Velocibox is an incredibly difficult yet addictive indie title determined to challenge the player with its fast-paced gameplay requiring quick thinking.
When Flappy Bird was released, it was an instant hit. The game tasked players with one easy to understand feat – guide an aerially challenged bird between a series of Mario-esque pipes for a high score – oh, and don’t die. For many, the gameplay was impossible to master, frustratingly so, but for others that only fueled the addiction. At the peak of its popularity, some people were even renting phones just so that they could get their Flappy Bird fix.
It’s on a similar principle that Velocibox, which comes to PS4 and PS Vita after a 2014 release on PC, is built upon. Its premise is deceptively clear-cut: players control a vulnerable box that must be steered through eight levels, each of which is harder to beat than the one before it. The levels are color coded so that one color represents ‘safe’ space while the other presents the obstacles that must be avoided or the cube will die, the game will flash ‘game over’, and it will be back to the start.
And yes while ‘avoiding obstacles’ is a breeze in most games, something that even younger gamers playing ‘the ground is lava’ can understand, Velocibox makes this possible in the best kind of way. Each of the game’s darkly colored pillars, bars and blocks whizz by at maddening speeds, and players only have the ‘X’ button (which flips the world upside down) and the analogue sticks/D-pad that move the box from side to side, to avoid them. And on top of that, players must maneuver their box while also collecting tokens in order to unlock the next level and rack up a high score.
In any other game, this sort of challenge would be maddening and would cause the rage to bubble up like lava. But in Velocibox? The knowledge that the player can cheat death is what drives those endless replays and what will keep players coming back time and time again.
For example, by the time the player has gotten to level three, they’ll be feeling pretty great. Level one took a bit of getting use to, level two put them to the test but they passed it, so level three must be a walk in the park, right? Wrong. Level three is where things get tough, as Velocibox tries to catch players by sprouting obstacles out of nowhere, such as thin slices of wall that expand as the cube draws closer. But by playing and playing and playing some more, players can learn how to avoid these sorts of obstacles.
And, since the game isn’t procedurally generated (each level has an obstacle template that will be mixed in various ways), Velocibox becomes a game about thinking smartly, as much as it is a game about having fast reaction times.
And this last point’s important because when it comes to obstacles like those expanding blocks, it would feel like Velocibox is being cruel, mocking the player with its design, even. However by making the player face the obstacles several times, and by making them beatable within its gameplay parameters, it’s not so bad.
Every obstacle the game throws at players can be overcome by putting its gameplay tactics to good use – e.g getting the cube to ride the walls instead of flipping the world – to get over a sea of dark coloring. The learning curve may be steep, but by mastering the game players will feel empowered and emboldened, which is a far stronger takeaway than just endlessly having their butt kicked in the name of entertainment.
But Velocibox‘s design isn’t completely perfect (but it is pretty close). As addictive and as devilishly difficult the game is, the speed of its levels (and the tile design on the walls of some of its earlier levels) may cause some players to get a headache. It means that as much as some players may be hooked by the game, they will have no choice but to put the DualShock (or the Vita) down, no matter how much they won’t want to. Though, it’s worth noting that there’s a level select for players who do want a break, they can pick right back up where they’ve left off.
Velocibox is a a tremendously hard bit of brilliance. It’s highly replayable and it comes highly recommended.
Velocibox is available now for PS4, Vita, and PC. Game Rant was provided a PS4 code for this review.