VVVVVV, what kind of name is that? I think it has something to do with the incredible amount of spikes you’ll encounter. Or maybe the developer’s cat named the game by stepping on the keyboard. Whatever the case, you can tell the by name alone that the game is going to be a bit weird, and it is.
This is my first game review for a Pandora game, and actually only the 3rd game I’ve completed on it so far. We are fortunate in the Pandora community to have people willing and able to port these games and even more fortunate that the original developers allow this to happen. The game isn’t open source, so I think in this case VVVVVV’s developer specifically gave permission for it to be ported, nice! I had actually tried this game on my PC previously, but gave up when I reached a point where I did nothing but die. The game isn’t anywhere near as hard as say, Super Meat Boy, but it does benefit from a proper controller, which the Pandora does have.
VVVVVV is a platform game, but unlike most of those, you can’t jump. Instead, the game’s core mechanic is to flip the direction of gravity, so that you are either falling up or down. Though you can only do this when your feet hit either the floor or roof, however you want to look at it. The entire game revolves around this idea, though you get introduced to other things to, things like a “spring” which forces you to change gravity’s direction, or looping rooms, where you walk to the left and come out on the right, for example. You’ll find all these things in different rooms, which in a way form puzzles.
Given that there’s only a few different elements making up the gameplay, it’s probably a good thing that the game is relatively short. It took me just over 2 hours to beat it, but I only collected 11 of the 20 trinkets. During that time I died 985 times and died 80 times in one room, named “The Gravitron”. Was it frustrating to die almost 1000 times? Not really. The game gives you lots of checkpoints so if you’re stuck somewhere and finally get past it, you won’t lose your progress, and if you do happen to die a lot in a particular room, it’s usually because you didn’t first examine the room to figure out the correct way to get through it, so you have only yourself to blame, really. The room where I died so many times was a bit special. You had to dodge incoming things (not sure what to call them) for one minute. If the timer had reset to 60 seconds every time you died, chances are many would never get past this room. But the game compromises and the timer never goes back more than 5 seconds. This sort of compromise takes away a lot of the frustration you might have but still gives you a sense of accomplishment when you finally get through it. It works.
Here’s a video (not mine) of the “Super Gravitron”, a level you can unlock:
What also works is the graphics and sound. They are intentionally retro-styled but still manage to look good. Part of that is probably the higher resolution than what was available long ago, and that the Pandora’s screen fit the game at 640×480 very nicely and given that it’s so small the graphics looked nice and crisp. Plus with the sounds being relatively simple they came out of the Pandora’s speakers sounding quite natural, so that I didn’t feel tempted to put on a pair of headphones to get better sound quality. It all comes together feeling quite polished.
Overall I enjoyed VVVVVV a lot more than I expected. It’s not amazing, but it does what it sets out to do very well. I think the experience I had with the game on the Pandora was better than I would have had playing it on a PC, and that’s saying a lot considering I do almost all my gaming there. The only thing I can say I don’t like about it is having count all the V’s as I type out it’s name.