Release Date: May 29, 2019
Reviewed On: PC
Music is considered to be a universal language. No matter where you’re from, what you do, or just who you are, any type of music has the ability to communicate across cultural and linguistic boundaries in ways that aren’t possible with ordinary languages like English. With that said, not all songs resonate with everyone as certain songs might not bring about the same emotional response in every person.
Video games are pretty similar to that of music overall. There are some gamers that need a game to have all kinds of bells and whistles in order to be considered great, but then there are also those that like games that are more simple. The Ludopium developed and ARTE published hypnotic rhythm-based platformer Vectronom takes the “less is more” approach as it wonderfully blends plain-and-simple yet satisfying puzzle platforming with complex, entrancing electronic music that makes it a game that can be fun for anyone to bounce through. However, Vectronom’s simplicity may make it a game that’s played only once, since some players might find that the game lacks significant replayability.
Vectronom’s simplicity is portrayed in the very beginning as there’s no story presented. The first level literally consists of the player being introduced to a cube and with that cube, the player must bounce from the beginning of a simple, one-way path to the end of it. There aren’t any menacing enemies to worry about, no characters that come in, or even tutorials telling you what to do — it’s just you being introduced to the game’s simple mechanics, having to go from point A to point B, and that’s that. To be honest, I don’t exactly know how the developer would put in a legit story for Vectronom, so it’s probably for the best that the game doesn’t have any sort of story at all.
While the game is straightforward in this regard, Vectronom’s intuitive and addictive gameplay that’s tied in perfectly with the expertly-crafted level design and the powerful electronic soundtrack is what will seriously have you in an absolute trance. As aforementioned, Vectronom is simple to learn yet hard to master, since basically, the game consists of navigating across multiple paths in levels with a cube. While this sounds rather easy, the kicker is that each level presents daunting challenges, especially since levels are always-changing depending on the music beats that are being played.
Every single beat changes the path before you, so it’s vital to understand the rhythm and flow of each level to successfully make it to the very end. There are some instances, in earlier levels more specifically, where you can disregard following along with music and just quickly rush towards the end of the level, but for later levels, doing just that is not even possible.
Going with the flow is how you need to complete levels as rushing through them will only result in many, many failed attempts. With winding paths that evaporate in just a blink of an eye (in this case, in just a beat at a time), bottomless pits to watch out for, waves of spikes moving across paths, and so much more across every level that bursts with bright colors, the game only gets more and more challenging as you progress. It’s with that said that Vectronom approaches puzzle solving in a fresh and clever way as it’s not a matter of being an absolute, know-it-all genius, it’s all about just making sure to memorize the patterns being presented to you, both visually and auditorily, and taking your time doing so, which is why any player can go into the game without any issue.
As someone who hasn’t really played many rhythm games, I was truly able to have fun bouncing my way through every level since I knew that it wasn’t an overwhelming race to finish each one. However, it is possible to get frustrated and even mentally exhausted when playing as obviously, Vectronom requires your utmost attention (the developer even included a note at the start of the game that recommends that you play with headphones and take breaks in-between).
Thankfully, for players, Vectronom’s frenetic electronic music is not only implemented wonderfully to the point that all players can, over time, get a good flow going with it, but the music itself is also just excellent. It’s incredible that every element with the game’s music, whether it’s a swift hit of a cymbal or a quick bass drop, serves a purpose, and just sticks in your mind even after you’re finished playing. Calling the music hypnotic may sound a bit extreme, but really it is. The way that music is integrated with all the levels is wildly clever, and electronic music lovers will really enjoy it.
On the flip side, some players may find that after finishing Vectronom, there isn’t any reason to go back to it — aside from going through the levels again to get all the pickups, achieve a better beat precision percentage, and finishing without needing to retry. Sure, there’s the drop-in/drop-out multiplayer, but it’s essentially going through the same levels in the solo campaign with up to three friends.
It would’ve been great if there were more modes added to Vectronom, like a time attack mode that I’m sure that speedrunners would love. With that said, the PC and Mac version does give you the option of hooking up alternate controllers, such as dance pads, and even connecting analog synthesizers to the headphone output to sync your music with the tempo of the game, so these additional features do add a bit more replayability. For the Switch version, however, these features aren’t included, but it is nice to take the game on the go. Perhaps more features overall will be added to Vectronom post-launch, but we’ll have to wait and see.
It’s easy to say, though, that Vectronom is a sublime and fresh rhythm game that anyone can truly enjoy moving and grooving through. While Vectronom may seem to be way too simple at first, it actually is packed with layers of complexity that make it a completely challenging and rewarding. It isn’t just a game for rhythm game fans, it’s a game for any music and puzzle fan. With its accessible and addicting gameplay, clever level design, and mesmerizing soundtrack, Vectronom is one of the most entrancing rhythm games this year. The only major downside with it is that it doesn’t have much replayability to keep players coming back to it. But hey, at least the game is only $9.99.
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