Wot I Think: VVVVVV

By Kieron Gillen on January 12th, 2010 at 2:11 pm.

Ooh, you bastard.

VVVVVV is the year’s first controversial Indie talking point. Soon, everyone will have an opinion. Too difficult? Too short? Or just too wonderful? I take my time to sit down and play distractionware’s first real commercial game and tell you Wot I Think…

After playing VVVVVV for a little while, the power of prophecy gripped me. I became aware that during the next year or two, Terry Cavanagh will be approached in a bar by someone unknown to him. Possibly an industry function, possibly in a more general setting – I can’t be sure of the time or place. But this conversation is going to happen:

“Are you Terry Cavanagh?”
“…yeah.”
“As in, VVVVVV Terry Cavanagh?”
“…yeah”.

And then they’ll punch him in the face.

“That’s for Veni, Vidi, Vici, you bastard.”

And Terry will deserve it. As he, in a very real way, totally asked for it.

He’ll get punched by journalists for calling the game VVVVVV too, but that’s a different story. You should have seen what happened to the guys from S.T.A.L.K.E.R. when we caught up with them. The reason why they haven’t been any good since the first game was because we broke all their fingers and they have to code via dictation.

Ooh, you bastard.

Anyway, VVVVVV is the first great Indie game of the year. It’s a takes a squint-eyed C64/Spectrum aesthetic – as in, it only looks like you may remember these games looking like – and applies it to a puzzle platform game. The controls are elegantly minimalistic, limited to left, right and flip-gravity. As in, press a button, you fly to the ceiling. Press it again, and you fall to the floor. You’re only able to flip while touching a surface, so you can’t use it to fly, but you can maneuverer mid-leap. In fact, you’ll get stuck about four screens in if you don’t. The game basically consists of a determined examination of what you can do with such simple ingredients, with variety added by altering the environments you pass through.

It brings to mind Jet Set Willy – that is, the pixel-perfect platforming of Manic Miner, expanded into one of the first explorable platform worlds. It’s an impression it tries its best to cultivate – each screen bears its own title, automatically creating its own playful mythology – but I think it’d have felt so anyway. While there’s eight basically linear “level” sections, they’re connected by a sprawling open world. The game creates its own context and – in a really odd way – actually creates a sense of place. When you’re careening crazily with freedom across the open sections I even found myself thinking of Exile. That at least partially comes from the set up – a crashed ship with five of the crew lost. Your missions is to find them, though there’s also twenty device-shiny-globby things to collect too. Ah, the lure of the shiny blob. When will we learn to resist its siren call?

A few words on the aesthetic and its effect on the game. For example, while it has a plot, it’s light, and sells it lightly. Characters have two facial expressions. They’re either perma-beam or sad-face, a limited emotional expression which the game uses well enough to get me to go “awww!” at least a couple of times. As a whole, it’s very cute, very likeable and very human. And as a lead, the captain is a total hero. We should all be more like him. He’s either totally gleeful, unless he dies, and then there’s sad face.

So he sad faces a lot.

Ooh, you bastard.

It’s a game that’s often nightmarishly hard. But – key point – it mitigates it brilliantly, and shows that hardness alone isn’t actually the problem. It helps that it mixes it up, and is hard in many different ways. Sometimes it’s Braid-esque puzzles. However, unlike Braid, it also leans heavily on actual physical performance. There’s often cleverer ways around than the straight route, yes. But not always. Not even mostly. It’s just you and your reflexes versus a game.

Which leads us to Veni, Vidi, Vici.

Let’s show you Veni, Vidi, Vici.

A couple of points. Firstly, it’s an atypical puzzle in the game – there’s nowhere else you do something that mental. But the game is full of atypical puzzles. That’s it’s strength, that it fucks you over in a variety of imaginative ways. Secondly, that this is footage from the Beta version. There’s considerably more spikes in the full game. As in, this is easier.

When I started playing this I found myself in the RPS chat room, writing lurid disturbing metaphors involving skydiving down the vagina-dentate of Mrs Godzilla, having to land on the trampoline at the bottom and bounce out of the top. That was at the start. A few hundred lives later, I’m in close to a mediative state.

Basically, you fly too fast to react, so you have learn. This is trial and error, a classic design error. This doesn’t matter, for reasons I’ll get into in a bit. But it’s primarily about physical performance, getting the bloody thing into your muscle memory. As a puzzle, when I played it my best, I was in that distant zone, brain close to elsewhere, thoughts coming to me unhindered on the nature of design, difficulty, human nature. One hit me, with an odd tranquil profundity.

“Humanity can endure anything but unfairness”

According to what I’ve read, the unhappiest nations on Earth aren’t the ones with the lowest level of poverty – but the ones with greatest difference in poverty, married to the belief that those without success are worthless. Then there’s the study – which I paraphrase badly – based around two people, not in line sight of one another. One is given stuff. They have to give a percentage of the stuff to the other person. The other person can either accept it or reject it, with the other person being told whether their division has been accepted or rejected. A clear majority of people will reject it once it gets gets to that 80-85% point. It’s an unfair greedy deal, and they’ll have no truck with it. Even if you make the test totally blind, and the person who’s making the offer isn’t told whether or not the person rejects it – so removing the aspect of social censure (“I will have nothing to do with you”) – about half of people will always reject social offers. The reporting around the paper put it at some kind of stupidity – this is free stuff, after all, and getting anything is better than getting nothing. But I thought it as wonderful evidence how much we’re wired to despise unfairness. The rejection is about me not wanting anything to do with the openly corrupt system. A game which is unfair will lose all but the most masochistic in seconds.

