In 1975, a Hungarian psychologist named Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (try pronouncing that one out loud) coined the term 'flow', referring to a state of mind in which one becomes so enchanted or focused on something that all sense of space and time outside of that focus point essentially seems to disappear. The state of flow is something to be strived for, and it can be found in virtually any circumstance once certain parameters are met, and this includes video games. If ever there were a game that embodies the concept of flow and could most reliably put a player into that state, it would be Velocity 2X, an enormously enjoyable arcade action title that absolutely seizes your attention and doesn’t let it go.
Velocity 2X puts you in control of Lt. Kai Tana, the strong-willed pilot of an experimental flying weapon called the Quarp Jet. After the final events in Velocity, which saw our brave heroine flying her jet into the heart of a black hole, Kai’s body has been partially replaced with bionic enhancements by her ship’s medical AI, and she finds herself in a strange galaxy ruled over by a cruel race of alien beings called the Vokh. Spurred on by a newfound friend and the desire to return to Earth, Kai embarks on a new adventure to discover the extent of her cybernetic abilities and help free a benevolent alien race from the iron fist of the Vokh. Although the plot isn’t exactly what we would describe as riveting, Kai’s journey nonetheless manages to entertain and occasionally hit on some emotional notes, providing a fitting context to the lightning-fast arcade action.
Right from the off, Velocity 2X makes it clear that this is an experience that’s designed to be all killer, no filler; from stem to stern, the campaign will push your dexterity to its very limits by demanding absolute precision and adaptability as it throws chaotic and high-intensity action at you. The majority of gameplay will see you taking control of the Quarp Jet, blasting enemies and smashing through glass with bombs and lasers while utilizing warp technology to jump around the map. Occasionally, the way forward will demand that you disembark, placing you in control of Kai in action sidescroller segments that see you dashing through all manner of traps and enemies in a desperate race to find a switch that will open the way for your jet.
It may sound like a ho-hum action game so far, but where Velocity 2X shows its brilliance is in how the entire campaign is a dozen(ish) hour long tutorial on how to play the game right. Every few levels, a new concept or ability will be introduced, like a throwable warp pod or a directional bomb attack, and the next few levels will expand on it and show you various places the new concept can be taken. After several dozen levels, you’ll have built up quite a repertoire of moves and obstacles to overcome, and the things that you've learned earliest will become second nature. Velocity 2X excels in the art of passive teaching; of drilling things into the player over and over without them fully realizing it as it shapes you into the kind of player that you need to be.
The point of all this training, of course, is speedrunning, which is the bread and butter of Velocity 2X. New stages are unlocked based on how well you perform in previous stages, so if you wish to see everything this game has to offer, you’ll have to perfectly clear every stage. This means that you must make it to the end of every stage having killed every enemy and collected every collectable while moving at a full sprint, without dying. Early stages ease you into this, with generous time limits and simple obstacles to overcome, but it doesn’t take long for the difficulty to ramp up considerably and demand fast reflexes and raw muscle memory to succeed. Should you fail - and you certainly will many times when trying to perfect a level - respawning is almost immediate, and you can even restart a run with a simple tap of both shoulder buttons.
The reason why this speedrunning approach works so well, and why Velocity 2X can be so infuriatingly difficult to put down, is because of how each level is designed to be in perfect harmony with your abilities. On your first playthrough, Velocity 2X seems like just an average action game, but coming at it with a full loadout of moves and several hours of experience shows it for the painstakingly fine-tuned experience that it is. Every enemy, jump, and obstacle is placed precisely where it is for a purpose, pointing the way towards a single, optimal path towards clearing a stage with flying colours. In a way, Velocity 2X becomes a sort of rhythm game once you reach the point where this is evident, as individual elements melt away and you go into a Zen-like state of naturally reacting to everything that’s thrown at you. It becomes a game of building and maintaining momentum, of playing stages repeatedly to learn from every mistake and finally clinch that perfect run.
Those of you that are looking for replayability will be pleased to know that there’s plenty to keep you coming back, such as online leaderboards that show how you stack up compared to friends and other players in the world. On top of this, there’s a slew of unlockable content, such as concept art, daily challenge runs, and all the previous paid DLC included free of charge. Though Velocity 2X may not appeal to everyone, this is certainly a game that offers up significant bang for your buck.
To match the intensity of the gameplay, Velocity 2X features a stylish, comic book-like art style that focuses on strong colour contrasts and bold, straight lines. When in motion, it makes the game look like concept art that has jumped straight off the page; there’s a certain raw and functional aesthetic about it that feels like the perfect way to portray this sort of gameplay. This is supplemented, too, by smart use of HD rumble, which does a great job of helping you to feel the action in big and small ways; it may not be the best use of Nintendo’s curious tech that we’ve seen, but it’s certainly a cut above many other games’ implementation of it.
All of this is backed by a stellar soundtrack of electronic music which pulls from a variety of subgenres to provide a diverse experience to suit multiple moods. For every fast-paced, high-BPM track that plays during 'Critical Urgency' levels, there’s an equally chill and atmospheric track for the more relaxed conversations happening in the cutscenes between levels. We’d recommend you pull out the headphones for this soundtrack, as there are certain nuances to the music that you might miss while playing on the TV, and it helps that much more in immersing you in the action.
In an age where indie titles are becoming increasingly more reliant on procedural generation to do all the heavy lifting, it can be immensely satisfying to play a game that is tailor made for one specific experience. Velocity 2X excels in this regard, offering up an immaculately designed, endlessly replayable arcade experience that shows just how engaging twitch gameplay can be. We would give Velocity 2X a high recommendation, especially to anybody who’s looking for a great pick up and play arcade game for their Switch; this is one you definitely don’t want to miss out on.