Platformers have a long and honored tradition in game design. From Super Mario Brothers to Braid, 2D platformers represent the full gamut of attitudes and ideas about game design. In the indie space the genre seems to be the favorite place for experimentation, with countless entries uploaded to major Flash portals every day. Despite the crowded field, designers like Terry Cavanagh, creator of Don't Look Back, Judith and Pathways, can still make a genre that's a quarter of a century old feel fresh and innovative.
VVVVVV is his latest game, with an ever-smiling protagonist stuck aboard a space station. The game tweaks one of the basic mechanics of the genre: Instead of jumping, your character reverses his own gravity while standing on a platform. The level design exploits this well by gradually introducing the mechanics over the two levels in the demo. Fairly soon you're playing with several brand-new mechanics as if you've been using them since you were jumping on Goombas.
The story begins as your character, the captain, finds himself stuck in an unfamiliar space station. Soon he finds that his other crew members are scattered all over the odd installation, and sets out to rescue them. The game also features a Super Metroid-like overworld with an automap that keeps track of communications with other crew members. Soon exploration and teleportation turn the automap into a necessity instead of just a helpful accessory.
While the graphics are very basic, 8-bit Atari fare, they still manage to convey the world well. The chiptune soundtrack from Souleye is catchy and energizing, yet remains true to the old-school Atari graphics of the game.
Cavanagh explains at the conclusion of the demo that VVVVVV is about exploring a single game mechanic and not restraining the choices of the player. Despite some of the similarities to Super Metroid there are no keys or locked doors to stop you from entering an area. The only thing stopping you is the difficulty of each room. Do you go after the shiny trinket, the blue crew member or the pink one? There's nothing stopping you either way.
Why You Should Check This Out: VVVVVV is an innovative, challenging, well done 2D platformer. Terry Cavanagh plays with the basic mechanics of the genre and comes back with a game that's fun as hell and frustratingly challenging. The ability to flip gravity combines with some brilliant level design and creates one of the most enjoyable platformers I have played in a long time.
[size=20]Play Demo Now[/size]