Random thoughts and bits of life of a coffee loving artist

Friday, January 4, 2013

Art of Gaming: VVVVVV

Ever so often while listening to friends and commentators, games that are brought up just makes me want to check them out online to figure out what on earth they're talking about. This especially happens when the game in question keeps getting described as surprisingly difficult. Usually I find the game, read the information, shrug and move on with my day but from time to time I come across a game where I end up having more questions then I started off with. In this case I have heard of VVVVVV and had to figure out what on earth it was about.

Imagined and created by Terry Cavanagh, an independent game developer located in Cambridge, UK, VVVVVV was released in September 2010 as a 2D platormer with the description of “You play as the fearless leader of a team of dimension exploring scientists who inadvertently crash, and are separated. The game involves exploring the strange world you've found yourself in, and reuniting your friends”. What caught my attention was that the game itself is described to be in a retro style which made me want to check out the trailer. 

A massive kaleidoscope of colors and movement, it was as if I was watching someone navigating a pixelated labyrinth on an LSD fever dream. It is perhaps the worst way to describe my first exposure to the trailer but for a lack of better words at the very moment of viewing it, it seemed to work. After the initial shock to my senses, I couldn't help but feel that it reminded me of movies from the 1960's psychedelic period. Personally, the little characters was reminiscent of the little tree spirits from the animated film Princess Mononoke (1997/1999). Moving aside from the bright colors and constant movement, I can see the reason why this fantastical alien world is done in pixelated 2D instead of along the lines of the Portal series. I'm not too sure if there would be that many gamers out there that would be able to do a more first person version of VVVVVV without loosing a bit of their mind. The fact that Terry went with a retro look makes the game seem a bit more charming in appearance. It seemed to be a mesh of old Atari games such as Gauntlet (1985) and some Sega games like Frogger (1981). I did wonder what his inspiration was so went on a search for trying to find a way to contact him. I was thrilled that I received a response from him explaining his thoughts on the game:

The art in VVVVVV is very much inspired by games I played on Commodore
64 as a kid. Specific ones are Monty on the Run, Jet Set Willy, and
Mystery of the Nile! Also games like Dizzy, which inspired the
character design and the room name convention.

Hope that helps,

Taking a look of his selection of inspirational sources, I can see how he gathered elements from each to weave them together to create his game. If you're interested in playing VVVVVV, you can find it here:
store.steampowered.com - VVVVVV  $4.99


  1. Replies
    1. I completely agree. I may not be a gamer but after the initial assault on my senses, the mechanics of it seemed interesting.