And Veni, Vidi, Vici, for all its epic brutality, wasn’t unfair. It was just what it was. And I was willing to accept that. We’re wired to reject unfairness. Simultaneously, at least some of us, are wired for Sisyphean stoicism.

All that came to me, as I flew through Mrs’ Godzilla’s vicious private parts, in a moment.

At which point I completed the level and was reduced to disturbingly orgasmic cries. I haven’t felt as good with a videogame, in that direct physical way, for quite a while.

Actually, this bit is okay.

Veni, Vidi, Vici – and VVVVVV as a whole – works for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it strips any non-challenge related problems. There’s no lives. The game is divided into distinct challenges, with a checkpoint at the start. There’s virtually no replaying shit bits to get to the actual problem. You just make an attempt, instant fail, instant re-set. The best comparison I have is Trials 2. Death, instant re-set, try again. That’s why trial and error isn’t a problem. Like Trials 2, each go is a micro experiment, to see what results of a decision are. You aren’t punished for playing.

Frustration isn’t difficulty. Frustration is difficulty cut with boredom. The design of VVVVVV does everything it can to avoid you being bored. It removes all bullshit forms of making a bit difficult, in favour of just making it difficult. It maintains accessibility and the possibility of small play sessions – you can save anywhere – while actually still allowing the feeling of achievement when overcoming a tricky situation or unraveling an awkward puzzle. Hell – even the lightning speed of the character minimises the down-time in a challenge.

Secondly, I didn’t have to do it. While there’s definitely violently awkward bits on the main route of the game, Veni, Vidi, Vici is for one of the twenty-optional pick-ups. I could have given up and gone and worked on another part of the game. The overland is full of teleports which you can skip between. You can go back to your ship at any point. This bit too hard? Go do something else.

In short, VVVVVV does everything it can to make the game as easy as possible. Except the game.

Which, if you’re going to make a grotesquely difficult game like this, is the way to do it.

Ooh, you bastard.

My reservations are few, mainly where the few minor places where it fails in its aims –for example, a teleporter an inch further away from the actual challenge, leading to a dead half-second before actually doing something meaningful. The bigger one is the length of the game. I’d reject the couple of hours which some people are flying around, unless you’re atypically good – in which case, well done you. Took me three and a half, which puts it alongside Portal – but I’m atypically shit. Especially because I didn’t really complete it –I got just over half of the collectable items, meaning there’s a good chunk of the game’s most difficult puzzles that haven’t been touched. If you actually look at what the people who claim to have completed it in two hours have achieved, you’ll find – at least as far as I’ve seen – they’ve done likewise.

The are extra stuff in the game – a flip mode, time trials in each of the levels and even for the terminally mental a one-life mode – so plenty of stuff to play. And – because a greater chunk of the experience is based around performance rather than pure puzzling – I’d say it was considerably more replayable than (to choose a relevant example) Braid.

That said, while I think it is worth the money, fifteen dollars (aka just less than 10 quid) does strike you as a lot for an Indie lo-fi platformer. Which, really, makes me wonder whether our priorities have got tangled somewhere. Without inflation, this is the price you’d pay for one of the Ultimate games back in the day. This is at least as good as any of the Ultimate games, and a novel, new and glorious thing. I’m sure it’ll be on sale later – tactically speaking, launching at a relatively higher price and then cutting is good practice. And I also wonder whether launching at much less shows a worrying lack of self respect. If you don’t pretend you’re worth anything, no-one will ever treat you like it. Like, obv.

Ooh, you bastard.

So whether you want to pay now or wait to see if it’s ever cheaper, I advise you to play the thing. In some ways, it’s a surprising first commercial game for Cavanagh. His indie work like Judith and Don’t Look Back are portentous, borderline art-pieces (in “In an art gallery”) way. This isn’t. It is, to use Indie game shorthand, more World of Goo than Braid. It’s a fine pop single, full of yelps and excitements, to fill you with yelps (of pain and pleasure) and excitements. It’s a brilliant way to start the gaming year, making you flick the developer the Vs as he does a V for victory straight back at you.

He will be punched though. Mark my words.

The demos can be downloaded here, and is available as a webgame here (Though I’d download it so you get the “real” performance). The full thing can be bought here.

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91 Comments »

  1. Antialias says:

    Where are the vaginas, Eggman?! You said there would be vaginas!

  2. Mike says:

    I played the demo and thoroughly enjoyed it, and from what I can tell you’re absolutely spot on about trial-and-error; for some reason it doesn’t feel like a bad decision here, it feels like the right one.

    I’m not sure it’s so groundbreaking as you say, though. It’s a good game, it’s very good, but something seems to stop it from being really enjoyable. I wonder whether the fact that it throws things at you so fast affects it. Both World of Goo and Braid had this lovely sense of breathing space between each innovative bit, whereas this moves so fast you can’t tell which puzzle is which sometimes.

    I did enjoy it though. And the visuals work so slickly, you sort of wish it HAD been made all those years ago.

    Good talk.

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      Mike: I wouldn’t say it was groundbreaking. I would say it’s very good at what it does, and applies a whole mass of craft to get the effects it desires. Braid and Spelunky would be an example of things I’d describe as ground breaking.

      And thanks!

      KG

    • Wulf says:

      One thing I’d like to talk about here too is breathing space.

      What does one define as breathing space? In VVVVVV, there are gaps between levels, and even in the open world where there’s narrative, in other words, there are points where you stop playing for a bit of dialogue which progresses the game’s storyline, and that never really feels out of place.

