Have a hankering for some retro gaming action? EscapeVektor may be just the game you’re looking for.
Nnooo’s EscapeVektor (stylized escapeVektor) boasts a delightful retro charm whilst remaining surprisingly complex. Its exciting gameplay makes for hours of (sometimes frustrating) fun that people of all ages can enjoy. While the franchise may not be native to the Vita, this port feels right at home on the system and looks fantastic on the 5” OLED.
Vektor, an expert programmer, desperately seeks to free himself from the evil clutches of the insidious CPU. Having been stripped of his ability to freely maneuver, Vektor requires your aid to navigate through the CPU’s various traps and puzzles across 27 different zones (worlds). Each of these zones contains several nodes (levels), for a total of 150 different levels. The nodes start out simple with just two squares (cells), but eventually become incredibly complex puzzles filled with assorted enemies and obstacles.
With its grid-based design, all of the turns are right angles giving movement a Pac-Man style vibe. The right trigger zooms out the camera, which is one of my very few gripes with the game. On the more complex levels, zooming out is absolutely necessary, so you are forced to hold the right trigger down the entire time. This can be uncomfortable for extended gameplay sessions making the lack of a zoom toggle option a definite oversight. The angle of the camera can be controlled using the Vita’s gyroscope. Luckily for me, there is an option to disable this feature. As for controlling Vektor, it couldn’t be any more simple. Vektor will move forward automatically, so all you need to do is use the directional pad or left analog stick to change his direction. The face buttons control Vektor’s abilities, but I’ll get to those in just a bit.
In order to complete a node, you must fill each cell (square/rectangular box) in the node without dying. To fill a cell, all you need to do is guide Vektor along all four edges. Vektor will leave a colored trail, clearly defining where you have and have not already been. Once you fill every cell in the node, an exit will appear, and all that remains is to reach it. It’s simple enough, but you’re also on a timer, and the nodes become increasingly difficult as you progress adding enemies or traps to stop your daring escape. Passing through an active trap or touching an enemy will terminate Vektor, forcing you to restart the node.
In my experience, traps are where the game gets difficult. You’ll have to find switches to disable them or find an alternate route if you are to continue. Traps can become infuriating on the more difficult nodes due to the complexity of the levels combined with a growing number of traps and the fact that enemies passing through switches also disable/enable traps. I often found myself backtracking or dying because an enemy passed through the switch just before I passed through the corresponding trap. For the most part, enemies are hardly menacing. Most simply move back and forth in a straight line, only speeding up if you cross their line of sight. They will not follow you around turns, so are really more of an inconvenience than a threat. There are, however, some enemies that will actively seek out Vektor once they’ve seen him. These are trickier to deal with and where Vektor’s abilities really come in handy.
You start out with nothing, but as you progress, Vektor will unlock new abilities that help you more quickly and efficiently complete nodes. Vektor’s abilities include boost, detonate, super boost, and “boostenate”. Boost is perhaps the most obvious as it simply increases your movement speed while the X button is held. Super Boost allows you to move even more quickly by holding the square button. The left shoulder button will use Boostenate, which gives you a burst of speed while making you invincible. If you’ve played Super Stardust before, you’re familiar with this concept. If not, boostenate increases your speed while allowing you to freely pass through obstacles without being harmed making it a fantastic way to get out of a less-than-favorable situation. Detonate is absolutely essential. Pressing the circle button sends out a pulse emanating from Vektor and spreading outward. This pulse destroys any enemies caught within the radius and forces them to respawn. While Vektor’s abilities are not unlimited, you’ll be able to partially recharge your boost and gain detonation charges by completing cells. You’ll have to effectively manage these abilities in order to continue through the game. EscapeVektor also includes a leveling system. As you progress through the story or beat your previous high scores, Vektor’s firmware increases. A bar on the bottom of the screen will track your current progress towards the next upgrade, and when the bar fills, you’ll gain a useful upgrade such as an increase to your detonation’s blast radius or additional boost bars.
EscapeVektor also includes another feature I am very fond of: leaderoards. The leaderoards make for some intense competition and will greatly increase the replay value for many. Your base score goes up as you guide Vektor along the border of cells, but not over areas you have already cleared (marked with a colored trail). After you complete the level, you’ll gain additional scores based on how long you took to complete the level, how many enemies you destroyed, and how many cells you filled. These scores are compiled and submitted so all of your friends can see them. As an added twist, escapeVektor includes wild cards which double your score. Wild cards are limited and collected by beating your previous high score or through Near. You have to elect to use a wild card before you begin a level, and dying will cause you to lose it, so determining when it is appropriate to use a wild card is important if you hope to crush your friends’ scores.