of it as you want to, and any measurable progress achieved is found in the course of exploration.  Whatever you happen to run into first, that’s your first step.  Whatever you find second, there’s step two, etc.

 
Never has a 4x4 been more misleading.
In Terry's own words: "Just walk away, guys. You don't need that
trinket. Nobody needs that trinket."
 
 
This game speaks so deeply to me artistically on so many levels that I can hardly believe it looks, sounds and plays the way it does.  The music fits.  It is “pro.” This is quite probably one of my all-time favorite soundtracks, and the thing only has six freaking core songs in it.  Magnus Pålsson has created music to highlight each area and produce a unique atmosphere for each contained section.  Without the music, this game loses something important; it loses a bit of its soul.  I can’t say that about many games these days, what with Fallout Boy and Evanescence and Avenged Sevenfold tracks slapped haphazardly here and there in most of what you find on the shelves priced at $60.

As you play, you’ll notice most of the rooms have their own “titles” and quips, ranging from taunting (one room labeled “Smooth sailing from here,” followed by the next room layered with traps and moving platforms saying “Ha ha just kidding”) to inconspicuous tips (“Free your mind” for instance…a room that, if you understand the title is referring to a scene from The Matrix, will help you traverse it successfully) to apologetic (first room says “I’m sorry…” and seems safe enough, until you reach the next room lined with spikes, titled “…Please forgive me!”). I don’t understand how so much thought and care can be paid to a game by such a small team.  Bennett Foddy did a great job with the titles.

This game is difficult.  Progression ranges from fast, fluid and impressive to haltingly and violently slow, but never unforgiving or unfair.  There will be trial.  There will be error.  There might even be gnashing of teeth and near physical abuse to the input device, but when you finally get past that screen you’ve been stuck on for sixty-five deaths, you feel accomplishment.  You feel gratification.  You feel recognition.

You feel damn good.

As difficult as the “Save your crew” progression might seem at times, don’t worry… that’s not even half of what this game brings to the table in an attempt to crush your soul.  It includes within it more than one trophy room to showcase your accomplishments. Finishing one is actually required to reach the next, and that first step in and of itself is a doozey.  You can “beat” the game, and afterward go after any objects you might have missed on the trip, a daunting task to begin with, effectively beating the game again.  You “master” it.  It’s over, right?

…no spoilers, no spoilers, no spoilers…

Suffice it to say, the game kicks it up a notch: ranked time trials (and let me assure you, VVVVVV’s idea of “par” and my idea of “par” differ pretty severely), survival gauntlets, options to play the game reversed from its original layout, and for the truly masochistic and possessed, the game asks you to play through it without dying.  It dares you.  The trophy is titled “Master of the Universe.”  It fits.  Are you a bad enough dude to save the crew… with one life?

Is anyone?

Let me be frank: If you own a PC (a high probability, as you’re reading this now) and have any sense of poetry whatsoever, I think I found your next purchase.  In a sea of first-person shooters and hack ‘n slash RPG hybrids with their big titles and fancy development studios, this game’s sitting quietly on a street corner underneath the light, silently beeping to itself.  It doesn’t necessarily want you to find it, but you’ve probably been looking for VVVVVV for a very, very long time and never even realized it.  Terry Cavanagh has lovingly crafted something very special for gamers of all creeds, something the artistically-inclined can appreciate, alongside the hardcore achievers.

 
You just have to roll with it, Ira.
Indeed.

It’s challenging through design.  It’s unabashedly indie.  It’s retro not for the kick of it, but out of an unspoken yet completely understood necessity.  It’s adorable and terrifying all at once. It reaches out and attempts to affect as many senses as possible.  It’s a game exploring, expanding, exploiting and based on one core mechanic: perspective.

To ignore it would have been tantamount to sin.  I came, I saw, I played, I mastered; I was humbled regardless.  I’ll never “finish” this game, not in any final sense of the word.  And why would I want to?

Here's the un-cut version.

