September 5, 2016

Velocibox

Tags: A Gamedev Plays

This post is from the now defunct website “A GameDev Plays…”, copied here for posterity

Velocibox describes itself as a hardcore twitch-heavy endless-runner. That is definitely all true. After a couple of hours of play I have reached level 2 once (getting through level 1 takes seconds if done correctly). This game requires the reflexes of a fighter-pilot! It is super-hard. It is also well-designed and easy to just keep playing.

Originally this review was to be for a different game. However, after playing that other game for a bit I realised not only did I not enjoy it, I also didn’t think it was a good game. After a few moments thought it was decided: I was not going to spend my time writing about a failed game. Instead I came back to Velocibox, a similar game from a few years ago.

Velocibox is a simple game, well-executed. You are a box moving through a tunnel of obstacles. Your speed through the tunnel is fixed, constant and very fast. Obstacles appear in the distance and are then on top of you in a second or less. The players need to react quickly or they will hit an obstacle causing insta-death. To avoid the obstacles, there are just three controls: move left; move right; and, flip to the ceiling. That is it, just three keys. It is easy just to keep a finger poised over each of the keys and press when required. Sounds simple, but is ohhh so hard. The aim of the game is collect other boxes that are positioned throughout the level. Collect 6 (by running into them) and progress to the next level. This means there are two styles of play. There is fast and loose as the player attempts to collect the first 6 boxes that appear regardless of how difficult. Alternatively, the more cautious player can wait for easy to reach cubes, but then takes the risk of having to deal with more obstacles.

Two boxes

And that is the game. Personally, I have seen a great deal of level 1 and a few seconds of level 2. Although, I have watched other players absolutely crush this game, speeding towards level 8 or 9. Thus I am fairly confident there are no extras, or added mechanics later in the game. The gameplay stays the same throughout, it is just that the obstacles become more elaborate and the boxes harder to reach. It also means I know it is possible to complete the whole game in a couple of minutes.

The trick to the game is recognising that there are patterns in the obstacles. Each level is different each time it is played, but there are a set number of obstacles patterns. Good players learn the moves to get through a set of obstacles, then the game becomes about speedily and accurately identifying which randomly chosen pattern is about to start and executing the correct moves. It sounds simple, because it is. However, it is still hard to achieve and (for most people) requires some willingness to learn the game.

You will see this screen very often

What makes Velocibox stand out is its good design. Since the gameplay is about being fast, everything about the game aids the impression of speed. The controls are responsive. The game starts quickly. When the game ends, it is possible to start the next one with only a couple of seconds gap. There is no impediment to just playing over and over again. This is great, giving a real “just one more try” feel - it is not like it takes long. Seriously, the fastest reflex I learned during this game was hitting restart scant milliseconds after losing and starting again. The design of the tunnel also gives the impression of speed, with the regular seams distorting into curves as they zoom past. There is fast music. The UI is spare and unobtrusive, particularly since it is not really required.

With just three controls, there is no thinking about where you fingers are positioned or what to do next. Nor does the player need to worry about an special extras - it is just the obstacles and the boxes. Everything can be focused on the game. This is a simple game that knows what it wants to achieve and totally focussed on it. It is unashamedly simple and not scared into doing unnecessary things. If you want a fast reflex tester with some learning potential, this game is for you, otherwise move on.

Velocibox is on Steam and Itch.io for PC, Mac and Linux for US$7.99 (Steam page or Itch.io page). It has been bundled many times.

Quick, flip!


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