      I get the feeling though that you’re talking about calm bits, where you can go through a number of screens or even an entire level easily, not much happens, it has no consequence, and really it doesn’t need to be there. Now call it a difference of opinion, but I tend to think of that as padding, and actually a bad thing as it interrupts a game’s flow and dilutes the core game with bits that are just added to artificially make it feel longer.

      VVVVVV could have done that, it didn’t. Interestingly enough, KG makes a Portal comparison, and that sticks in my mind as well, because Portal doesn’t really have any useless levels either, it simply continues to hit players with puzzles of escalating insanity right up until the ending, which is a brilliant crescendo, only ever really stopping for a bit of dialogue. And that sounds familiar, in fact, that’s exactly what VVVVVV does.

      I think VVVVVV would have been harmed by breathing space bits, because they would have served no purpose, they simply would have been there, and the critical eye would notice this, leading to chin rubbing and wondering whether those bits are there to just make it all seem bigger. Exploration is great too, providing that there’s plenty to see and do. Dropping players a huge, empty field with perhaps the odd, dull distraction doesn’t strike me as exploring, at least not in a game, and that’s why VVVVVV is tight there, too.

      Again, call it a difference of opinion, but I think that this little marvel of a gem benefits from a lack of padding, breathing space, or whatever you want to call it. As KG said, it is what it is, and to add my own personal feelings to that, I think that tacking anything on to that, and stretching it out to give people some breathing space would have taken away from it.

      It’s one hell of a wild ride from start to finish, I think that’s what it’s supposed to be.

  3. Lambchops says:

    Good write up. I definitely agree that the game gets the right balance of hardness and fairness – although that assumes that nothing else in the game is as hard as Veni, Vidi, Vici. For which I want to cally Terry bad names.

    I still haven’t done Veni, Vidi, Vici – it’s good to hear it’s about the hardest thing in the game (and a tad unfortunate that it’s pretty much the first thing I found when set loose to wander). I got one screen from the top on the way back down before realising I needed some sleep and hoping that the movements required would burn their way into my memory for another try later today!

    I reckon it’s worth the tenner (and any thoughts that it’s a tad much were quelled by the fact his other stuff is free); though I do fear that too many people wont and the game will not be as much a success as it seems to need to be for Terry.

  4. SAeN says:

    This hurt my brain, and was then soothed bye AWESOME music :)

    Dont suppose I can get the tune somewhere?

  5. Wilson says:

    Yeah, this sounds similar to my experience (though I have not yet completed Veni Vidi Vici), though there are a few points that slightly bothered me.

    I think the first(?) music track in the game isn’t great. The one with lots of high pitched beeps. Luckily it got better after that.
    Second, I was slightly disappointed with the atmosphere in some ways. Basically, I didn’t like the yes men, stop sign head guys, and certain other random enemies. In some areas I’ll accept that it fits the plot of the game, but certainly early on I think a somewhat more ‘realistic’ style of enemy would have been nice. I’m willing to accept a world where spikes are virtually everywhere, but the human bodies with words on them spoiled the sensation a little for me. That might have been intentional in some way, but I personally didn’t feel it was great.

    Also, I’m surprised I didn’t find it harder. Normally I would say I’m not a fan at all of retro style platformers, but I completed the main story of the game (with about 11 trinkets) in about two hours. Some bits I did complete through sheer trial, error and fluke, but I’m glad that I could, due to the good checkpoint placement – there was only one place there should have been another checkpoint and wasn’t in my opinion.

    • Wulf says:

      I don’t know quite how to put what I’m thinking, but there’s a sort of humour that arises from something actually being so completely right, and yet utterly silly at the same time. It’s sort of like the amusement one feels watching the tap-dancing guards in the Emperor’s New Groove, but not quite. I think what I’m trying to describe is also being polluted by my appreciation of something that’s a bit geeky, and yet distinctly British. I know, I know… I’m going somewhere with this, hold on!

      The thing is, the whole story points to a collapsing dimension (Universe, as some might call it), which means the laws of reality are getting twisted up fairly badly, and human perception is going to come into that too. So I always figured that a human watching reality collapse would be something like an American watching Monty Python for the first time.

      And there it is, in VVVVVV.

      Does that make any sense at all?

      The Yes Men, the Stop signs, the LIES and TRUTH, it was all utterly perfect for the scenario. It was a massive–and rather Freudian–what the fuck. What am I seeing here? What’s going on? I’m a videogame character who perceives the threat of the impending doom of reality itself as endlesss spikes! Anyway, I’m going to stop analysing this now before I go insane.

      But it was clever, and it made me smile, and I think I’m maybe one of the three people in the World who might get it.

    • Wulf says:

      Okay, I’ll try one more time, I have to!

      So we’re operating from the perceptions of a home computer game hero, and we’re observing the collapse of a dimension within the home computer game’s Universe. We’re further witnessing how the hero’s perceptions would twist, how they’d perceive the threats and impending doom, their coping mechanisms for what’s really going on, and so on.

      A human might perceive reality collapsing as the most absurdist movie ever, filled with total insanity and experiences as “impossible” as they’re capable of perceiving with a human mind, based upon their life’s experiences. That little guy is watching the collapse of a dimension, so I don’t think creatures with stop signs for heads are all that out of place.

      It really helps if you get into character, it helps if you try to imagine what life is like for them, and it also helps if you’ve read Kid Radd. >.>

      Oh and it might just be that it’s a game, yanno, and the visuals are all just a bit of fun!

      /explodes!

