Velocity 2X

words manifested by: AJ Johnson

A game by FuturLab for PC, PS4, Vita, and Xbox One, originally released in 2014.
Velocity 2X is a follow-up to Velocity / Velocity Ultra, a game that mixes vertical shmupping with teleportation mechanics, and even some light puzzle solving. The bulk of the ship-based gameplay from the original game carries over into the sequel, albeit with a flashier presentation, but the new game also offers a substantial new addition in the form of on-foot sections. These areas break up the gameplay and offer fast-paced shooting on par with the overhead segments, but with additional platforming challenges and enemy types to put the player’s skills to the test.

Following the events of the first game, Lieutenant Kai Tana finds herself awakening onboard an alien spacecraft thousands of light years from home, a result of her final teleportation at the end of the original game. As she regains consciousness, she discovers that her body has been modified… Specifically, certain parts of her body have been replaced with elements from her ship, the Quarp Jet, allowing her to use her ship’s functions herself, including the ability to fire projectiles and teleport.

While the original game was thin on narrative, Velocity 2X is positively packed with it. Following an introductory prologue, the player is greeted with interstitial cutscenes between each level. In these cutscenes, the player learns of a militaristic species called the Vokh, and meets a friendly alien from an oppressed species who helps her to escape her confines and fight back against the Vokh… acting as her between-mission contact and providing ship upgrades as she rescues survivors during missions.

The game offers 50 regular levels, and a number of additional DLC levels and unlockable bonus missions (more on these later). When the game begins, Kai does not have access to all of her previous abilities. The opening levels act as a tutorial to allow the player to slowly explore the mechanics, which is particularly useful given the wide assortment of abilities that eventually become available.

Unlike traditional shmups, the player is free to pilot the ship into solid objects without it being destroyed, so long as the ship is not scrolled off the screen, which leads to instant death. However, death by scrolling is most likely to happen due to the player’s own actions, as the game’s default scrolling speed is a veritable crawl compared to that of other genre representatives.

One of the quirks with the Velocity series is that players are able to manually control the scrolling speed of the environment, while the movement speed of the ship remains constant. As far as simply completing levels, players are free to take things as slowly as they like, as most levels offer a 20 minute countdown timer, and all but the slowest of players will reach the end well under that limit.

The original game offered a number of speed-based levels that greatly reduced this timer and forced players to dash madly through the environment. In addition, players were only given three lives with which to complete a given level, adding tension as they fought to make it to the end with their ship intact.

In Velocity 2X, on the other hand, the player is given infinite lives with frequent respawn points, offering very little penalty for crashing and burning, aside from missing out on a “perfect” rating on the end-level scoring screen. The game is still divided into speed-based levels, rescue missions, and enemy combat missions, but the player is free to engage them all in the same way, making the distinction between level types less pronounced, aside from the presence of more rescue pods on rescue missions, more enemies on combat missions, etc.

The player’s performance is rewarded in the form of experience points, with grades given at the end of each level for the player’s completion time, number of survivors rescued, crystals collected during on-foot sections, and total points scored. Each of these rankings falls into bronze, silver, and gold categories with different amounts of XP rewarded based on the threshold reached. The bronze tier may be achieved by simply completing the level, while the silver tier requires a pretty solid effort, and the gold tier requires a nearly perfect run.

XP is used to unlock additional levels, which may then be played in any order, but XP thresholds are fairly low, which makes overall progression easy. The second level only requires 50 XP to unlock, and this may be achieved by earning bronze in all three categories in Level 1, whereas getting gold in all three categories unlocks Levels 2-4. If the player earns a gold medal in every category during the first five levels, he unlocks everything up to Level 12.

In addition to simple maneuvering and shooting, the Quarp Jet is equipped with a teleporter that allows the player to move a cursor to any point on the screen (except inside solid objects) and warp to that location with the press of a button. This is used for basic environmental navigation to hop over obstructions in your path, but it can also be used to reach out-of-the-way pickups that unlock Kai’s journal entries, artwork, and details about the game’s characters, locations, and equipment, as well as bonus levels.

