I Died 705 Times Playing Mind-Bending, Old School Platformer VVVVVV


Posted January 20, 2010 - By pklepek

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I Died 705 Times Playing The Mind Bending Platformer That Is VVVVVV

VVVVVV is the actual name of a platformer I've been playing the past week and 705 is the actual number of times I've died trying to complete VVVVVV. The game happily tracks it for you.

As an unabashed lover of almost all things platforming, VVVVVV caught my eye when it began making the rounds on the indie game blogs a few weeks back. I don't have any experience with previous works of Irish game designer Terry Cavanagh, but I'll give him this: he passed "The Mega Man Test." What's "The Mega Man Test"? It's the answer to the immortal question: what's the best Mega Man?

"I'm not sure, but I think the second one?" he told me over e-mail, while finalizing the first patch for VVVVVV and prepping a Linux port of his latest work. "The one with quick man and that air man stage - but really that's only because I haven't actually played the others, I didn't have a NES..."

Cavanagh's excused for not having an NES because he answered correctly: Mega Man 2.

It's an important answer because regardless of whether Cavanagh has actually invested much time in The Greatest Platformer Ever Made, VVVVVV follows in Mega Man 2's footsteps. Besides the inventive boss battles and clever weapons, Mega Man 2 epitomized smart, quirky level design based on precise physics that rewarded careful and deliberate manipulation of your character. VVVVVV does, too, requiring players to calculate every step forward, knowing death is right around the corner.

You're supposed to die in VVVVVV. A lot. A heck of a lot.

I didn't collect all the secret items in VVVVVV and saw my tiny sprite vanish more than 700 times. Trying some of the hardest puzzles could have easily pushed me over 1,000 deaths. The line between challenge and frustration is maintained because of a sense of player responsibility. When you die in VVVVVV, it doesn't feel cheap. You didn't die because something came out of nowhere, you died because you didn't react fast enough. The keyboard-only controls can be a little unresponsive in some especially sticky situations, but the vast majority of my deaths were one person's fault: mine.

VVVVVV doesn't feature enemies. The enemy here is gravity and Cavanagh does a thoughtful job of changing gravity's affect on the environment and the player every few screens. Players can't jump, but they can flip their character from the top of the screen to the bottom with a flick of a button. Your ability to "jump" is constantly controlled by outside forces. And as soon as you've mastered the tricks of the world around you, the dealer gets a new deck from the house. The mechanics change often enough thay the just over two hours it'll likely take you to finish VVVVVV fly by in a heartbeat. Sadly.

Which is where I can understand some frustration towards VVVVVV and its $15 asking price. There are multiple modes unlocked upon finishing VVVVVV's relatively short adventure, not to mention the myriad of secret objects that require precision that's far beyond my own abilities. The playable demo provides a solid indication of what to expect from VVVVVV, and when I think about the number of games I've wasted more money on Xbox Live Arcade and the like, $15 isn't really so bad.

Oh, and this all goes without mention of VVVVVV's phenomenal chiptune soundtrack. I don't normally listen to chiptune music outside of video games, but, um, that's what I did while writing this. You can even pick up a copy of the soundtrack for just $4. It's well worth the extra few dollars.

So far, VVVVVV, you're my favorite game of 2010.

To purchase VVVVVV, available for PC and Mac (and soon Linux), head to the official website.

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I Died 705 Times Playing Mind-Bending, Old School Platformer VVVVVV


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