    • iainl says:

      Personally, I thought the absurdist enemy graphics were just part of the Matthew Smith (JSW author, not the new Doctor Whom) homaging. So it never really occured to me that they were out of place from a story level.

  6. LewieP says:

    On the topic of length.

    I did say I completed it in just under two hours, but there are some things to bear in mind:

    That was a pre-release beta, missing the intermission segments.

    I didn’t get all of the shiny trinkets. I got 13/20

    When I played the Eurogamer demo, I skipped straight to the hardest level, so I was already practiced at the hardest section of the game.

    I also tend to play 2D platformers as fast as I possibly can anyway. I’ve done a bit of speedrunning in the past too.

    I think you can expect a typical playthrough to last around 3 hours.

    • Wulf says:

      I expect so, especially since it’s my understanding that some of the hardest bits of the game were actually much easier in beta, to allow for progression and quicker bug squishing, before finalising the difficulty. So indeed, that could make something of a difference.

  7. fulis says:

    I’m interested but I don’t think I want to pay more than 5$ for it

  8. Bhazor says:

    Not controversial.
    Just too expensive.

  9. Dominic White says:

    I’d buy this if I had more disposable income to hand, but I have very little, so I’ll just focus on what I’ve got at the moment (an enormous backlog, really, and a coupel of preorders on big indie titles).

    This definitely looks like one to get once either it drops in price, or I get richer.

  10. noom says:

    Strangely, while it did take me a good couple of hundred tried to get through Veni Vidi Vici, I never really got annoyed with it. Sure it was brutal design, but because I recognized that it somehow never felt unfair and I didn’t mind repeated failures.

    I think these days my gaming rage is reserved for online gaming only.

  11. AVarotsis says:

    Played the demo, found it awesome…Need muneys before I play it properly! Damn, it sounds awesome, in a strangely masochistic kind of way.

  12. army of none says:

    I really liked this. Got it from a friend, played through it. Will be buying it to support the dev (And probably another playthrough, of course. Only had 15 trinkets at roughly 4 hours of me doing other things and playing the game). Really liked it. Veni Vidi Vici, when I completed it, was amazingly satisfying.

  13. Tei says:

    this Veni, Vidi, Vici is eVVVVVVil

  14. Harmen says:

    Ah! You can’t change gravity in mid air! There I was wondering why it missed half my keystrokes and cursing the programmer….

  15. CMaster says:

    I’ve been confused about all this talk of cost and so on for a while, as I’d played it a while ago for free and was asuming I’d dug it up on some flash portal somewhere.

    However now I realise I was actually previewing it at Eurogamer in the Indie Arcade, so that makes sense. I have to say that my experience there was of inital enjoyment, followed by getting somewhat bored of it. While the bits of story were quite nice, the whole package didn’t seem to quite add up to something I liked as much as Don’t Look Back, which was fantastic.

  16. Ginger Yellow says:

    “The reporting around the paper put it at some kind of stupidity – this is free stuff, after all, and getting anything is better than getting nothing. But I thought it as wonderful evidence how much we’re wired to despise unfairness.”

    It’s not stupidity, it’s irrationality. In the sense that the rejecter is not acting as a rational optimiser. There may be good adaptive reasons for us to have evolved this unfairness wiring – if other people know we will “irrationally” reject an unfair offer, it’s less likely to be made in the first place. Interestingly, there’s conflicting evidence on whether other primates such as chimps and capuchin monkeys have a similar sense of fairness. The same basic trial has produced different results depending on the experimental conditions.

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      Ginger: Point taken, but outside of a science paper, I wouldn’t draw a line between stupid and irrational. They’re inches away from being true synonyms.

      KG

    • Tei says:

      All religion are irrational. Stupid is doing things will harm others and may harm you.

      Most religions are beneficial to yourself by his enteirnament value, hence, can’t be stupid.
      One can argue that most religions have self-defeating strategies (like don’t feed on food X days J,K, L because otherwise demon Y will get very angry ) but it will be dificult to prove that religions make more bad than good.

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      Tei: Point being, irrationality which hurts you *is* stupid.

      KG

    • Tei says:

      KG:
      It looks to me, like another implementation of the “Prisoner’s dilemma”. You can eat all the food of the tribe, and let everyone else die, but since surviving is a teamwork job, you will die too. So you implement a Tit for tat strategy.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tit_for_tat
      1. Unless provoked, the agent will always cooperate
      2. If provoked, the agent will retaliate
      3. The agent is quick to forgive
      4. The agent must have a good chance of competing against the opponent more than once.

      I think irrationality can be described as “random option” prissioner dilemma, and stupidity “random + some bias towards one option”.

    • Psychopomp says:

      >All religion are irrational.

      You have no fucking clue how hard I’m biting my tongue right now.

    • Tei says:

      Psychopomp:

      Uh.. I made two versions of my post. It seems I posted the wrong one.
      Clarification: Not all are irrational.

      Hope that helps.

  17. MadMatty says:

    mmm low-fi with ideas- sounds nice… i feel like starting to program again when i see these one-man jobs :) like back in the way old days

  18. groovychainsaw says:

    Reminds me (somewhat tangentially) of the feeling of playing (Console game alert!) Demon’s Souls. in that its bastard hard, you have to die. A lot. But it’s never unfair. It just you vs the game mechanics. If you mess up, you know exactly why and you have to learn not to do it next time.

    Of course, Demon’s Souls puts you miles away from where you died, takes half your health away and makes you do it again, or you lose all your progress. So its more of a bastard. But similar feelings abound. And considering Demon’s Souls was my personal top game of last year, that’s saying something. Plus I love the C64 aesthetic. Very nicely done (although, as you say KG, not actually much like what it used to be, just makes you think thats what it used to be).

