Developer: Shawn Beck
Release Date: 8th September 2014 (Steam)
It’s surprisingly difficult to review an ultra-hard twitch game without it sounding like you’re reviewing any random pick from the genre. I’ve experienced the problem before with numerous other releases on many platforms; no matter how much you enjoy them, when the experience boils down to a rinse and repeat of exhilaration and frustration in a high-speed wash cycle then it becomes difficult to differentiate and ends up feeling like a copy/paste of other reviews. There are, of course, exceptions to every rule – WaveWave delighted in such abstract and plentiful ways that it leaves an indelible mark that burns enthusiastically. I’d also easily place Velocibox into that category of wonder that makes describing it an utter joy, taking any work out of reviewing it.
Any veteran of the genre knows the dark truth going in, you will be punished. Whether the genre is tapping into latent sadomasochistic fetishes is best left unexplored but it’s hard to deny that there’s a perverse pleasure from the sheer agony of constant defeat. That euphoric elation when you slip into a level of consciousness that feels automated and out of body only to be jarred from your trance is one of the most addictive, adrenaline fed moments in gaming. Normally you’d become close acquaintances with the Game Over screen but in this case you’re hammering the retry button so few milliseconds after death that you’ll never see it. In a genre renowned for it’s “one more go” inspiring mentality, it’s almost dangerous how very difficult it is to stop yourself from taking a second/third/thirtieth plunge.
You guide your cube through a supersonic gauntlet of monolithic columns that span both the vertical and horizontal. It’s fortuitous then that your cube can manipulate gravity to allow it to switch planes and also flip instantly, inverting the screen in a fraction of a second. Your avatar is not as light as others in the genre which creates a satisfying and tactile motion system that puts you in full control of every millimetre you traverse; you might be hammering the retry button with malicious intent and a foul-mouthed retort but you always feel responsible for your failings. Generally, you’ll be playing one movement ahead of yourself, trying to predict the flow but all too often you’re winging it; wide-eyed and with breath held, you’re flitting between directions and instinctively inverting, hoping pure reactions can carry you through.
Picking up hazardously placed point cubes will fill your level meter. Though you’d be forgiven initially for thinking its existence a myth, capping it will progress you, instantly warp the environment to a more dangerous second level and so on. It takes a fair number of retries to even glimpse the beast and whilst you want to celebrate the accomplishment, it’s both unnerving and exciting at the same time. Given the amount of experience it can take to triumph over the first world, being thrust unto unfamiliar surroundings offering all new obstacles is a guaranteed path to instant failure. It sounds incredibly demoralising but it’s a steady learning curve that offers excitement even on the hundredth restart.
I could write for days on my romance with Velocibox, a love/hate relationship that’s most definitely unreciprocated, but it doesn’t need it. It’s the crown on the head of the genre and it sparkles as incandescently as the greats beside it: Super Hexagon, WaveWave and Duet for example. It channels Civilisation in providing something that hooks you unforgivably and continues to fester in the recesses of your mind vault until you feed it a morsel that steadily grows until the sessions are grand banquets for your cravings. I’d have finished this review over half an hour earlier than I did if I hadn’t found myself slipping back to get my fix. A better man would advise you to avoid such a destructive addiction, luckily that’s not me – I implore you to try Velocibox, it’s an absolute steal.