There are good portable games and then there are AMAZING ones. In my somewhat recent introduction to the world of PlayStation Minis, I found that you can make a big impact in the game world with a title under 100MB. Such is the case of the crazy-addictive FuturLab release, Velocity for PSP/PS3 and the Vita. I can honestly say that I couldn't put down my PSP for several hours.
Velocity is a vertical top-down shooter that reminded me heavily of the space shooters that I enjoyed in the arcades. Velocity however has something new that sets the bar for modern shoot'em ups...the Quarp Jet. In the year 2122, the star Vilio goes critical and turns into a black hole putting the deep space mining ships, colony cruisers and Special Forces fighters at danger and without power. To make things worse, the neighbors are all too happy to capitalize on this. It's up to an unnamed female pilot to use the Quarp Jet and its unique functions to save the survivors and the day.
Like any shoot'em up, youíre going to run into some opposition in the form of attackers and each space stationís triggered defenses. This means you've got a whole lot of energy particles heading your way. Luckily youíre armed with guns of your own and as you progress through the 50 levels that Velocity has to offer you will receive a boost or two. While wasting away turrets, ships and barriers is fun, itís nowhere near as fun as using Powerlev Research's (and the world's) first ever teleporting spacecraft.
Seriously, Velocity's ninja spacecraft has changed the way I look at the vertical shooter. At the press of the Square Button and a little direction from the D-pad or Left Analog you can transport nearly anywhere on the screen in seconds. The entire gameplay of Velocity revolves around moving the Quarp Jet through tight corridors and around solid barriers. It's pretty straight forward early on but soon they start throwing in security walls that require exploiting each space station's one weakness...faulty circuit breakers. Using short range teleports, guns and later on, bombs you have to disable the breakers to drop shields. Doing this clears the way for rescuing the survivors and often your path. There are a set number of them hidden in the nooks and crannies on each level and while collecting all of them isn't required, you need to maintain an adequately high number to pass the level.
Velocity isn't just a shooter; it also contains some really clever puzzles that are evilly and addictively brilliant. Energy fields require you to hit various circuits in a specific order to disable them. There was even a level that required you to use long range telepods to return to the start of various path trees to find the next colored circuit. There's one that I particularly liked that featured a triple colored series of barriers that was really fun to figure out. While your teleporting around the levels you should also be on the lookout for hidden areas that contain a gold bonus item. Its a lot easier to find these once you have access to the long range telepods since you can hit the LB button and scope out the level map for the out of the way chambers.
Chamber-seeking and survivor-hunting notwithstanding, there is a bit of urgency during some of the levels. Certain ones require you to speed through the level by holding down or tapping the RB Button to give you a speed boost. You just have to be sure to teleport quickly unless you want to end up as debris against a wall or fried against a laser grid. You are actually rewarded at the end of each level with various levels of Bronze, Silver and Gold medals and experience for balancing out time, collectivity and exploration. There are several in-game trophies for being proficient in it and other areas of gameplay.
All of Velocity's addicting gameplay is surrounded by a retro styled aesthetics and visuals. You will spend most of your time concentrating as you are flying around mechanical landscapes and blasting your way through glass so you may not notice the rich retro detail. The story is presented in still screens that highlight Velocity's vibrant colors. As Velocity is a Mini it can be played on a number of PlayStation systems. I did most of my playthrough on the Minis' native PSP, which is the best hardware for the job. The PS3 does stretch the image quite a bit though players might like the feel of an actual controller over the portable alternative. There is even planned future support for Velocity on the PS Vita here in the States, which I can't wait for.
What Velocity might lack in modern looks and graphics, it more than makes up with an out-of-this-world soundtrack. Composed by the award-winning Joris de Man (Killzone), Velocity features an smooth upbeat retro score that is just as addictive and integral to the experience as the gameplay. FuturLab couldn't have found a more perfect match with Joris de Man to their fast-paced and unique gameplay. It's a tough call on which I like better, the gameplay or the score.
Velocity only cost $4.99 on the PSN Store (free right now to Plus users) but it seriously has the chops to go up against some of the other PSN titles out there. Besides the core game, Velocity contains a rather interesting computer screen that contains folders and programs such as unlockable challenges, art, and mission logs. There is even a game called Mines, which is a basic version of the iconic PC game Minesweeper. Velocity is easily one of the best Minis and PlayStation experiences in my gaming career. If you have a PSP, Vita or PS3 then you cannot miss out on Velocity.