January 26, 2013 3 Comments
Alright, so this is awkward, but I didn’t like escapeVektor on the Vita. Apparently I’m the only person in the entire world who didn’t, so I guess I should explain myself. Often, when I dislike a popular game, I’m asked “what did you expect?” As if I hold every game to such unreasonably high standards that nothing can possibly please me. My honest answer is “all I expect is to have fun.” If I don’t get that, I don’t give a game a pass because it looks good, plays well, and has a nifty concept. If a game bores me, I say so. And escapeVektor bored me to fucking tears.
Going off screenshots, I figured it would be similar to Qix. Watching it in motion, I figured it would be a little like Pac-Man. Once I started playing, I wished it had been closer to those games. At least they were fun. Here the idea is you have to guide an exceptionally slow-moving ship around a grid, filling in all the lines, opening up either an exit or more lines, which open up different exits. Along the way, a variety of enemies tries to kill you. There’s a storyline involved, but with any game like this, I wonder why they bother. Even with the admittedly pretty visuals, this is an old school maze game, straight out of the Pac-Man craze of the early 80s. It needed a story about as much as quail need bulls-eyes on their wings.
Oh, but it does have a storyline. One that pops up between levels and utterly refuses to shut up. You’ll get past a difficult stage, all full of enthusiasm for a job well done, anxious to kick the ass of the next stage, and then the story rears its ugly head. Some tripe about a guy stuck in a CPU. It’s not intriguing in the slightest, and its presence was about as well received by myself as a bout of standing-quadriplegia that hits the moment you answer the door to Jehovah’s Witnesses.
After a while, the game does get faster. You get boosters that allow you to zip around stages and avoid enemies. And the game throws a few more twists at you, like tailgating enemies, electrified gateways, and more power-ups to fight back. But, for me at least, it never stopped being boring. Part of that is due to a moderately large design flaw. You know how pretty much every maze game ever made does this thing where if you die, you don’t have to start the level over from scratch? Like in Pac-Man, if you die with only two dots left in the stage, you get to replay the stage, with the board exactly how you left it? Probably so as to avoid tedium? Yeah, well escapeVektor doesn’t do that. Imagine going through a sprawling level, heel-toeing your way through a gauntlet of enemies, only to run out of bombs with five feet to go from the exit and getting caught by a random enemy, or a bullet from a turret. Guess what? You get to replay the whole level over again. I didn’t find Vektor’s breed of gameplay all that exciting to begin with. In some later levels, turning the game off entirely seemed like a better option towards rehabilitating my dull day.
There probably should be more reasons why I disliked escapeVektor, but I honestly can’t think of anything. I have to admit, as a critic, it’s kind of tough to say “I didn’t like a game and I’m not totally sure why.” I mean, I like these type of games. I liked the art style. I thought it controlled pretty smoothly. I guess I should like it. Everybody else does. It’s being thrown 8s out of 10s, 9s out of 10s, or 4s out of 5s by pretty much every other rinky dinky critic alive. I told a friend “I seem to be the only person who doesn’t like it.” He said “that doesn’t surprise me.” Typically, when I’m the one voice that says “meh” in a crowd of cheers, I get accused of trolling. I try to avoid trolling indies. It’s bad for the soul. In the case of escapeVektor, I genuinely thought it was boring. You might.. hell, likely will, disagree with me on that. But I assure you, my “meh” here is my authentic opinion. When I troll, I go after the easiest targets, like any self-respecting troll does. Like ancient Sega properties that actually do suck but their fans don’t realize it. Speaking of which, NiGHTS was $2.50 on PSN this week. Yep, that’ll do. That’s what I love about Sega. It’s like having the barreled fish hand you the gun.
$7.99 (normal price $9.99) wants neo-retro developers to seriously ponder whether or not Golden-Age coin-ops would be considered classics if players were interrupted between each stage by unskippable text or cut scenes in the making of this review.