Futurlab may have just gone and made one of the best games of the year. And for anyone on PS+, you can download it for free now on PS4 and Vita.
The original Velocity title on the Vita was a cool retro shoot ‘em up that had you teleporting through barriers to reach other parts of a scrolling stage. We would have been happy enough with more of the same, but Futurlab really went the extra mile by adding in on-foot 2D platforming sections when you leave the ship. The game effortlessly shifts between the two modes with no loading screens to complete one of the slickest experiences we’ve seen on PS4.
But let’s go back to the flying parts of the game. Like many classic shooters, you travel up the ever scrolling screen to reach your goal at the top. Rather than fly to the top of the screen to speed up the scrolling, you hold R1 to boost, which effectively scrolls the screen a bit faster, with you needing to stick near the bottom of to have more time to avoid getting smushed.
The aforementioned teleporting is controlled by holding the Square button then aiming a reticule into some nearby empty space. This is used for passing through walls or even large groups of enemies and their weapon fire. It can be a little fiddly on the thumbs, especially when you’re trying to nail one of the speed run target times, but when it comes together you feel like a badass.
Weapons are unlocked over the course of the game, you begin with a basic forwards-firing blaster, but later on you get bomb attacks to be fired up, down, left and right via the analogue stick. Bosses aside, you’d rarely class anything you go through as bullet hell, as the emphasis is mainly on speed. The ship itself handles like a dream, with tight manoeuvres easily pulled off.
Despite the constant scrolling stages, you can go back via teleport pods you can drop at any time. These allow you to go back to points like junctions where you need to take a second path. Some areas can only be accessed by shooting numbered locks in the correct order so being able to backtrack is essential. Thankfully, a handy audio cue lets you know when you should drop a teleport pod.
Docking your ship and running inside a space station (or even one of the bosses!) reveals a platforming game that is anything but bolted on, with the teleporting mechanic being used to excellent effect here too. You’ll know within the first few hops that the handling is superb. You can fire your way through glass barriers with a laser rifle via the right stick for rapid fire 360-degree destruction. It’s great fun doing everything at full pace too. You’ll sprint, slide, shoot and smile all day long. The pace sometimes dulls a little when you have to stop to throw a teleport ball at a specific angle to pass through a narrow gap, but that’s probably a legally-included medical timeout for your heartbeat that will be thumping in your ears throughout, especially with the adrenaline soaked music of the speedier stages.
With 50 stages to play through and a range of bonus ones to find, you’re going to be enjoying this one for a while. Replayability is fantastic too as stages have multiple targets, such as collecting as the survivor pods or crystals, time awards and score challenges. You don’t have to nail them all at once either. Every reward milestone rewards you with XP that is used to unlock more levels. I got to level 40 before having to backtrack and get some more XP to progress. Some of the Gold time-limits are insanely ambitious, but once you know the layout of a stage, you’ll think you can see inside the Matrix and it can be done. The best thing though, you’ll have fun trying anyway.
- The teleporting ship mechanic is a great idea
- New platforming sections handle beautifully
- Best played at full tilt
- Ship teleporting occasionally unresponsive
- Hungover? Had one beer? You will fail
- Raises the standards impossibly high for PS+ games
The Short Version: Futurlabs have nailed two genres here with retro side-scrolling shoot em’ ups and platforming thrown together to fantastic effect. Play the game at speed and you’ll struggle to find a slicker experience on your PS4.
Platforms: PS4 (reviewed) | Vita