By Nick Benefield / August 1st, 2019
|Release Date||May 29th, 2019|
|Genre||Rhythm, Music, Puzzle|
|Age Rating||E for Everyone|
If you’ve ever wondered what an EDM soundtrack would look like if it were visualized in the form of colorful vector images, then wonder no more. Vectronom is a rhythmic puzzle game where players are tasked with guiding a cube through mazes of changing obstacles while matching their movements to the beat of EDM which plays in the background. At first glance, this may seem like an easy and basic rhythm game, but after about two minutes of playtime, you’ll begin to see how wrong that initial assumption is. This title comes to us from an indie studio out of Germany- Ludopium. It was published by ARTE in late May and is currently available for PC, Mac, and the Nintendo Switch. For the purposes of this review, I’ve taken a look at the Steam version.
I generally structure my reviews by discussing gameplay, visuals, and sounds in three distinct paragraphs. In the case of Vectronom however, I don’t feel like that structure makes sense. All three of those above categories work in tandem here to create a rather hypnotic experience for the player. To examine them one at a time just doesn’t feel right. Rather, let’s start by discussing how you progress through the game. The entirety of Vectronom’s gameplay is centered around traversing obstacle courses while keeping in beat with the music. These obstacle courses are made up of entirely of vector shapes. Obstacles include spiky prisms and pitfalls that often appear out of nowhere. Each course is a bit different, but each new course tends to build off of the preceding one. Once you complete four or five courses, you will essentially complete one level. There are ten levels in all plus one bonus mini level at the end. Sounds easy enough, right?
Fear not, for there is a great deal of challenge involved. This challenge becomes apparent once you begin controlling your cube. The controls themselves are pretty responsive, but I found controlling the cube to be very challenging. This was because I needed to time my movements perfectly with the beat of the music while also trying to memorize patterns for how stages would change with the music. When I say change, I mean that for each beat in a stage’s song, spikes may appear in certain areas, certain parts of the ground might disappear, and other parts of the ground might reappear. For many stages, the designs will change entirely whenever the beat changes. It would be easy enough to sit back and memorize the patterns that these changes follow since they are not done at random, but half of your end score is determined by how accurately you are able to match your movements to the beat. Your brain has to keep track of both each beat and memorize the stage’s patterns at the same time.
Additionally, the controls themselves are meant to add to the level of difficulty. All levels are presented from a top-down isometric view and you are able to move diagonally up, diagonally down, diagonally left, and diagonally right. You will of course be using the WASD keys, so it may take a moment to get used to this control scheme when you first begin playing. I often found it tempting to just move asynchronously from the beat of the music, but this of course would’ve lowered my score and I actually ended up making more mistakes that way.
Speaking of the music, let’s tackle the sound design’s score now. As I alluded to above, Vectronom is backed with an upbeat EDM soundtrack with each stage’s track building off of the previous one in some way. While none of them stood out to me as overly memorable after the fact, they were all very entrancing and I feel as though this was very intentional. Once again, playing this title is meant to be a hypnotic experience and the music certainly lends itself well to that. Since it’s paramount to listen carefully and follow along with the beat to progress through each level, it’s definitely nice that the music is not only well-paced but enjoyable to listen to as well.
Perhaps I should have called this out earlier, but one thing to note for players with epilepsy is that the visuals in Vectronom include constantly flashing colors. Static backgrounds can be toggled at any time though if you select that option from within the accessibility tools list in the options menu. In fact, there are actually a surprising number of accessibility options available for those who need to fine tune the game to suit their needs. For those with deuteranopia, protanopia, or tritanopia (forms of color blindness), there are options for adjusting the colors accordingly to compensate. Additionally, there is a grayscale option which can be selected. While perhaps not a true accessibility option, you can also adjust the margin of error for player input from extremely tight to ludicrously loose. I thought that the color settings were a very thoughtful addition and I actually tried them out myself just to see what the experience would be like.
Clocking in at just over 3 hours for a full playthrough (for this reviewer), Vectronom is certainly not a very long game. It is a very engrossing title though and I feel that given the hypnotic, relaxing nature of its levels, it has a relatively high replay value. You can also revisit levels that you were previously unable to obtain the highest scores in and replay them. This is the type of game that you put on when you have a great deal of outside stressors to worry about and just want something to get lost in. There’s no story, no characters, and no great prize at the end of your tale. There’s just you, your cube, and a bumpin’ EDM soundtrack to become entranced in. It may have been relatively short, but for the time that I spent with this one I couldn’t find any glaring flaws. Combined with a relatively low price point of $9.99 USD, I’d say this one’s worth your time if you’re looking for something to play around with in your down time.
A review copy was provided by the publisher.