    Nice write up. I always enjoy a good bit of sociology (?) with my reviews :-)

    • Dominic White says:

      The thing with Demon’s Souls is that, while hard, you can often see your death coming a mile off like the glimmering lights on an oncoming train. Either you change plan and try to avoid it, or do something stupid and get smacked head-on, so going back some distance never really feels like an unfair punishment.

      I still think the games statement of intent comes from the two ‘intelligence test’ encounters in area 1-1. First, the glowing blue pit, usually with bloodstains all around it, and notes saying ‘watch out!’ and ‘there’s treasure below’ in equal measures. Clearly it’s a trap, or people wouldn’t have died so often there, but if you’re feeling dumb/adventurous, you’ll try it and die just like everyone else.

      And then you have the little side-area with the looooooooong empty, open bridge, and at the far end of it a single enemy. A knight in full plate armor with glowing red eyes and a bloody great spear, just standing silently at the end of the path. Pretty much sets off every alarm bell in your head, and if you’re smart, you’ll turn around and find another way. So many players think ‘I can take him!’ and charge in though, hence the many bloodsplats around the bridge entrance, too.

      That’s the great thing about how Demon’s Souls does difficulty. You can take your time, look at a situation, ask yourself ‘Can I handle this?’ and make your decisions based on that. It develops good judgement very quickly that way.

      vvvvvv is more a matter of giving you a situation that looks nearly impossible (but you know it CAN be done), but is only a few seconds long and will only undo 4-5 seconds effort if you die. It’s kinda like a truncated version of the same thinking.

  19. Nero says:

    After having beaten the game I went back and talked to Victoria and she noted the rest of the trinkets (thanks :) ) on the map and I went back for a few. Came to Veni, Vidi, Vici and yeah I died quite a few times but managed to get it in the end. Felt good. Now I need one more and I guess it’s that don’t touch any checkpoints on the way, it’s like enclosed. Totally worth the money to me. I would rather get this then to get yet another full priced shooter. Loved the end screen, memories of Mario Bros loading screen on C64 came up.

  20. ZIGS says:

    I remember when indie games didn’t have silly titles. Those were the days…

  21. army of none says:

    And just bought it. One of the many games I pirated, then ended up buying. Very good game :D

  22. RyePunk says:

    Please do punch him. Right in the nose.

  23. Turin Turambar says:

    “…that is, the pixel-perfect platforming of… ”

    I tried the demo, but i didn’t like it. The above quote is the reason. Not my type of game.

  24. Carra says:

    Demo finished! An obsessive part in me forces me to try those puzzles twenty times until I get it right. And there’s indeed very little lost time. I remember having to start the old games like Super Mario from zero. Failing after playing for two hours? Too bad, go replay from scratch.

    But it also makes me nervous. It’s the kind of game I can only play a level now and then. Not the kind of game I can sit back and play for two hours.

  25. army of none says:

    Anyone who’s bought the game and gotten all the trinkets… What’s your highscore on Gravitron? I can’t get past 15 seconds for the life of me :(

  26. fishyjoes says:

    I started playing it yesterday. When i came to Veni Vini Vici I just had to beat it. You are so right on it being very hard but not unfair to the player. I felt so good when i finally bet Veni Vini Vici. My fingers where hurting like sh*t but my gamer heart was filled with joy.

  27. Vinraith says:

    From the video, anyway, it’s unclear what that preposterously difficult feat (Veni, Vidi, Vici!) even accomplishes. He always just ends up back where he started, is it opening something off screen or… ?

    • Lorc says:

      There’s a trinket on the right hand side of that platform he starts on normally . This player had already collected it and is demonstrating the awe-inspiring feat required to get to over that little pink brick in the middle of said platform.

    • Vinraith says:

      @Lorc

      OK, thanks for the clarification.

  28. AFMG says:

    I was one of the 4chan /v/ people that had the chance to try the game when the beta got leaked, and saw something brilliant in it since the first moment. Upon following the link and learning what happened, i didn’t hesitate to donate and preorder (i even bought the soundtrack the day it was released).

    Being from Mexico, and fairly new at oldskool gaming, since i started back in the day with the Intellivision, most of my videogamer history is attached to console gaming. I pretty much ignore all the little gems out there that you mentioned in the review (seems i have to do a little research, mind you).

    I have to say, you just nailed it when you mention VVVVVV gives you hope at all times (while at the same time, with the trophies room you can aim to get better). One cannot feel but to admire Terry’s creativity. I really hope he keeps surprising us, since people like him is scarce nowadays.

    To any of you out there, still wondering if a simplistic yet challenging game that everybody is talking about is worth 15 dls, i have to say: yes. Every single dime. If not for the game (blasphemy), for giving Terry the chance to create more gems like this one. Do it, now.

  29. Lucas says:

    Ion Storm had its share of unpronounceable names (Deus Ex, Anachronox, Diakatana), but you wouldn’t break Tom Hall’s legs, would you? You wouldn’t spit in Harvey Smith’s face, right? Quit picking on small developers! Go maim someone your own size.

  30. obo says:

    All I wish is that he had delayed the release for a week after releasing the demo, and continued taking the $10 preorders.

    Although maybe that’d be out of character for a game that’s largely about leaps of faith.