In the on-foot sections, this teleportation function takes the form of the “teledash”, which allows the player to perform a short-range teleport in one of four directions, rather than freely selecting any point on the screen. This is an important distinction, as it simultaneously limits the player’s movements and supports a faster pace, as teleports can be instantly initiated while running and jumping, allowing the player to immediately warp through thin platforms.

Rather than altering the level’s scroll speed, the SPEED button alters Kai’s running speed, allowing her to move through the environment more quickly, dodge enemy fire more readily, and make greater leaps. Players must frequently make use of midair teleports to avoid deadly obstacles, but here again the player has infinite lives and respawn points are frequent, offering only a small penalty for failure.

Kai can also slide along under low overhangs and drop down through 1-way platforms. And, unlike the ship, Kai can fire bullets in any direction. As part of her body’s merge with the Quarp Jet, she has gained the ability to fire bullets out of her palm, and she can move and fire independently (but not while using the SPEED button), spewing a flurry of weak projectiles that allow her to destroy long rows enemies on the run.

The weapon can also be used to destroy glass enclosures and other breakable obstructions, many of which contain purple crystals. As your NPC companion explains, these crystals are needed to power your abilities and must be collected in order to complete the mission.

Often, the player will find himself dashing through long corridors while spitting streams of bullets along the floors, walls, and ceilings to reveal crystals, and blasting through glass enclosures in the same way that the ship does when picking up rescue pods. This leads to a very kinetic experience, as skilled players can run through many environments while killing enemies, dodging projectiles, grabbing crystals, and overcoming obstacles without ever slackening their pace.

New abilities open as the game continues, including a long-range teleport function for the ship, which allows the player to drop a telepod anywhere in the environment and warp back to that point. While telepods are limited in number, the player never requires more than the allotted amount, and they may be manually retrieved at any time.

Double-tapping the TELEPORT button allows the player to warp instantly back to the most recently dropped pod. Alternatively, the player may open the map interface and select any telepod manually, as well as selecting the level’s starting point and any gates that lead to on-foot sections. The screen flashes blue to advise players of when they should drop a telepod – usually before a fork in the path – and an in-game hint advises players to always take the left fork on their first time through.

Telepods function in the same way during on-foot sections, allowing the player to drop one and warp back to it, but these devices have a more advanced function as well: Kai is able to toss a telepod and then warp forward to its location. This opens up a number of challenges where the player must toss a pod up to a high ledge, bounce it off walls to bypass obstacles, and even let it roll down into narrow openings to reach otherwise inaccessible areas. A number of spatial puzzles are centered around creative use of the telepod, including some where the player must warp to the pod while it is still in flight.

Early on, the player unlocks the ability for the ship to launch bombs in four directions, and these bombs are available in infinite supply. Players have the option of pressing in a direction and tapping the BOMB button, as in the original Velocity, or they may fire bombs independently of movement, as in Velocity Ultra.

While bombs may be used to dispatch flying enemies and other obstacles in front of the player, these are just as easily destroyed with the ship’s main weapon. However, bombs grant the player the ability to fire to the sides and backwards, allowing for some more complex level designs. For instance, the player frequently needs to teleport into an enclosed space, drop a bomb to destroy turrets behind the ship, and then blast through a series of glass enclosures to the left or right of the ship in order to pick up rescue pods and progress through the level.

Bombs are also needed in order to activate the game’s many, many switches, each of which may only be destroyed from a specific direction. Switches appear early in the game, allowing players to eliminate barriers that block their progress through the level, and these switches are numbered, requiring the player to destroy them in a specific order.

In the back half of the game, switches become a major gameplay component, requiring the player to destroy dozens of them across the level. Players must often drop a telepod and move down a path to reach a set of switches, and then warp back to take another path to destroy another set, and warp back again to move down the newly-opened center path.

