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21st January 2013; By KnucklesSonic8
While arousing skepticism at times, manufacturer warranties prove to be strong testimonies by the makers of a particular item, guaranteeing the product of choice is more or less infallible for a given period of time...so long as it operates on its own strength, doesn't see to accidental damage, and remains uncontaminated by foreign devices and unauthorized add-ons. Years down the line, despite clumsy behaviour resulting in repeated collisions with the ground, those that actually live up to this standard and continue functioning undeterred command respect for their robust quality, in turn leading to brand loyalty. If one was to compare escapeVektor to that of a machine, its internal system would be classified as not only being in good working order, but also outclassing competitors in the same category by reason of its preparedness to stand its ground against the opposition of time. Not erroneously emulating a style it can't elevate itself past, escapeVektor functions well as its own product, achieving formidably through conscientious variables both great and small.
The game stars a bloke by the name of Vektor, who is in need of your assistance. To relieve him of the bars that tie him down to the digital space he is confined to, you must claim control of cell blocks (again with the prison analogies) often patrolled by guardians, and in the process, discover what Vektor calls "remnants of past experiences" that are now floating around somewhere in cyberspace. Manipulating a node (the game's term for individual levels) involves traveling along white lines, with the goal of highlighting the entire grid using your arrow-shaped vessel. Completing regions of the grid will gradually lead to increased boost power, and if you build up enough energy from your connected actions you can trigger early detonations that prove useful when cornered by two enemies. This is where one of the game's early, founding elements takes shape -- through an attached risk/reward principle. An exit zone will appear once the entire layout has been marked off. On occasion, an additional expansion will suddenly appear as if a curtain were being pulled back, ultimately leading to a second exit point. In truth, the mechanics are simpler than I've probably made them sound, but if you get the nagging feeling there's some complexity to the surface system, then you're absolutely correct.
Before getting into that, however, it would be good to address a key point regarding the physical setup. Rather than having your view of the space stop at the dividing line between the system's two screens or having the Touch Screen function as a toolbar of sorts, both the top and bottom screens are used to iterate gameplay. This display choice at first causes you to adjust your viewpoint a little when exploring more stretched-out layouts, but being able to zoom out with the R Button means having a greater grasp on your surroundings in spite of the limiting nature that the feed would seem to suggest otherwise. Dynamic camera movements also play a considerable role in this, though the 3D isn't as effective as might be hoped for.
Forming a border around the lower screen are square bits that refer to the clock when engaging timed missions. In normal situations, however, they represent a window for maximum points and an indication of when the enemy forces will amp up their efforts. Throughout the entire game, engaging colour combinations (e.g., orange against a dark blue) are used in connection with the display borders, stage backgrounds and foremost layout material as forms of both contrast and unity. The soundtrack carries a futuristic, digital theme, yet it's portrayed in a way that's inspired by sound effects emitted from classic gaming systems. Both during gameplay and even outside the game, the resulting compositions are unique and uplifting, at times subtly expressing uncertainty in the face of the tension characteristic of the gameplay.
In a certain respect, the openness of the game's design (as far as movement is concerned) transcends to the hub design. Recall earlier when I mentioned that some stages will feature two exits instead of one? Well, trying to explore every possible path will lead you to a wealthy amount of levels, making progression an exciting prospect. Moreover, new worlds can be accessed earlier on than the path outlined by the standard flow, and in doing so, it feels like they were trying to convey affairs resembling that of a digital highway. While not reaching that feeling to its largest degree, they got most of it down by the wise decisions they made with the flow not being overly regimented, as the inclination might have been to do. As you go about your modest endeavours, Vektor's version number will increase, granting you such upgrades as a larger boost bar, more detonation pips, radius extensions, and so on. In connection with this, examining the rate at which new elements are introduced strongly suggests a positive reinforcement, with gameplay expansions taking place at a perfectly comfortable pace.
What I personally adore about the game's style is that it isn't used as an excuse to minimize freedom or lock you in through perhaps logical yet still crushing means. The design is such that it, first of all, provokes engaging pursuits, but also with room to step away from things temporarily in the case of longer levels where there's more at stake. It's a small touch having these expansions follow the initial coverage of a stage, but when you're presented with the gamble, the question is this: Do you keep going as the level expands or conclude your session and cash in your points, avoiding unnecessary risks?
Level layouts become more and more intricate, allowing players to use bait tactics with the help of towers to destroy pesky enemies. But this strategy can also backfire when you approach the sensor incorrectly, or as enemies intersect with and trip the laser switch to either grant them free passage or trigger it when you have yet to cross over to the opposite end. As such, these sensors can present liabilities, but it all adds to the overall strategy.
On the subject of threats, there are pod-like enemies that chase after you, others that just follow their own back-and-forth course but pick up speed when you enter their turf, and hunters that can reverse direction by surprise. There's commendable enemy design here, for the primary reason that it makes the game a thrill to play without ever becoming too drastic for the average player to handle with a little patience. Better still, attack patterns are engaging in themselves and don't feel automated in the sense that they're not dull, nor are they robotic to the point that the energy and heart are sapped away.
An additional layer of dimension has been added when compared with escapeVektor's debut on WiiWare, and that is the competitive flair the game is rife with. Devotion to high-score competitions is indeed a strong likelihood, with players not being content being near the bottom of tables against friends or other persons around the world, and even more pressure wisely being leveraged through Wild Cards that can double your point values. With the arcade focus thus reaching full circle, the setup proves addicting the moment you take seriously the records set before you. If you don't have access to the Internet at a later point (perhaps while on the road), you won't be left out. The game will provide a cached version of the last update for you to gauge your performance against.
With absolutely no signs of premature letup, escapeVektor is an expertly-designed game with a well-harnessed dynamic that will grip even novice players who don't consider themselves habitual gamers. It manifests itself with a well-crafted synthesis that exists both on and underneath the surface, motioning players of all sorts without failing to develop under the guise of restraint. Had it not been for the core elements being as purposeful as they are, the game might not have kept to the same level of enticement that it so effectively maintains through its action elements. Whatever minor discomforts that might surface on rare occasions are so easily forgotten that I almost feel silly for even bringing this up. Thanks to a healthy support system, design growth that doesn't complicate to a damaging degree, as well as mechanics so well-honed they are begging for attention, escapeVektor stands alone in many ways, with a proven capability of outlasting while remaining forceful long into the future.
28/30 - Excellent
Gameplay 9/10 - Fairly simple with a developing design, strong arcade-focused execution, commendable AI, expansions add to the dynamic, rare quirks
Presentation 9/10 - Great general arrangement, dynamic camera, excellent soundtrack, lovely colour scheme, decent 3D use but not super effective
Enjoyment 5/5 - Incredibly accessible while still being perfectly balanced for thrill-seekers, reinforced at a comfortable pace, develops with intricacy
Extra Content 5/5 - Heavy on content with a wealth of levels, competitive flair stemming from the leaderboards adds dimension, highly replayable
Equivalent to a score of 93% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating) - Our Rating System