  31. martin says:

    Absolutely fantastic review. I was totally freaking waiting for a review to open with something about Veni, Vidi, Vici, (Easy Mode Enabled, Your Bitter Tears, Delicious, Getting Here is Half the Fun). It took me about an hour (and a thousand deaths, 400 of which were on Veni alone). Full game took me about the same as you, and I got just over half the McGuffins. Totally worth the asking price; everything he makes is amazing.

  32. Bas says:

    Really enjoyed the demo, and was ready to pull out my creditcard. But €10? Too much.

  33. Harmen says:

    I expected to land on the left side of the block after my first completion of Venietc. Happily I didn’t

  34. Lambchops says:

    I’m giving up for the night – as I’m too tired for my dexterity to work anymore. I’m current;y at a rather tricky part of the final challenge.

    As it stands i’ve got exactly half the orbs.

    Took me 3 and a half hours to get this far along with ; much of it on abortive atempts at Veni, Vidi, Vici and getting another nearby shiny trinket which I have a feeling is possibly harder (if i’m right on how to get it you have to do a rather tricky section and back missing all the checkpoints. Not hitting the checkpoints isn’t too much of a problem but doing all the platforming in one go is!). – though if anyone has done this and can confirm i’m on the right lines I’d be grateful.

    As far as trinkets go i haven’t quite fully explored the map before i stumbled on the last crew member so there’s probably some easy ones there. I also know I missed a couple in the tower but they’re going to be bloody tricky as well. I think this is one game where I’m going to have to set my completionist urges aside!

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      @lamb One reason I took longer than most is, I suspect, I played half the time while awesomely hungover. Have a rest. Be strong.

      KG

  35. Harmen says:

    @lambchops: yes, you’re on the right track.

  36. Jetsetlemming says:

    Speaking of unfairness, I ignored the demo link in favor of the purchase one, assuming that a niche super difficult platformer with way old retro graphics would cost somewhere in the neighborhood of what I paid for the last super difficult retro graphicked platformer I bought, “Love”- one dollar. When I saw the $15 price tag I choked a bit on my dinner. I bought five commercial, big budget PC games for a combined total of less than that at the beginning of the month.

    Excuse me while I go bemoan this recent foolishly prideful capitalist streak that has been introduced to indie gaming.

  37. Jetsetlemming says:

    I beat the demo, two of eight levels, and collected 2/5 crewmembers and 6/20 shiny objects. This doesn’t suggest much for the full game’s contents, and just ended up reminding me of Time Fcuk, which I’ll remind all of you is free:
    http://www.newgrounds.com/portal/view/511754

    Nice music though, I might just end up buying that soundtrack.

  38. theworm says:

    I don’t usually like these hardcore twitch-reaction platformers, but I utterly loved this. For me the fact you can instantly retry to keep honing the exact movements you need is the clincher. If you had to do the level from the start again, or from a checkpoint four screens back you (well ‘I’) would have forgotten what I had done right/wrong on the previous attempt by then and just died again.
    Also love the visuals, music and little bits of story dripped in there. Think I may have to purchase this…

  39. phlebas says:

    Between the spikes and the Clone Saga he’s certainly due a punching.

  40. Jayt says:

    Tried it, got stuck, didn’t really enjoy it.

  41. Kavika says:

    Is the full game a linear extension of the demo, or is it significantly better? Because, like @Jetsetlemming said, Time Fcuk is free.

  42. kyrieee says:

    Is the full game harder than the demo? Because I kinda tore through it

    • Lorc says:

      Yes. The rest of the game is much harder. Not all of it – there’s peaks and troughs – but the demo’s definitely one of (if not the) the easiest parts of the game.

  43. Rane2k says:

    This reminded me a lot of Jumper 2: http://www.gamemakergames.com/?a=view&id=907

    It´s just one of those games where the level design is only limited by how sadistic the creator is. :-)

  44. Wulf says:

    http://i46.tinypic.com/24yv5kx.jpg

    I can now land on that thing at will. :> Given that I have poor sight and the shakes (which leads to involuntary keypresses), I feel fairly incredible after beating Veni, Vidi, Vici.

    Can’t say I want to punch Terry though, I’d prefer to shake his hand.

    • Wulf says:

      You know though, that’s why I dig VVVVVV. A great game can make the player both think and feel, whether it’s because it’s showing them beautiful things, or putting them through hardships. In the latter case, a great game will also always give the player the inclination to believe that they can succeed. It’s shitty game design to take that away from them at any point, in any kind of game. And then when that success occurs, there’s that palpable feeling of victory and jubilation, and none of the hard times mattered because you always knew you’d get there in the end.

      And that’s what I love about a good game, even a game that’s as simple as VVVVVV; it can make the player really feel things. That’s bloody great, and for that reason it’s earned its placed in the pantheon of the greatest games that ever were or are. Well, at least mine, which is the only one that really matters (and everyone is going to feel that way). A game should never feel like bloody hard work, nor should it be as dull and uninspiring as reality, nor should it be a chore, nor should a game be punishing, nor should it promote a palpable feeling of doom and failure.

      Games are about escapism, worlds in which the player is the hero, either in a local little fairytale, or whether they’re saving the world from real, metaphorical, or philosophical doom. And a game should also always, always be a celebration about itself, it should be fun, and the game itself should be an enriching experience. A game should also probably always be the story that the developer wanted to tell, or the game the developer wanted to play, because in appeasing the mainstream or the largest audience, a game is reduced to generic pap that has no passion or soul.

      So that’d be my advice to future developers, anyway, and my reasos for placing VVVVVV on a pedestal of sheer brilliance.

    • Wulf says:

      I just realised that one part of my post was vague and open to trolling/omgpitchforksandtorches.

