Not since Ikaruga, with its polarity changes mechanic, has there been any real game changing dynamic to the playing style of shoot em ups. Velocity Ultra might just be the game to herald in a new style of playing.
To tell you the truth I’ve already forgotten what the story is about, but only your jet is capable of saving the day. Because it was born from Lilith? Not quite, more because it can teleport. And here we see where VU forks out from your regular shmup; it uses the mouse to shoot and teleport, while the keyboard is used for directional bombs and dropping the telepod, so both your hands need to be more nimble than your typical 1942 fighter. Yes, there are upgrades, but it’s the use of the teleport and boost that will mostly see you through.
The game appears to have exchanged what shmups had more or less become these days – a raining terror of projectiles – for a battle with the level design. You will race against time, zigzagging through the Deathstar-like surrounds, teleporting from site to site like a skipping stone, rescuing survivors, setting teleports and activating switches in correct order. It’s also your sworn duty to rescue survivors, often by running head-on into them, sometimes by launching a directional bomb at the chambers they are in and (presumably) collecting their still alive bodies. At the end of each stage you get a report on your handiwork – survivors saved, score and experience points, and a corresponding medal if you were Maverick enough. So there’s definite replayability to perfect your runs and high scores. And don’t forget the achievements too.
All this really does challenge the whole “the only way is forward” mentality, but just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. It’s the teleport mechanism that is probably my biggest gripe with VU. You see, some levels require you set teleport points before say, a fork in the path, so you can take the other route and activate all the switches then so you can come back to it after. This might occur several times over which can sometimes interrupt the pace of the game. Luckily, it’s not all back-tracking. You also have speed runs where you’re practically going flat out through the level, avoiding collisions and hoping you make it out before time runs out. Even if time is on your side, using the boost takes the edge off redoing level segments again, and it just feels fun trying your luck and reflexes in hyperdrive.
On the other hand, it’s worth noting that the world you’re thrust in, pun intended, is largely samey. From world to world, you will be seeing more of the same, grey structures holding you in, directing you to go left or right or teleport. There’s nothing inherently wrong with it, it is uniform and you don’t need to wonder how Lovecraft made his way into space, but you won’t be recalling the look when you talk about this game.
VU is relatively easy to get to grips with, and the early levels are quite easy, but unlocking all the achievements and beating high scores will add a nice bit longevity. It is perhaps one of the more modern looking games on New Retro Games, so it was up in the air whether it should appear on here or not. As has been mentioned, there is no science in deciding what makes the cut. For me, this game represented something a little special; it took an old classic, sanded it back and reapplied a nice coat, nothing too special graphically, but really tinkered with the original formula.
Velocity Ultra | Steam