Well, perhaps I should be a little more forgiving, after all we are going through some rather difficult times as the global economy is in the midst of perhaps the biggest crisis the world has ever seen, thus a single game's success, or lack thereof, can now in too many cases determine a studio's continued existence.
Sony's very own Minis platform was designed to accommodate micro-sized projects and even rival the speedy rise of iOS and the Android Marketplace (Google Play as of late) where a buck can already buy you quite a few hours of portable fun. But while in theory the aid of such a low-investment approach should allow for a far more daring attempt at game design and production, we haven't yet seen many truly ground-breaking Minis make it to the PlayStation Store.
Well, I have good news for you and me, and everyone else. Thanks to British studio FuturLab's second game Velocity, my trust in video games as a medium has been restored and the Minis platform has instantly become host to perhaps one of the best games of the year, and easily one of the more daring titles to come along in quite some time.
Velocity lets you control a small space ship in classic top-down two-dimensional space-shooting fashion that's at first glance quite reminiscent in style and game design of Namco's very own Galaga. However, by giving players a few extra abilities such as allowing them to teleport their tiny space vessel, manipulate the screen's scroll speed and later even carry around a limited number of spawn beacons, and then building the rest of the game carefully around said features while simultaneously staying true to its shooter roots, Velocity becomes something truly remarkable.
In its 50 level long campaign the game's two main objectives are for you to reach the exit within a given timeframe, and to rescue a set number of survivors by collecting their stranded pods. Hidden yellow bonus pods unlock extra missions separate from the main game, some of which range from featuring simple twists such as getting through a maze without touching any walls to the addition of entire mini versions of other 2D-classics. In fact, Velocity is brimmed with cute little ideas paying tribute to some of the game's obvious inspirational sources.
While earlier levels are relatively simple in structure, with one linear path leading to the exit, progression will make you encounter complex mazes requiring not only strong reflexes but a little bit of brain activity as well. You'll place spawn-beacons at branching paths and constantly teleport back and forth in order to shoot out security nodes in a very specific order – hit a wrong one and the entire sequence resets, forcing you to begin all over again, which in return makes you lose valuable time which ultimately determines the medal you receive plus the amount of XP you are awarded with.
Of course swarms of enemies need to be defended against, which is where the game's two weapon system comes in. While your laser gun fires only straight ahead, bombs can be flung in any direction.
On the presentational side Dutch composer Joris De Man's (Killzone, N+, Prince of Persia) excellent score most certainly deserves a mention of its own.
Velocity is an experience that's something far more sophisticated than what we've come used to within the confinements of the genre, bringing an element of clever Metroidish puzzling to the table without taking away the intensity of having to make lightning fast decisions and relying on quick reflexes that will eventually funnel you into a zen-like state of mind.
Not only one of the best Minis available to date, Velocity simply is a truly remarkable game well beyond the confinements of micro-branded releases.