      “Well, at least mine, which is the only one that really matters (and everyone is going to feel that way).”

      What I meant by that was that everyone is going to have their own pantheon of games, those which are accepted as pure bliss, and those which are rejected as horrific abortions, and once a game is in a person’s pantheon, nothing is going to convince them it’s a bad game, and if a person has rejected a game from their personal pantheon after playing it, that game is very likely going to have a lot to prove if it ever hopes to be there.

      Everyone is going to have their own standards for what makes a fantastic game, and I was just sharing my own.

    • Lilliput King says:

      “And then when that success occurs, there’s that palpable feeling of victory and jubilation, and none of the hard times mattered because you always knew you’d get there in the end.”

      I suppose. What troubles me about this kind of game is that what’s required is repetition because eventually things will come together and you’ll get through.

      I don’t really like it that way. If I’m doing something wrong, if I’m failing at something, I want to be able to learn to do it better, like in Bayonetta or Street Fighter. I can’t commit to 100 deaths without the knowledge that I’m getting better every time.

    • Wulf says:

      @LK

      “I suppose. What troubles me about this kind of game is that what’s required is repetition because eventually things will come together and you’ll get through.”

      Everyone’s going to have their own, personal barrier for this and i can’t say what yours is. Though personally, throughout the entirety of the game, barring the optional gems there was only one part that I found might have applied to that sentence. It was called The Final Challenge, so perhaps it was apt that it was a little more difficult than the rest, since it was the end of the game.

      Your mileage may vary, though.

      “I don’t really like it that way. If I’m doing something wrong, if I’m failing at something, I want to be able to learn to do it better, [...]”

      Ah, now here’s where I feel that you haven’t had the experience of playing the demo, because you seem to be talking from the point of view of someone who’s played home computer games where there were barriers like lives, score reductions, or other punishments that were put in the way for players. Or even minor setbacks, where the player would have to replay a section as a punishment. That’s what it sounds like you’re describing to me, here. That you don’t want to be punished for experimenting, and that you want to be able to keep trying things without any worry of punishment until you can get it right.

      The thing is is that that’s exactly what VVVVVV offers you, it offers you a playground in which there is no punishment. It doesn’t slap your wrists for doing something wrong, because there is no wrong. It puts a clone device before every challenge (often there can be one, two, or even more clone devices on a single screen) and says, hey, go crazy go nuts, have fun, because you’ll never be set back, you’ll never have to replay bits, you’ll never have your score reset, you’ll never lose lives and have massive setbacks that way. In fact, you can experiment and take the time to learn, and you can feel that you are learning something in the process. VVVVVV is a very, very patient and considerate game. It gives you the tools to learn and then waits for you to do so, without setting you back.

      “[...] like in Bayonetta or Street Fighter. I can’t commit to 100 deaths without the knowledge that I’m getting better every time.”

      From my personal experiences (which is all that I can offer you), I can tell you that I very clearly and very visually got better at VVVVVV in a short space of time. And the thing is, you’re talking about Street Fighter and Bayonetta as though you believed VVVVVV were like Dizzy or Jet Set Willy, with punishing setbacks such as lives and forcing you to replay sections of the game. It’s an antagonistic idea but something that VVVVVV doesn’t really do.

      In fact there’s only one section of the game that’s really like that, and it lasts some five screens. There’s a room with two sections an upper floor and a bottom floor, and you need to do something on the upper floor and then get back to the bottom floor without changing screens. You do this by activating the clone device on the bottom floor, then you go through the five screens, doding the clone devices, and then do the bit on the top floor before dying to reappear on the bottom floor to get a gem. And this is the only section of the game where I really had to replay a couple of rooms over, a completely optional segment of the game, no less.

      I’m guessing Bayonetta is similar in structure to Street Fighter (I’ve never played it, it never appealed to me, so I have no point of reference), and it has long sections where you can die near the end and be set back to the start of that section. The best comparison would be that if Street Fighter saved the fight every 10 seconds, and when you lose you’re simply reset back to a point just before you lost so you can try and rectify it. But it’s still not a fair comparison because Street Fighter has a health bar and what amounts to ‘lives’ (matches), and VVVVVV has neither of these things.

      And it’s really not something that I can explain, or that you may understand even, until you play it. It’s not an easy thing to convey, but it’s a work of game design genius. Yes you may die a lot, but when you’re reset back to seconds before you died on a safe platform so that you might experiment again, does it really matter? I don’t think it does. Those clone devices completely mitigate the notion of the game being too hard, which Kieron pointed out, too.

      If there was any point where I found I had to replay a large section of VVVVVV in the main storyline, I’d understand, but even with the optional bits the most you have to replay is a few screens, maybe 5 tops? And that’s as hard as it gets, that’s basically OMGSUPERHARD, and even that isn’t so hard at all. I didn’t find Veni, Vidi, Vici hard because of the clone mechanic, I found it fun. And that mechanic has to be played around with to be understood.

      But I’m hoping that that mechanic is the way forward for platformers. The only other thing that comes close that I can think of is Terry’s own Don’t Look Back, where each screen was a small puzzle and dying simply reset the player back to the start of the screen, not two screens back, or five, just at the start of the screen, and there were no lives, no score, just oneself versus the puzzle, and a bit of experimentation before one finds out the key trick to beat it. So Terry’s been doing this kind of thing for a while.