Switches are color-coded as well, with each color corresponding to the same-colored laser barrier. So, just because you destroyed red switch #4 doesn’t mean you can shoot yellow switch #5 next; you have to activate each set of switches within a specific color, sometimes completing a partial series of one color and then moving over to another.

Fortunately, switches that are ready to be activated are highlighted with an arrow, and the player is free to view the level map at any time to look for the next switch to be activated. Additionally, it is no longer possible to accidentally destroy switches in the incorrect order as it was in the original game. That said, many later levels are complex configurations of open paths, barriers, and switches, reaching almost maze-like proportions.

Some switches must be activated in on-foot sections, requiring the player to destroy a series of switches in the ship, dock the ship, proceed on foot to destroy the next set of switches, and then move back to the ship to progress through the level. These switch-heavy levels slow the pace of the game considerably.

Since Kai already has the ability to fire in multiple directions during the on-foot sections, the functionality of the bomb translates to a powerful laser rifle in the on-foot sections. This weapon can only be fired to the left or right and fires more slowly than the player’s multi-directional weapon, making it less useful in combat, although it does more damage and cuts through multiple enemies.

However, since the laser rifle destroys switches in a single hit, its use is required to complete a number of challenges where the player activates a series of switches under a strict time limit. Often, the player is faced with doors that will snap shut if the he fails to reach the next switch in time, leading to instant death and a restart of the challenge.

While there are a few levels dedicated solely to ship-based or on-foot action, most of these transitions occur within the levels. The player is able to pull into designated docking ports to initiate the on-foot action, and most levels loop back in on themselves so that the player will return to the docking bay door once the area has been cleared.

There isn’t much variety in enemies between the two formats, with both areas populated by large numbers of flying foes and stationary turrets. There is one exception, however, which are the shielded enemies that Kai encounters in the on-foot sections. These enemies are immune to all weaponry, and they dash quickly toward Kai’s position if she is standing on the same platform as they.

The only way to defeat these enemies is to teledash through them, and then turn around and shoot them in the back. The player may need to repeat this process to fully wear down the enemy’s life bar, and there are greater challenges where the player must dash through two of these enemies at once and work down their health bars separately.

In the ship-based sections, the player must face off against a recurring boss in the form of General Glaive, the game’s primary antagonist. In each encounter, the general has further upgraded his ship, granting it new abilities and requiring extra effort to destroy it. In some cases, the player must weaken the ship’s outer defenses and then move inside to cause damage to its inner workings. However, both the ship and Kai have generous life bars, allowing them to withstand a significant amount of abuse, and damage done to the general’s ship is retained upon respawning, allowing players to achieve victory with little effort.

25 bonus levels may be unlocked by finding yellow crystals within the levels. These bonus levels are completely different than the main game and feature logic puzzles where you control a spinning astronaut as he moves between asteroids. You have limited control over the astronaut, as you can only nudge him in four directions, but you must be careful not to push in the wrong direction and send the astronaut spinning into the void of space. Some added challenge is granted through the use of teleportation beams.

The developers also released a set of DLC packs, which were offered as free downloads to owners of the main game. These include a daily speed-based challenge, a series of six high speed teleportation challenges, and a set of 10 levels where you control two Quarp Jets simultaneously. The twin jet levels are particularly interesting as one is your main ship and the other is a mirror image which moves and fires oppositely. The player must keep both ships in play as he teleports them simultaneously, warps back and forth to swap their positions, and uses their weaponry to destroy enemies and turrets in opposite directions. Rescue pods line the pathways as usual, but the main ship may only collect blue pods while the mirrored version may only collect green.

Velocity 2X was developed by FuturLab, which was founded in 2003 by James Marsden. James originally worked in Flash game development and web development before getting into standalone game development in 2009. The game’s soundtrack was composed by Joris de Man, who also created music for the Killzone series and N+, This game is a sequel to Velocity / Velocity Ultra, and the studio is also responsible for Surge / Surge Deluxe, Fuel Tiracas, Beats Slider, and Coconut Dodge. The game was published on some platforms by longtime publisher and developer Sierra Games.