After a minuscule tutorial and quick load screen into the game’s first level, the words “You are not prepared” flash to the player and the skill-fueled Velocibox starts with a snap. As the colored box travels down a hall at eye-watering speeds, your fingers tense in anticipation. It’s your duty to safely guide this helpless shape down a hallway and collect six nodes to move on to the next level. You fly further and obstacles draw alarmingly close. You see a node and reflexively steer toward it with a hint of caution. Close. So close. So utterly close… aaand you’re dead. Your pathetically quick run is ended by a sneaky rectangle that juts out of the wall a split second before the shiny node can be collected. The in-game voice says “Game over!” and, like a junkie, you jam on the X button to get your next adrenaline fix.
This is a constant in the world of Shawn Beck’s action-arcade title Velocibox, and takes place in the timespan of about six seconds. With each failure, the words “You are not prepared”ring truer and truer, and before you know it, you’ve lost an hour of your life. At its most basic form, this is Velocibox; and, to be honest, this is a pretty basic title that only uses the d-pad and X button as its controls. It is a game that purely tests the skills rather than challenges the mind – a trait that will have players either loving or hating it.
Pressing X flips the stage upside down, while pressing right and left on the d-pad moves the box accordingly. The level will end as soon as you collect six glowing nodes, after which you’ll immediately transition into the next world to do the same thing. The main game is made up of nine levels (including the tutorial), and once that’s completed, “Super Velocibox” mode is unlocked, along with nine more stages and the promise of heightened difficulty.
Unlike games such as Super Meat Boy and I Wanna Be The Guy, the stages in Velocibox are constantly changing. This succeeds in keeping the experience fresh for countless rounds and always makes the player adapt to the level ahead of them. That way, when a level is beaten it’s because of accrued skill rather than muscle memory, which makes victory all the sweeter. Trust me, if you’re playing Velocibox, it’s because you’re in it for the overwhelming feeling of accomplishment that comes at the end of a painful montage of fruitless runs.
The game’s environments are minimal, with white walls and colored obstacles that will occasionally flash to indicate movement, and these co-ordinate effectively with the simplistic controls the game is built on. Although the stages constantly change, the difficulty is fair enough to justify that, and the controls are tight enough to support consistent high-level play once the basics are mastered. Velocibox comes in at 1080p and a smooth 60 frames per second. Bottom line: this game might be simple, but it looks and controls masterfully. Load times are lightning fast, which is crucial considering how often failure comes into play. This also allows players to maintain the zen state they enter into with each nail-biting play session they begin.
While Velocibox is a PC port, Loot Interactive have made good use of the PS4 and Vita’s capabilities through the introduction of cross-save, trophies and Dualshock audio effects, as well as light-bar integration. By far the best addition to the console release of Velocibox, however, is the level selection screen. In the PC version, players were only able to access the stages they could get to in one run. Now they can start from any level they have previously played, which is a godsend for the majority of people who would normally only see three or four levels of the entire experience.
With that all said, Velocibox is just as fun as it is difficult and that’s saying something. A fair challenge, responsive controls and quick load times come together in a beautiful blend to keep the most hardened players on the edge of their seat for hours, while an online leaderboard will have them all battling for the top spot. The $12.99 USD price tag ($9.99 for PS Plus subscribers) frankly seems a little steep for most players as they’ll only invest enough time to beat all of the game’s levels. For gamers ready to compete online, however, it’s perfect. The only wish I have after spending time with Velocibox is that there were more levels on offer, as a skilled player could easily blow through the stages available in a few hours. For $10, that might not be worth it to some.
If you’re still unsure, take a look at the gameplay footage above and see what you think; it only takes a couple of minutes to get a full feel for the game. If you like what you see, spend the money and get lost in the experience. If you’re not sure, just ask yourself if you’re willing to lose to this game over and over and over. I’m sure the answer will come to all of you quite quickly, and that’s what I love about Velocibox.
Ultimately, it doesn’t pretend to be something it’s not. It’s pure, unadulterated, skillful reflexes… and a box moving down a hallway (mainly the skill part). If that interests you, don’t hesitate to stop by the PS Store and scoop this up. Just remember that either way… you won’t be prepared.
Velocibox brings with it a whole new level of gaming masochism.