VVVVVV.  What’s in a title?  Seems pretty diminutive, dunnit?  Maybe it refers to the six main characters, all of which have names starting with the letter V. (I believe the ‘V’ should be in single-quotes here and anywhere else you are referring to the character itself.)  Maybe it’s talking about the five crew members you’re rescuing: Remember, the roman numeral for five is, in fact, V. (You need quotes around ‘V’ here as well, and I don’t think you need a capital letter after the colon.)  Or mayhaps the game’s speaking of the zig-zags you’ll find yourself making flipping around its maps. (Great angle! I never thought of this.)  It could even be a bit of homage to the death spikes you’ll be familiarizing yourself with in great depth as you play.  How about the World Wide Web (WWW), the only place you’ll find this game?

Whatever VVVVVV stands for, the title begs the question: What is it? (This is pedantic, but see here: http://begthequestion.info/)

I think the term “psychotic physics-breaking antigravity simulation” sums it up pretty well. (Anti-hyphen-gravity)  Should gravity suddenly reverse itself, will YOU be ready for the new world you find yourself in? (I would go with bold rather than caps for “YOU.”)  I think playing this would certainly prepare you for that situation.

[Picture of VVVVVV]
Now, I know what you’re thinking:  Bryan.  Those graphics are nasty. (Since we are addressing Bryan, I think you need a comma after your name rather than a period. Check here: http://www.iolani.honolulu.hi.us/Keables/KeablesGuide/PartFour/Commas.htm#12. I think it works if you are doing it for a style reason. If you put the period just because you want a longer pause than a comma implies, I think you can leave this as is.)  My Apple-IIE rendered more impressive stuff than this.  My response to this is: Absolutely.  I’ll ask you to pause reading this and …here.  Play around a bit.  I’ll wait. (link to Kongregate demo) (Consider putting the link after “here.” I didn’t quite understand that sentence until I saw you were linking to the demo.)

(line break)

You should have realized three things before coming back: You could count the pixels in the screen.  The music sounds like it came from your Nintendo Entertainment System.  There were only three buttons. (This is a list of independent clauses introduced by the colon.  I think it should look like this: “…back: you could count the pixels in on the screen; the music sounds like it came from your Nintendo Entertainment System; and there were only three buttons. See the third usage scenario on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Semicolon. Also, your verb tenses change between past and present going from past-tense “could” to present-tense “sounds” and back to past-tense “came.”)

These facts all coalesce into one profound truth: Perfection.  You can’t fault the graphics because they’re working as intended and, as far as functionality is concerned, framed the game just fine.  The music is fitting, engaging and sufficiently busy enough to keep your attention.  You found no problems with the game’s controls because the controls are working as intended.  You press right, you go right.  Left, you go left.  Press space and gravity reverses.  Any deaths incurred were of your own volition.  Any successes were proof of your mastery of the game’s controls and navigational components. (You have switched between past and present tense with your verbs a couple of times here. “Can’t” and “are” in “they’re” versus past-tense “framed.” Past-tense “found” versus “are.” You want to keep with the same tense. If you are talking about the person’s experience with the demo when you waited for them to play it, go with past everywhere. If you want to talk about an ongoing experience with the demo or the full game, go with present.)

And that’s just the start.  VVVVVV has no artificial gates to progression: From start to finish, you play the game on your terms.  You can play as little or as much of it as you want to, and any measurable progress achieved is found in the course of exploration.  Whatever you happen to run into first, that’s your first step.  Whatever you find second, there’s step two, etc.

This game speaks so deeply to me artistically on so many levels that I can hardly believe it looks, sounds and plays the way it does.  The music… fits.  It is “pro”. (Quotes enclose the punctuation like “pro.”)  This is quite probably one of my all-time favorite soundtracks, and the thing only has six freaking core songs in it.  Magnus Pâlsson has created music to highlight each area and produce a unique atmosphere for each contained section.  Without the music, this game loses something important; it loses a bit of its soul.  I can’t say that about many games these days, what with Fallout Boy and Evanescence and Avenged Sevenfold tracks slapped haphazardly here and there in most of what you find on the shelves priced at $60. (I hate hate hate soundtracks. Scores all the way!)

