Looking back to the release of escapeVektor: Chapter 1 just over a year ago, we're filled with conflicting emotions. We're glad, of course, because the game was fantastic, inexpensive, and thoroughly addictive. However we can't remember that game without being reminded of the fact that WiiWare never saw the rest of the series. That "Chapter 1" hangs there like a too-optimistic promise of great things ahead... great things we never got to see.
Or, at least, great things we never got to see until now. Finding a new home in the 3DS eShop, escapeVektor seeks to atone for the dangling end of Chapter 1 by giving us all four chapters at once, in one collection, in a portable format. And you know what? We absolutely forgive it.
It's worth reading our review of the WiiWare game to find out why we loved it, especially since everything great we had to say about it applies here as well.
It's a deceptively complicated game that involves moving one simple shape around a world of simple shapes. You guide Vektor — a mysterious digital personality — through these worlds, tracing paths on a grid as you go. As you move you colour in the path behind you, and enemies pursue you and seek to trap you in a corner. It plays like a cross between Pac-Man and City Connection with a retro-futuristic vibe, a wonderfully evolving storyline, and a pulsing soundtrack that ranks among the best available on any of Nintendo's digital services.
Control is simple and tight. You change directions with the circle pad and... that's it. At least, at first. As the adventure progresses you'll unlock the ability to set bombs, to boost, and even to plow through enemies. Those are all skills you'll have to learn, however, as Vektor begins the game totally defenceless, and your only hope of survival is to think fast, and with great cunning.
Each level contains a timer. If you let it run out, the enemies will be on higher alert for you, and will move more quickly as they seek you out. Colouring every path within a level allows you to move on, but hidden exits can be found as well by colouring paths that open up only after the first exit is revealed. When you do reach an exit, your score will be tabulated based on the amount of time you took, the number of enemies you destroyed and other factors; this is where escapeVektor really shines, with leaderboards.
The game will automatically connect to the network every time you finish a level, and you'll be able to see where your score stacks up in general and against your friends. It's a simple way to add endless replayability to even the most basic levels, and at the time of writing your humble reviewer is at the top of more than a few charts... go knock him off!
Even better, if you can't connect to the network for any reason — if you're playing on a bus, or your internet is down — all of your scores will upload the next time you do manage to connect. It's exactly the kind of approach that really would have benefited Spirit Hunters Inc., and we're thrilled to have it here.
Additionally there are 150 levels to explore and master, a set of achievements to unlock, and additional medals awarded for clearing levels quickly or with a high score. On top of that there are wildcard items Vektor can find, which will allow you to double your score in a level of your choice... which is obviously a great way of heating up leaderboard rivalries. Without any of this extra content the sheer number of levels would make for a worthy purchase, but this additional value really makes it a fantastic buy.
The game's design isn't perfect, however. The playing field is visually cramped, and it's impossible to know what's coming at you many times until it's already killed you. There are switches you'll have to throw in order to open up new passages, and exits that are revealed when the level is clear, but you can't see where they are without simply re-exploring the map. You can zoom out by holding R, but it would have been much nicer if you could simply press R once to toggle a zoom. As it stands you'll be holding R the entire time that you play, and that feels unnecessary.
There are also enemy respawn points that are pretty unfairly positioned. When you kill an enemy they will reappear between two brackets at a set place on the board, so you'd better hope you don't have to kill anything while you're anywhere near those brackets or they will reappear immediately and kill you right back. This is doubly frustrating when you recolour all the paths in the level, as doing so will destroy all the enemies on the screen. When you finish colouring you'd better not be anywhere near a respawn point or, again, you're a sitting duck.
These are small niggles, however, that can be learned and don't mar the addictive experience of escapeVektor. For a game about simple shapes, the correct path through a particularly difficult level can resemble an elegant dance of reaction and foresight, and there's nothing quite as satisfying as finishing a level that you've failed to complete dozens of times. It's a difficult game, but an endlessly rewarding one.
