When a star collapse causes a black hole you and your experimental Quarp Jet is sent in to rescue the nearby survivors. With the power to all mining ships and stations knocked out by the black hole the survivors have sealed themselves in life pods to await extraction. To make matters worse, some hostile forces have taken the opportunity to attack, further complicating your mission.
Your Quarp Jet is no ordinary space craft and besides being armed with guns and bombs can also teleport. Close range teleportation allow you to bypass obstacles or maneuver around enemies while long range teleportation is essential for navigating the maze like levels. Velocity Ultra might have the appearance of a straightforward arcade style shooter, but it actually has much more in common with a puzzle title.
Your main goal on each level is to rescue the survivors and you need to gather up a certain amount to proceed. Survivors are scattered all over the place and while they are easy to spot in early levels things soon become a bit trickier with the introduction of shields and switches. Switches need to be shot in order to remove the corresponding shield, but you might have to warp back to certain junction points as you don’t always encounter the switches in the right order. Fortunately you can drop teleportation beacons and bring up a handy map screen to help you plan your route through each level.
You have a time limit on each level so you can’t just keep jumping back and forth all the time, which makes some of the larger mazes quite tricky to complete. Your screen also never stops scrolling so while you can touch walls without being destroyed, it is fatal if you get trapped in a dead end by the scroll. You’ll also face some enemies and while these guys spew hordes of bullets in your direction you can take multiple hits before exploding making them less of a threat. Health pickups are also available and there are no boss fights so don’t expect the challenge in this game to stem from the enemies.
At the end of each level you are graded on the amount of survivors you rescued, the time it took you to complete the level and the score you attained. Opening up new levels require a certain score so you might have to repeat some levels to improve your score in order to make progress. Replay value is further boosted by hidden tokens on each level that unlocks all kinds of new challenges that can be played outside the main story mode. These challenges range from completing a level without touching any walls to variations of Space Invaders, Snake and even Minesweeper. None of the mini-games will keep you busy for hours, but the inclusion is a nice touch. The game also has full Steamworks integration with the usual leaderboards, achievements and trading cards.
I played the game using an Xbox 360 controller and found the Quarp Jet to be quite responsive. You can only shoot in one direction, but can launch bombs in the four cardinal directions which are essential for hitting switches behind and to the sides of your craft. To perform a short range teleportation jump you have to hold down the teleport button and then select your destination with a crosshair. Since the screen does not stop scrolling while you are selecting your teleportation point it can make some of the jumps very tricky. Using a mouse instead of a controller analogue stick makes it a bit easier, but it is still a tricky maneuver to perform under high speed. The scroll speed isn’t too fast so this usually only becomes an issue on levels with a tight time limit where you have to make liberal use of your boost button.
The high resolution visuals look nice enough and use a simple, uncluttered style for everything. Bullets are impossible to miss and everything is color coded so you are never in any doubt about which switches to shoot. The only problem is that there is no visual variation between levels, which means that level 50 only differs in layout from level one. Growing up with arcade shooters I am a big fan of pixel art in these types of games so the visual style in Velocity Ultra didn’t really grab me but this is a personal preference. The audio is nice with some tunes that really capture the old school vibe of the genre. Sound effects are also pretty decent with the shattering glass being particularly satisfying.
The puzzle element really helps Velocity Ultra to stand out from the crowd and the game is challenging without being frustrating. As long as you don’t expect a bullet hell shooter and don’t mind exercising your brain more than your trigger finger you will enjoy this game.
*Review originally published December 2013.
- OS: Windows XP, Windows 7, Windows 8
- Memory: 2 GB RAM
- Graphics: NDIVIA GeForce series 512MB, AMD(ATI) Radeon series 512MB
- Hard Drive: 650 MB available space
- Sound Card: DirectX compatible
Network: Broadband Internet connection