The protagonist of Vector is just another mindless slave in a totalitarian world of the future until he manages to break free and go on the run. As freedom and individuality is not tolerated in this grim reality “Big Brother” will stop at nothing to bring our hero to heel. The good news is that our runner is a parkour expert, the bad news is so are his pursuers.
Vector is a deadly game of cat and mouse across the environments of a downtown business area, construction yard and tecnhopark. Your goal is to make your escape while staying one step ahead of your pursuer. You’ll have to leap across rooftops, jump through windows and make daring leaps of faith if you want to survive as your hunter is every bit as skilled as you are and completely relentless.
The game was originally released on Facebook and mobile devices before making the leap to Steam and it has made the transition well. With all traces of micro-transactions eliminated the game is more about skill and reflexes than endless grinding. The basic idea is to reach the end of the level without getting tasered by your hunter or fatally injuring yourself while traversing the environments. It might take a few tries, but reaching the end of the levels is not too hard with a bit of practice. Doing so will just net you one star however, if you want three stars you have to perform a perfect run.
A perfect run means you not only escape pursuit, but you perform every special move along the way while collecting all the coins and cubes that dot your route. This is easier said than done as some of the collectibles are purposely placed in such a fashion that only a well timed jump or split second adjustment to your path will enable you to nab them. The cash you earn can then be used to purchase new parkour moves for your runner.
Speaking of special moves, Vector is a game that allows you to pull off some pretty spectacular moves, but the focus is not on memorizing buttons. Instead it is all about timing as a simple tap of the “Up” key when in the right spot is sufficient to pull off a move. Your basic moves consist of jumping and sliding to get over or under obstacles and to cross gaps, but special moves can only be performed in marked spots. This might seem limiting, but it preserves the flow of the game and ensures that you are never in any doubt about what to do or where to go. Don’t worry about it being overly simplistic as later levels require you to dash, slow down, turn around and perform wall jumps, usually in rapid succession while carefully picking your path through the level.
The gameplay is like a mixture of Mirror’s Edge set on a 2D plane and endless runners such as Canabalt with a dash of Prince of Persia mixed in. Your character has weight and momentum so he can stumble, trip, fall or smash into objects at high speed if you misjudge your actions. Most levels can be completed in under a minute or two, but there are no checkpoints and you constantly have an enemy breathing down your back. Although you can’t pull off special moves whenever you want the controls are very responsive and I had no trouble completing the game using a keyboard. The developers have promised to implement controller support for players that prefer this method, although it was not available at the time of this review.
The game uses black silhouettes to portray the characters and playing field in the game while the backgrounds use color. The effect not only looks very stylish, but is also perfect for showcasing the outstanding animations. I have watched some parkour videos and the animators at Nekki have definitely nailed the look of the moves. The animations are top notch and the game runs at a silky smooth 60 frames per second. There are only three areas with eleven levels each, but the first two areas also have “bonus” levels that offer an even bigger challenge than the “story” levels. Strangely enough the bonus levels for the final area are listed as “Coming Soon” which might be an oversight on the part of Nekki. The audio is good with some high-tempo tunes to get the adrenaline flowing. The sound effects are rather minimal, but sound good, especially the shattering glass.
If you simply blow through all the levels with the minimum required stars you can probably complete Vector in a day. Mastering all the levels, purchasing all the moves and decking your character out in some new accessories will take a lot longer. Nekki has also promised to release some free DLC in the form of “Hunter Mode” where you can turn the tables and play as the pursuer as well as a level creator for making your own free running masterpieces. This is pretty impressive considering the game is being sold for less than $10. Steam achievements and trading cards have also been implemented to round off the package.
The short levels make Vector a game that you can jump in and play when you only have a few free minutes, but it is also addictive enough that you will want to attempt a level “just one more time” for the perfect run. It is probably a good thing that most levels can be completed in under a minute as a found myself holding my breath quite a few times as the exit loomed on the horizon and I was seconds away from completing a perfect run. Some people might find the game to be too simplistic, but once you scratch the surface you will find that there is a lot more depth than what meets the eye.
*Review originally published December 2013.