• Platformer


  • Terry Cavanagh


  • Terry Cavanagh

Release Date:

  • January 11, 2010


  • Windows, Mac, Linux, 3DS

Systems Used:

  • Windows, Mac

Overall Assessment:

  • Tough, but fair.

On Wikipedia:

Oh VVVVVV, how would I describe you? You're part love letter to the Spectrum (a system I was too young and too American to partake in), part "sadistic 8-bit platformer", and part a surreal Metroidvania adventure. Together with Portal, Plants vs. Zombies, and a few other A-list titles from the Humble Indie Bundle (like Braid and Machinarium), VVVVVV defined the summer of 2011, my personal Computer Game Renaissance. As of this writing, reviews on PvZ and Braid won't be explored, because reasons regarding not having a computer that can run them well at the moment and all that, though I do have things to see about them.

The backstory of VVVVVV involves a spaceship with a crew of six hitting interference, and forced to evacuate onto a strange dimension that you'll spend all of your time on (Dimension VVVVVV, just roll with it). You are Captain Viridian, and crew consists of Dr. Violet, Dr. Victoria, Prof. Vitellary, Officer Vermilion, and Chief Verdigris. I am quite positive I wasn't the only one to be reminded of the cities in the first Pokémon games regarding that.

One of those "eye movement" scenarios you'll find yourself in (Click for proper appearance)

All of the crew look the same, except for their colors. They are all essentially stick figures, with just two expressions: wide eyes and a lovable grin, or swapping a few pixels for sadness and sorrow (usually when Viridian dies, which will be very often). If this seems a bit cheesy and low-budget, it's all part of the charm and I wouldn't have it any other way.

You are presented with a typical platformer with spikes and pits, but your character can't jump. Instead, you reverse gravity and he flies to the ceiling (well, technically Viridian's gender is unknown, but keep in mind for the longest time, the Wikipedia article inexplicably decided that Viridian should be referred to as a female). There's no explanation for this, he just does, and when he finds his crewmates, they can't, and that's a puzzle later on (see next paragraph).

After this introductory chapter, you spend much of your time through a large overworld while going into more challenging sub-levels to find your missing crewmates. These sub-levels all have their own gimmicks, like lines that flip you automatically, a continually scrolling tower, or one where an NPC follows you and you have to prevent her death as well. So on one of the "surreal" parts, there's a part where you can find a large, flickering (in a limited color palette) image of a crying elephant. Spending too much time in the area makes Captain Viridian sad, as if he died. It's quite strange. The track is called "Passion for exploring", and for reasons a bit too personal and/or long-winded to tell, is associated with things that make me feel a bit sad as well.

The thing about VVVVVV is that's all well done in so many aspects. It's an indie game without being pretentious. It's also one that takes the "unique concept" that so many indie games have (at least the Humble Indie Bundle) that puts new twists continually on it instead of just making it near-impossible. It also is one of those "ultra-hard" 8-bit style games without taking it to ludicrous levels (at least on default).

Sure it looks normal now, but imagine both the squares and
the background rectangles moving at the same time. (Click for proper appearance)

Like most games, VVVVVV isn't perfect, and is one of those modern games that's actually potentially worse the larger a screen size you have. With the garish colors and the background images (which can be turned off, as well as an even more annoying flickering effect), you'll find your eyes moving up and down to keep up with Viridian's antics. The controls are another issue. They are notoriously twitchy, and there is no joypad support. You can try mapping keyboard keys to a joypad, but if there's a delay, it will make the game that much harder. It is hard enough. (Update: it appears that modern computer versions did add joystick support, but this wasn't the case back in '11)

The "small screen" comes in handy as VVVVVV was ported to the Nintendo 3DS, a system that I don't have and never really felt a big reason to get. One advantage of the 3DS is at least native control support. It also came out for the iPhone, which might be kind of fun but the controls are even worse since unless you have a peripheral that supports it, there's no tactile support at all.

The other thing that separates VVVVVV from the other HIB games was that I was aware of it before HIB. I think I discovered it through TVTropes (it was that phase in my life, I'm sorry to say), and I believe I played the demo through Kongregate, probably around December 2010 when I was playing sorry Flash games instead of real ones. Luckily, help was on the way, as the next spring I would get Steam and all this would change forever.

November 20 2015