      Your mileage may vary, but I think that until you’ve played around with the clone device, you’re not going to get how this is different from hard-as-nails platformers of yore, and I think that’s baggage you’re carrying around with you that’s preventing you from giving this a try, and that’s a shame. If you really hate platformers, then VVVVVV isn’t going to convert you, but of all the things VVVVVV is, I can’t say that it’s really punishing, hard to learn, or even unfairly difficult at any point.

      I have poor sight, and I also have the shakes which leads to involuntary key-presses (something you might have seen in some of my typos, where I’ll type stsill instead of still), so I definitely can’t play the old platformers any more. And yet, as a disabled person, I managed to recently complete VVVVVV, and at the moment I have 18 gems. That’s just a testament to the desisgn genius of it, again, from my personal perspective. Rarely have I seen a game this accessible. It’s a strange thing to say, but it plays like a game that wants to be your friend, and wants to take you on some crazy adventures, and if you’re a bit slower than that friend, it doesn’t matter, because they’re infinitely patient, and they have no expectations, and they won’t mock or punish you for being slow.

      I really wish more games took up that design philosophy, because bloody hell, it’s a good one.

    • Lilliput King says:

      By that point I’d tried the demo. And liked it, too. I did find a few bits required a re-try from several screens back, and found them fairly hard, to my shame, but it didn’t bother me greatly. There were some truly ingenious puzzles, too (‘stop and reflect’ stands out). Those, and your impassioned defence, have convinced me to buy the game. I was on the fence after the demo anyway.

      But I think I meant something different by ‘learning.’ If I can’t beat a specific opponent in SF, for example, then I analyse what I’m doing to leave myself open, and how he reacts when I put him in certain situations. I use that knowledge, maybe in the next round or after the first couple of hits if I recognise the style, to adapt the way I play, no longer leaving myself open or, as is more fun, tricking the opponent into thinking I’m persisting in my deficiency, and reaping the rewards (dashing out of focus at the last second next to ryu or ken, watching them shoryuken the air). It’s a well played game of chess with a time limit of 99 seconds.

      And like chess, all that is required is recognising the problem you’re having. VVVVVV, for all its charm and despite it being so forgiving, can’t really rise above the problems of it’s genre – The player recognises the problem. The player knows what they need to do. But they just can’t do it.

  45. Adrian says:

    i love the game but WHY does this have a checkpoint system? i dont mean the lil ones in the rooms but why can you save wherever you want but when you load a game ull always start at the last teleporter! can someone explain to me how this makes sense? its not like being able to save and load at any position in the game would make it ANY easier! i just did the thing where you passively control the movement of a second person and i just couldnt beat that one level so i gave up and now i have to start at the last teleporter? i just lost like 2 hours of gameplay and my death count is down to 400 again from 2000! f** this!

    i friggin hate checkpoint- save- systems in games AHHHH i’m going nuts!

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      Adrian: You can save at any checkpoint. Press enter, select the save option.

      KG

    • Wulf says:

      I think wot Kieron means is that you can save at any terminal. Terminals being the little TV things.

    • Wulf says:

      Actually, I think it might autosave in the ‘quicksave’ slot whenever one uses a terminal, and then one can just use the menu (Enter) to quicksave anywhere else, regardless of any other factors.

      I’ll have to check that!

  46. Bowlby says:

    Played the demo, and it’s only reminded me why I’m glad games have moved on from this kind of unforgiving gameplay. That said, I’ll give it another go on the second of the demo levels. Maybe something will click.

  47. kyrieee says:

    Beat the game but I still have 2 collectibles left. Their difficulty was seemingly random but one of them had quite nice puzzle constructed around it. Unfortunately though I think I like the 2nd demo level the best so the game didn’t really live up to the demo for me. It wasn’t too short though, nothing wrong with a game that doesn’t wear out its welcome

  48. kyrieee says:

    I think that’s largely a personal thing. I bought SFIV and I hit brick walls more often in that game than in VVVVVV. And there’s certainly a technical side of being able to execute moves in SFIV too so I don’t think that’s a great comparison

    • Lilliput King says:

      Hmm, maybe. I wasn’t saying SF is easier, but rather that it has a different way of handling and providing difficulty, and one that I prefer. Nor was I saying SF was a better game, but just using it to try and help me describe what it is that I don’t like about VVVVVV.

      You’re quite right that there is a technical side to SF. A lot of the style changes don’t rely on pulling off insane combos, though. They tend to be more general things, involving distancing and very basic moves. Once you’re past finding the motions and timing difficult, (and you do eventually get past it) it actually becomes a vastly more interesting game, which is why I brought it up.

    • kyrieee says:

      I don’t doubt that SFIV has a lot to appreciate but I think there’s a big barrier you need to cross in order to be able to appreciate it. As someone who has never really played fighting games the strategical part of SFIV was totally lost on me. I learned most of the moves for one character and played it for a while (single player) and only ever improved in terms of being able to correctly execute moves more frequently. I’d sometimes lose without even doing any damage and have no idea as to why. The game doesn’t really teach you because it’s made for an audience that is super familiar with the series and those kind of games in general.

      I can’t really get into what the game really is without having someone show me, and I’m fine with that, but I don’t think you can compare that kind of game to VVVVVV which ‘anyone’ can jump into without needing someone to explain stuff to them.

      What you’re talking about has more to do with the nature of all competitive games played by humans against eachother (not just videogames).

      Also, that bloody game you unlock is annoying me. You get random pieces of blocks coming at you that you have no chance of evading and it actually becomes unfair and then frustrating

  49. pimorte says:

    Brutal difficulty with no downtime is why I liked Mighty Jill Off so much.

  50. Meat Circus says:

    I loved this game to shitty bits.