escapeVektor Review for the PlayStation Vita
This game was reviewed on the PlayStation Vita.
escapeVektor is a strange beast, not least because it seemingly defies any attempt to define its genre. At a push, it would be possible to pigeonhole it as a puzzle game, but that label doesn’t do the experience justice, as it’s not so much a brain-bender as a test of quick reflexes and spatial awareness. Throughout the game, you guide an arrow-shaped object around various courses, which get larger and more complicated the further you progress. With a Tron-inspired narrative, and offering a unique experience, does escapeVektor do enough to suck you into its protagonist’s quest for freedom?
It is a little difficult to empathize with the protagonist, Vektor, particularly because he only appears throughout the game as a pixelated pink blob or an arrow. This lack of visual stimuli flows throughout escapeVektor, with levels appearing as a mixture of straight lines and right angled corners laid out in a grid, and enemies appearing as fairly simple shapes. The levels do eventually become quite sprawling, and the enemies create a hectic environment as you dash around the levels attempting to avoid them. The slightest touch can cause your avatar to explode and the level to restart, and there are also quite a number of levels (Nodes) to work your way around, spread over a variety of Zones.
As mentioned before, the main essence of escapeVektor is to move your arrow-shaped avatar around various grids, avoiding enemies as you go. While you travel around the grids, the lines that make them up gradually get filled in as you move over them. The main objective of each level is to fill every inch of the lines, with certain portions of the map broken down into squares (known here as cells). A completed square often bestows the player with a power, such as Detonate, which destroys enemies within a certain range, or Boost, which is fairly self-explanatory as it allows your avatar to go faster than its normal travelling speeds, for a short time. Once all cells are filled, the exit will appear. In some levels, however, after all cells are shaded, there is an appearance of extra cells which, once filled, can unlock an exit, which can lead to a bonus Zone, or can operate as a shortcut to later Zones. Oftentimes you won’t really want to use these shortcuts, though, as your powers won’t be strong enough to deal with the challenges that you’ll find there.
In keeping with the game’s computer-based environment, Vektor is able to level-up, although here it is labelled as versions, such as 1.0, 2.0 etc. Vektor is able to progress through the levels by using the scores he gains in each level, and as he climbs through the versions, his powers become stronger. Examples of this include Detonate gaining a larger radius of effectiveness and Boost gaining extra slots, allowing players to boost for longer. These powers get more and more useful as the game goes on, particularly as the CPU (the antagonist) evolves, and different enemies begin to appear. Initially, Vektor will only be put up against thick blocks that look like the paddles from Pong, and these blocks can only move backwards and forwards along one single lane. Later enemies are able to turn corners or move much faster – as your skills evolve, so do your foes.
Levels are scored on a number of criteria, such as the amount of enemies destroyed, the time taken to complete the level, and the distance travelled. There are four tiers of medals (Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum) that can be earned. Wildcards are also unlocked at various points in the story, which allow players to double their score in a level and up the chance of getting a Gold or platinum medal. Before and after each grid is tackled, the PlayStation Network leaderboards for that particular level is displayed, providing the player with an added impetus for doing well. With 150 levels to play through (that’s 600 medals to be earned) there is a lot of replay value for those who like getting the most value out of their games.
There are issues with escapeVektor though, not least in the lack of variety that the game offers. Whilst the music is quite enjoyably chirpy and fitting for the computerised setting, the visuals, unfortunately, are rather lacklustre and end up being one of the game’s biggest shortfalls, as they’re almost on a par with playing a text-based adventure in the MS-DOS prompt. Admittedly, visuals aren’t everything, but the gameplay itself doesn’t offer up much more in the way of variety. You’ll quickly come to realise that once you’ve seen one level, you’ve pretty much seen them all (aside from its size and shape and the enemies that you’ll have to face). The enemies introduced throughout the game and the power-ups that gradually become available are welcome changes, but they don’t do enough to keep the game feeling fresh from start to finish.
escapeVektor isn’t a bad game, but will most likely appeal to a very specific crowd – especially those who love a good challenge. However, its limited mechanics and repetitive backgrounds may deter a few players. If you’re a fan of puzzlers that test your hand-eye coordination and reflexes, and you live for beating existing scores (whether they’re your own or others’ around the world), escapeVektor will be a welcome addition to your library.
escapeVektor receives a rating of 4.5/5.0
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