escapeVektor is a new game on WiiWare from Australian developers Nnooo. It’s hard to compare to anything because this is a brand new gameplay concept. It’s like Pac-Man, with cannons, switches, boosting, scoring depth, and a personality. The concept has you controlling Vektor, a human who somehow got converted to computer code and is now stuck inside a CPU with no memories left, except his ability to code, of course. Now you have to capture cells in each level to escape the CPU and figure out what’s going on. escapeVektor is an intense, engaging gameplay experience that nobody should miss out on.
Each level consists of cells to capture by collecting each of the four sides of a square, the white lines indicate places you haven’t been yet, while the blue line behind you shows where you’ve traveled and “captured”. Once every cell in the level is complete, the goal will open and you can escape. The basic method here is to travel every inch of the level in the shortest amount of time, while avoiding obstacles and enemies. Your score only improves while you travel on untouched terrain, so figuring out a good route is the core strategy in this game, and you’re also scored on your completion time. The controls use simple dpad movement, with the Wii remote held on its side.
You have two abilities at your disposal for speeding up and using a detonator, that get unlocked as you progress; the game even has a cool premise attached to this. As Vektor travels through the CPU, he studies the coding and finds ways to alter or “hack” it to improve his detonation blast ratio or add boost bars. Boost is essential in most levels to get the best score and avoid fast enemies, and you lose no points by using it. The boost meter is charged slowly whenever you’re tracing a new line, or capturing a new cell. It will run out of you use it non-stop, so sometimes it’s best to save it for a desperate situation when two enemies threaten to make a vektor sandwich. The detonator is probably the better option in this situation, it destroys all enemies in the blast radius around you. There is a negative for using this, though: while you do get points for killing enemies, you also capture every cell you’ve circled in the level when you press this button, which hurts your score in the long run. Capturing every cell at the same time at the end will result in a higher “combo”. There’s also rewards for completing a level without using a detonator.
As you progress, the enemies get more complicated. It starts with patrols, which have a set path, then evolves to hunters. If hunters see you, they chase you down, and they are almost double your speed when you don’t have boost so it’s quite a scary game of cat and mouse. Sometimes if you have a detonator it’s a good strategy to get the hunters attention and blow them up, otherwise just stay the hell away. This feels like a horror game at times, it’s a true battle for survival in this ruthless CPU that is constantly evolving for the sole reason of kicking your arse. Eventually there are enemies that know where you are, no matter where you are, and outsmarting them involves anticipating their movements and tricking them.
This video demonstrates the best path through a level, or at least the idea of it. Here, I minimise time spent retracing my steps, while taking advantage of the preset paths of these patrol drones and “following” them, in an effort to avoid meeting them head-on. I also make sure that at the end of the level, I’m as close to where to goal appears as possible, to minimise total time. Finding quicker routes through the levels is one of the most fun things in the game, and I’m still finding new tricks each time I play. Every level has 4 medals depending on your score, and getting the platinums I feel is the heart of the gameplay experience.
Some levels are fairly easy to clear the “safe” way. Picking a hiding spot, ducking out when the coast is clear to grab cells, being cautious. Nothing wrong with that; it sums up my strategy when I first started playing. These same levels could end up being the hardest levels to master. Should I take this path now, or on the way back? How close to the exit will I be once I’ve cleared all the cells? I have extra boost left at the end, where could I have used it? These are questions I started asking myself as I got more familiar with the levels.
This is the part of the review where I talk about how more people should be playing this game. This five dollar game is better than most games on Wii, and hardly anyone knows about it. I had a search for people’s high scores to compare to mine, but there’s no community yet. The only chatter I see is from the developers themselves (I love their enthusiasm), and some very positive reviews. Even IGN gave it 9 out of 10, and the concept of a good Wii game usually has them putting paper bags over their heads and banging themselves with a saucepan.
escapeVektor is an aural treat, with some catchy tunes and banging beats that really add to the experience. The graphics aren’t eye popping but this is probably a good thing as there’s a lot to pay attention to on screen. It’s very clean looking and has excellent presentation. The gameplay concept is so good and solid that I can see this having multiple installments all with their own unique feel. I can’t wait for Chapter 2, adding some new enemy behavior and obstacles could result in some radically different level design. Chapter 1 has 6 worlds with about 6 levels in each, not an enormous amount of content, but it’s 500 Wii points and you get what you pay for. Brilliant idea, flawless execution, escapeVektor is a fantastic game and I hope you give it a second look after this review. Yes YOU! Meanwhile, I have a few more Platinum medals to get.