As you play, you’ll notice most of the rooms have their own “titles” and quips, ranging from taunting (One room labeled “Smooth sailing from here”, (Quote encloses punctuation: “here,”) followed by the next room saying “Ha ha just kidding”) to inconspicuous tips (“Free your mind” for instance… a room that, if you understand the source of the title, will help you traverse it successfully) (En Vogue?) to apologetic (First room says “I’m sorry…” and seems safe enough, until you reach the next room lined with spikes, titled “…Please forgive me!”)… I don’t understand how so much thought and care can be paid to a game by such a small team.  Bennett Foddy did a great job with the titles.

This game is difficult.  Progression ranges from fast, fluid and impressive to haltingly and violently slow, but never unforgiving or unfair.  There’s going to be trial.  There’s going to be error. (I prefer “There will be trial. There will be error.” I can’t really convey why. It’s an intuitive thing.)  There might even be gnashing of teeth and near physical abuse to the input device, but when you finally get past that screen you’ve been stuck on for sixty-five deaths, you feel accomplishment.  You feel gratification.  You feel recognition.

You feel damn good.

As difficult as the “Save your crew” progression might seem at times, don’t worry… that’s not even half of what this game brings to the table in an attempt to crush your soul.  It includes within it more than one trophy room to showcase your accomplishments (Finishing one is actually required to reach the next). (I would re-arrange periods and parenthese to make the parenthetical its own sentence like so: “…showcase your accomplishments. (Finishing… reach the next.) Nested parentheses. Awesome.)  And that first step in and of itself is a doozey.  You can “beat” the game, and afterward go after any objects you might have missed on the trip, a daunting task to begin with, effectively beating the game again.  You “master” it.  It’s over, right?

…no spoilers, no spoilers, no spoilers…

Suffice it to say, the game kicks it up a notch: ranked time trials (and let me assure you, VVVVVV’s idea of “par” and my idea of “par” differ pretty severely) (Echoes my thoughts on the Twisted Pixel games), survival gauntlets, options to play the game reversed from its original layout and then, for the truly masochistic and possessed, the game asks you to play through it without dying. (comma before “and” preceding an independent clause: “…layout, and…”)  It dares you.  The trophy is titled “Master of the Universe”. (quote outside punctuation)  It fits.  Are you a bad enough dude to save the crew… with one life?

Is anyone?

Let me be frank: If you own a PC (A high probability, as you’re reading this now) and have any sense of poetry whatsoever, I think I found your next purchase. (lowercase ‘a’ inside parenthetical)  In a sea of first-person shooters and hack ‘n slash RPG hybrids with their big titles and fancy development studios, this game’s sitting quietly on a street corner underneath the light, silently beeping to itself.  It doesn’t necessarily want you to find it, but you’ve probably been looking for VVVVVV for a very, very long time and never even realized it.  Terry Canavagh (Cavanagh) has lovingly crafted something very special for gamers of all creeds, something the artistically-inclined can appreciate, alongside the hardcore achievers.

It’s challenging through design.  It’s unabashedly indie.  It’s retro not for the kick of it, but out of an unspoken yet completely understood necessity.  It’s adorable and terrifying all at once. It reaches out and attempts to affect as many senses as possible.  It’s a game exploring, expanding, exploiting and based on one core mechanic: perspective.

To ignore it would have been tantamount to sin.  I came, I saw, I played, I mastered; I was humbled regardless.  I’ll never “finish” this game, not in any final sense of the word.  And why would I want to?

(I think that’s gonna do it.  Color me yellow!  :D)
(Very nice! I’m pulling out my credit card and heading to Steam as I type.)
(There were several places where you used a capital letter after a colon. I only marked the first one or two inline.)
(I do not own a copy of the AP Style Guide, but I really need to get one. Keep that in mind as you take a look at my edits. They are all based on my own personal style, and, as you know, styles are all over the place. Take my edits with a grain of salt. Great job!)

 

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