Although it’s been out for a while, VVVVVV is getting a little more attention recently thanks to a very cheap Steam sale. I missed it the first go around so I decided to take the $4.49 risk and buy it, and I can easily say its worth even more than that.
The title may be pretty unusual, but once you get into the game it’s actually fairly descriptive in a number of ways. For one, there are six characters, all of which have a name that starts with V. At the start of the game you are in a spaceship and something happens which causes you all to become separated from each other. Being the noble 8-bit smiley-faced guy that you are, you decide to run around your 8-bit spaceship and find your other V-named 8-bit smiley-faced pals.
You can move back and forth and switch gravity with the V or Z key, or spacebar. There’s no jump, so the only way you can, say, get over a spike pit, of which there are many (VVVVVV again), is by switching gravity to the ceiling, walking over the spike pit, and then switching gravity again to get back to the ground on the other side. This bouncing around from floor to ceiling (VVVVVV) is the majority of the gameplay, but it works amazingly well and is tons of fun.
After completing the initial area — sort of a training section — you find your first friend, learn about teleporting and go to the hub area of the ship. The teleporters are essentially big speaker-looking things that remind me of the giant amp Marty McFly used at the start of Back to the Future. They come in handy because, surprise, your ship is like a big Metroidvania map. While it can be difficult to get to certain parts of the ship, once you do you’ll know when you’ve entered a "level" because a theme will take shape, not just in the music, but in the gameplay as well.
For example, one level is an upward scrolling section, while another has wires which switch the gravity for you, like it or not, once you cross them. One of my favorites was one where you have to escort one of your pals to safety. Every time you walk on the ground, they walk, but if you’re upside down, they stop. Some creative, challenging, and fun puzzles come about from this.
I put “level” in quotes because the whole Metroidvania thing means levels don't really come into play much. It’s just like a hub world for a number of levels. I love Metroidvania games, but honestly, this would have done much better if it were broken up into real levels. Even when you find one of your friends it says “Level Complete.” This doesn’t mean there isn’t any exploration involved, as there are many trinkets that you can find, which are all small discs that are slightly off the beaten path, and usually in some of the trickier rooms. Collecting these will unlock things like a trophy room or a jukebox.
Another aspect I love about this game is that each room is its own entity. They’re all different colors, they’re all named, and each has unique enemies. Some of the enemies are absolutely ridiculous, including some that are just flying words that say things like “LIES” or “YES.” Very unusual.
The last point I’ll mention here is the music, which is absolutely amazing. A brilliant collection of chiptunes by SoulEye that will easily be stuck in your head after you step away from your computer and will compel you to go back and play more, and trust me, you’ll want to play more. Even at its maximum price of $15, VVVVVV is a bargain.