Vex Review

September 20, 2016 Written by

VEX claims to pay homage to the traditional days of arcade games when games were simple, fast-paced, and difficult.

You're dropped in the middle of a multi-dimensional invasion by the Kikiharu and their wicked henchmen, and your only hope for survival is a hopeless little cube. You'll explore 4 islands in an attempt to banish evil once and for all, and that's all you'll get story-wise: past this brief introduction, the thread ends and you’re left with solid re-work of a traditional arcade platformer.

Collect the required number of coins and then exit via a portal. That's it. Simple, right? Wrong.

Early on you'll easily steam through levels after levels, but VEX quickly progresses, stacking up on enemies, turrets, fields of lava, and other hazards set on destroying little cube. Broken up into four different dimensions, 11 stages have their set of risks and dangers. For the price on Steam, you'll get a lot out of your buck.

Worth mentioning is the final stage, the “Quanta” realm, in which you start to encounter teleports, magic, and twisted physics that introduce an entirely new set of hazards. It's a brilliant twist in game design, it throws much of your established tactics and techniques out the window. And that's the power of games like VEX. A simple recipe but that is ever changing, ever evolving, yet always entertaining. Add another aspect to the strategy, and keep the player on his toes over and over again.

Visually? Minimalistic, of course. But not too basic either.

Simple enough, to focus on the puzzle at hand, and camera angles as menu options was a nice addition as well. That's right, the standard third-person view is default but can be switched to first-person (if you’re looking for a real challenge!), or the bird’s eye view that I assume, would feel good for platformer lovers of the arcade days.

A playthrough in 1st person view can be an added challenge on your second playthrough, but beware: I died hundreds of times on my first, and all in an attempt to solve a single level. Yah. In fact, Vex does an excellent job of reminding you how many times you did die, right there by the menu, a statistic that the obsessive compulsive in me wishes was a standard in all challenge-driven games. It also tracks total enemy kills, which is exciting because you'll fail to reach many. Most of your “kills” happened because you successfully forced enemies off of a cliff, or into a hazard while chasing you. And it's appropriately challenging, there is certainly a sense of accomplishment after completing each of the zones.

Enemies come in many shapes and forms, including Patroller blocks that follow set paths, Glides that hover above, and Blasts or black holes that pull you in and explode upon contact. My favorite is the Sentries. They resemble zombies and gang up on you slowly, creepily surrounding you. Until there's no way to escape.

There are also several power-ups or abilities to modify cube behavior by shifting speed, size, or making you invincible for short periods of time.
Unfortunately, the only scoring metric in VEX is based on time, so while there is a bit of replay value in trying to top your best scores, the focus remains on progressing through levels as opposed to dominating a single area.

44 levels in total. Although, if you believe the devs, there is a 45th level. Hidden. Somewhere.


The Verdict

For its price, VEX is well worth the buy. 45 levels of good fun that will leave you surprised at what can still be done in the overexploited realm of indie arcade platformers. A strong title that does an excellent job at revitalizing classic game mechanics with a minimalistic approach and refreshing visual style.

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Mark Klink

Mark is a self-proclaimed nerd who has an undying need to take anything and everything tech related apart at the seams and break it down to the basics. His interest in video games reaches all the way back to his early days of playing Road Rash on the Sega Genesis. Games like Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater and Unreal Tournament only fueled Mark’s desire to get his hands dirty in video game design by offering in-depth level editors and a budding modding community. But alas, Mark was never a very good programmer, so when he’s not playing video games, he delves into information security and network engineering including Capture the Flag Tournaments and writing on current cyber security issues.