Vektor is a strange little guy. Last year he got himself trapped inside a CPU in escapeVektor Chapter 1 and he’s been stuck there ever since. Realising that WiiWare has no more exits or answers, he’s made his way to the eShop on 3DS to get people’s attention. He’s brought with him some new abilities, online leaderboards and tons of new levels. Will you answer Vektor’s cry?
Chapter 1 was mostly about finding the quickest path without retracing your steps, but now the gate to Chapters 2, 3 and 4 has been blown wide open and the level design reflects it. The core gameplay remains the same; capture every cell in the level by tracing over lines, then escape through the exit. The challenge however has been ramped up significantly; it’s insanely difficult, clever and full of surprises. New types of enemies are determined to destroy you, eating lines you’ve already traced and planning their course based on your movements. To balance this we’ve also been given new abilities to fight back, including a faster Super Boost and an explosive boost called the BOOSTINATOR. This rips through enemies and drains both bars, leaving Vektor with a big smile whether he finds the exit hole or not.
The structure of the game is fairly laid back, it’s set out in zones on a big map with shortcuts all over the place so you can aim for the levels you want. The challenge is also nicely balanced, after an insanely hard level the next few seem to be a bit easier and more conceptual than challenging; it ramps up nicely every time you get a new ability or get to a new zone.
Abilities are exploited all the way. Some levels don’t need Boostinate at all (stop it WordPress, of course Boostinate is a word) while in some levels you need to specifically make sure you have enough charged detonators for a string of enemy patrols. You might then wipe your hands over a job well done only to find the enemies you just killed are about to re-spawn right in front of you. When you get to the last handful of levels there’s an insane amount of things to keep track of; enemies on patrol routes, hunters, locked gates, sentry guns and lookout towers that scan around with their own pattern. Making it through all the mayhem is a perfect example of that “YEAH! VIDEOGAMES!” feeling (recently expressed in Nano Assault Neo). In some cases you’re charging towards an enemy before you even have the Boostinator charged for a blast, and it’s a race to the cell line between you and the enemy to see if you can use it in time. It’s incredibly frustrating or incredibly awesome if you pull it off. Eventually when you get used to certain patterns the frustration eases a bit, but I’ve spent over an hour on some levels.
The scoring system has different approaches, you do get points for killing enemies but if you detonate too early then you obtain cells in the process, and miss out on a combo opportunity. To get maximum points it’s best to not use a detonator at all so every cell shatters at the same time at the end, and there’s a separate reward for clearing a level without a detonator. This means clearing a level without attacking any of the enemies, and sometimes requires a completely different approach as you lead them around like zombies and cut through them. There’s also bonus levels that are solely about getting the best time and nothing else matters, which in some cases is a refreshing reason to spam the detonation button. Challenges in this game are designed around pretty much anything; escapeVektor takes every different gamer fetish and turns it into a level; racing, trapping, sneaking, destroying, crying.
Getting the Platinum medals pretty much requires every trick in the book, I’ve got 10 out of 150 and I’m not sure how far I can go (further, that’s all I need to know). After you finish a stage it almost instantly loads the online leaderboards on the bottom screen, and you can scroll through Country / World / Friends. At the moment it seems I’m only 1 of 5 people in the world who’s actually finished the game!
escapeVektor is awesome and worth the stupidly low $13 it costs, with 4 times the content of the WiiWare one. If there’s one complaint I have it’s having to hold down the R button almost the entire time to zoom out and centre the camera. I have the same issue with holding A in Metroid Blast to aim (when aren’t we aiming?) and it cramps my hand after an hour, so maybe you can gauge by that. It’s fine mostly and the 3DS seems better suited to the game than Wii’s sideways remote style. The game is also on Vita and probably just as awesome, considering I barely looked at the bottom screen during gameplay. The 3D effect is worth it though and definitely makes the style come alive, it was the first thing that hit me about the game. There’s also some amazing new music which really helps soothe the pain of dying over and over. escapeVektor isn’t as flashy as most games but it has style where it counts and it’s packed with enough gameplay to melt your brain with a cute story thrown in to unmelt it. If you’re up to the challenge, Vektor is definitely worth saving.