I remember a time several years ago when 2D indie platformers were the most interesting games coming out at the time. Titles like Limbo, Braid, and Fez all brought new mechanics to a tried and true formula. They were true projects of innovation. Another great product of this period was VVVVVV.
VVVVVV (sometimes pronounced “The letter V six times”) was a game developed by Terry Cavanagh in 2010. After it gained notoriety, it was later ported to the Nintendo 3DS by Nicalis (Ittle Dew 2+, Tiny Barbarian DX). Now the game is joining the rapidly growing indie library on the Nintendo Switch. While there’s not a whole lot to say about a title that’s been around for seven years, it’s re-release gives a new generation of gamers the chance to try it out.
How does VVVVVV hold up on the Nintendo Switch?
Up, Down, and All Around
VVVVVV opens with a crew of six people (all with names that start with the letter V of course) having some problems with their spaceship. It results in them being stuck in an insane dimension where gravity abides by different rules. Some further accidents along the way cause each member of the crew to be scattered in this strange new world, leaving it up to Captain Veridian to find them all.
Players control Viridian as he looks for each of his friends. Because of them is placed in a different section of the world, he’ll have to face many different challenges.
Right away, the immediate draw to VVVVVV is that it has no jump button. Instead, you can change gravity by having him walk on the floor or the ceiling. Like all great indie games, this mechanic is used to its fullest, presenting challenges that require you to master it. Each room is hand-crafted to make you think your way through rather than just travel in one direction.
Part of what makes the mechanic work so well is that VVVVVV doesn’t hold anything back. From the very beginning, you realize that this game is challenging. The further you get in the world, the greater the obstacles that will try to stop you. Thankfully, Cavanagh incorporated a gracious checkpoint system that gives you plenty of opportunities to keep trying without a serious penalty. There is no life system to be found here. This idea is further enhanced by the fact that everything controls really well, making sure that you know it’s your fault when you die.
Going hand-in-hand with a unique mechanic is also a unique way of traveling the world in VVVVVV. Taking a page from the Metroidvania handbook, VVVVVV presents you with a large area with different sections that you can explore in any order you choose. I do appreciate the options for play that this allows, but the map can be extremely confusing to read at times. Some of the areas are a little challenging to find as a result.
When exploring the strange dimension, your lost comrades aren’t the only thing you’ll be looking for. There are 20 different trinkets to find in VVVVVV which unlock new game modes as you collect them. If you thought the game was hard already, then try to get all of these for your collection. It’s a good thing these were added in because I was able to beat the main game in just over an hour. Considering this is my first time playing VVVVVV, that’s not a lot of playtime. However, the game rectifies this by including player created levels that will give you even greater challenge as you try to save Captain Viridian’s 5 friends once more.
What’s interesting about VVVVVV is that its visual and audio style is reminiscent of a Commodore 64. Contrasting colors and vibrant chiptunes are included in each room, giving the game a unique style. Even the cover art feels like something that you’d find on an ancient computer game.
Breaking things down a bit further, the soundtrack is the best part of VVVVVV’s presentation. Despite the limited software, the game boasts some of the catchiest music found in an indie game, even when you compare it to titles released more recently like Shovel Knight.
The graphical style is extremely simplistic, but it feeds into the idea that VVVVVV is a lost Commodore game. All of the colors are distinct and the shapes very “on the nose.” It all melds together in a product that encapsulates the old saying “less is more.”
Because of its simple structure and visual style, it comes as no surprise that VVVVVV runs extremely well on the Switch in both handheld and docked mode. There was no slowdown or stutter, and the load times were every bit as snappy as they should be.
System reviewed on: Nintendo Switch.
Disclaimer: A review code for VVVVVV was provided by Nicalis for this VVVVVV review.