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10/03/2010 Family Returning Gamer Review
Guest author: Daniel Lipscombe
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VVVVVV is a PC retro style platform game that will whisk many an adult back to the days of childhood.

With a visual nod to NES games and a soundtrack based on a similar era, VVVVVV helps to pull you from your adult life and place you in front the TV, legs crossed, waiting for Land Of The Giants to start, when days were simpler and games were harder.

VVVVVV's premise is a simple one - you play as a captain of a spaceship whose crew have entered another dimension. This has caused your shipmates to go missing. You must find them to finish the game. This simplicity carries through to the controls; left and right directions only, with gravity invertion at the touch of one button. Something so basic should have a universal appeal, but VVVVVV is a very difficult game.

Luckily, there are plenty of checkpoints scattered throughout, which is very helpful when you're dying a lot. One particular section stumped me for around twenty minutes and resulted in around 100 deaths. Whilst I remained perplexed, I soon overcame the problem and carried on with a spring in my virtual step.

The difficulty level could easily put the more casual gamer off. Each area consists of either a puzzle or a series of obstacles, and each requires very fast reflexes, but even with the fastest fingers you can still find yourself dying repeatedly. This harks back to when games relied more on gaming mechanics over sparkly graphics to entice players. Throughout the entirety of the game, I felt childlike, struggling to master the challenges. Ultimately however, I was beaming at my achievement when I finished it.

It's great when a game comes along and challenges your skills, allowing you to strive for a goal

It's great when a game comes along and challenges your skills, allowing you to strive for a goal - this can be helpful when you've got a lot on your mind. VVVVVV is certainly a game that pushes you to your limits, testing your will to carry on and forcing you to try harder. It's a refreshing change from some of the more simple games.

Unfortunately, the game doesn't last that long, at around 3-4 hours depending on how many attempts it takes to surpass certain tough areas. A little disappointing when it's so enjoyable. I'll admit when I reached the end, and finally saw the credits screen, I left my chair in a leap of joy, punching the air in celebration. As I came down to rest on my chair, the sense of glee left as I realised it was over.

While the campaign lasts, it's very good fun. Each crew member collected returns to the ship, and chatting to them will open plenty of enjoyable dialogue. This fills in the story and even hints at relationships within the ensemble cast. It's wonderful to see deep dialogue without the frivolity of fancy CG cut scenes as it allows you to just enjoy what's being said.

There's a similar feeling with the actual character designs. The captain, throughout the entire game, has a great wide smile, as if this is run of the mill for him. I couldn't help but look upon him and smile myself, even if I was reddening with madness at some of the tougher sections. In fact, in just one screen of the game a particular puzzle does in fact upset our captain and lets you know that this bit will crush your spirit.

Whilst I pushed to collect all my crew and keep my death count to a minimum, my mind stayed busy and allowed me to forget any troubles I have.

Once the game ends, you can push yourself further with the new game modes that you unlock. Time Trials push your dextrous fingers to the limit; Flip mode turns the game upside down, meaning everything is a little bit different and then there's the very old school No Death mode, which asks you to complete the game from start to finish without dying. The latter is for the hardcore among us, my death count stood at 872 by the end, so it shows how tough this would be. My favourite mode has to be the Time Trials pushing you to shave precious seconds off your best times. Which resulted in boasting to my wife and friends and challenging them to better it.

You can probably tell that I enjoyed my time with VVVVVV, and whilst I pushed to collect all my crew and keep my death count to a minimum, my mind stayed busy and allowed me to forget any troubles I have. Immersing myself in this little world that genuinely makes me smile is wonderful. It makes a change from the violent and bloody games of modern gaming. VVVVVV is simply a masterpiece that transports you to another world.

Guest review by Daniel Lipscombe

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Daniel Lipscombe wrote this Returning Gamer article under the watchful eye of Sinan Kubba.

"As an 80s kid I was obsessed with gaming. But university, stress and life relegated my hobby to the backseat. After years in the wilderness, I'm back into video games. I don't just want to play games that remind of a happy youth though. I'm just as excited about games that take things forward, experiences that re-ignite that curiosity and fascination I had years ago."

Here are the games I've been playing recently:

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