Make no mistake: escapeVektor is a great game. It's not without its flaws, but they're extremely minor when compared against everything the game gets exactly right. The visual presentation is simplistic brilliance, the soundtrack is perfect, and the play controls are tight. A narrow view area and some unfair placements of enemy respawn points can both lead to unfortunate deaths, but the achievements, medals system, secret exits, bonus stages and online leaderboards all more than make up for it. It's everything that was great about the WiiWare game, but four times as big for only twice the price. You'd be foolish to let this one get away.
How's the 3D in this game?
Wii Ware version was great. I love how you can find warps to later levels even thought your little ship is not yet powered up to tackle them. My only compliant was holding a button to zoom out the whole time, but overall good fun. Also I think it draws some inspiration from the classic game Qix as well.
3D is subtle and decent. Not sure I'd give it a 9! Great revw, reads more like an 8 and certainly seems that way of what I have played.
Great review as always Phil! I'm glad you got to play some awesome games this CHRISTmas.
As for the game I think its really good but I just downloaded too many good games recently and don't have the time I like to have with this just yet. It's on my to do list shortly after CHRISTmas!
Great Review Phil! I'll consider thi one later this week!
Yep, it's a pretty wonderful game. I've been loving it. I especially love the high score implementation. It reminds me of Pac Man Championship Edition DX.
I bought this game expecting it to be awesome, but I'm kind of disappointed. The controls seem unresponsive, as I often have to double back because I tried to turn but the vector didn't. It also doesn't explain what the timer does. I thought the game was impossible at first. I suppose I'll try playing it again, but it probably doesn't help that I bought night sky and Crashmo at the same time.
@justinj42 Really? Maybe you're not turning fast enough. What you're supposed to do is pick the direction you're supposed to turn in before you turn. You know, like in Pac-Man. I've found the sense of control to be perfect.
@X-Factor I love when I see someone from Nintendolife right above me. It makes me want to play the level again and kick their butt! Even though they won't know I kicked their butt. It's pretty great.
I was about skip on this game since I already bought the wiiware version and I thought their was nothing new to the game until I read this review.I'm going to buy this game when I get a new points card.
I'd actually give this game a 10, but that is mostly because it's made by an Aussie developper.
really want ( hopefully looks at Mom and Dad) an eshop card 4 this
For some reason even when my internet is fine uploading my highscore doesn't work. I see NL users on the high score boards a lot.
I can't get the game to connect to the Nintendo Network to upload or even see anyone else's high scores despite my internet working fine Any ideas?
Edit: After a few retries it seems to be working now. Wierd leaderboard setup. How do I know what number position I'm in on the world leaderboards or just in my region? I can't scroll up or down hence I have no idea what points I need to be the very best. Unless there's only 10 people with the game? :S
@WiiLovePeace press L and R to scroll between World / Country / Friends.... it's pretty self-explanatory I think it even says that on the screen
@Grubdog that's not what I'm asking. There are no numbers next to the names hence I have no idea if I'm number #5 in my region or #100, that's what I'd like to know.
What about if you could get this game for half price? It was a good deal originally, but is an incredible deal while the sale lasts!
^Yes, listen to this man and get the damn game. $5 for a massive game sounds pretty awesome don't you say?
@rayword45 Don't know if you'll ever see this, but I saw your name on the leader boards! My name on there is the same as my user name on here.
Am I the only one who can't connect with this game but all the other games I have work perfectly online?
I just bought this and, although I'm enjoying it, it is a big disappointment that the leaderboards aren't working anymore. I know my connection is fine but it never successfully connects to the Nintendo Network, so I guess I won't be enjoying the part that "really shines" as the review points out.
Finishing chapter 1 means I'm finally at a point where the game can really challenge me, which is great because some of the early levels are way too noob friendly.
@dronesplitter - same for me regarding the leader boards. Shame but I am enjoying it anyway!
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