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Apr 08 2011

Review of Vertigo

Our last review of the week is of a fairly recent PSP release called Vertigo, a Marble Madness clone that wants to grow to be a Wipeout game. In this game your goal is essentially just that of maneuvering a ball called a Xorb (because the letter X makes things Xtreme bro!) through a timed course that’s suspended high in the air. It’s an idea that’s been done many times before but at least that means there is some precedent for it and therefore a chance at quality. So let`s take a look and see if this ball-rolling escapade is well-rounded or falls flat.

If you’ve played Super Monkey Ball, than you’ve already played this game’s better more successful cousin.

The first thing I want to talk about is the controls which are, in a word, horrendous. They are simply far too imprecise for the thin and awkward courses the game expects you to run. The basic gameplay, when paired with these controls is analogous to threading a series of incredibly tiny needles while wearing oven mitts, the challenge here isn’t genuine (though don’t get me wrong it is very challenging), it just comes from poor control. The PSP thumb nub just isn’t delicate enough for this situation and the D-pad isn’t fast enough for you to get through the levels within the time limit, particularly as any failure will knock 5 seconds off your timer. Of course with poor movement controls come poor camera controls, the L and R buttons will swing your view around but the swing is a little too loose so you always end up having to carefully reposition things, losing precious seconds or falling to your death. Playing the game is just a generally unpleasant experience and while some sense of achievement could be found from battling and conquering the bad controls, I’d rather just play another better designed game.

If you’re saying to yourself “oh, this game doesn’t look that bad” then take a look at those mountains in the background. We’ll talk again when you finish laughing.

Another point against this game is its incredibly shoddy presentation; quite honestly the whole game looks like it could be a forgotten PSX title. All of the textures are really muddy looking, flat, and sadly fairly dull from what I saw, not to mention these textures are all wrapped around uninteresting featureless polygons with very little character. The whole game feels like it’s trying to ape the look of the Wipeout series and its unique futuristic style. It has neither the technical power nor the sense of fun to pull it off though which makes the stylized look and atmosphere of the game feel overly forced. I can understand trying to do what works for someone else but if you’re going to go for an already established style, you need to go all the way and put in the work. The worst part of the sub-par graphics is that they ruin the game’s selling point, a feeling of vertigo; while all the levels feel dizzyingly high when you start, once you fall and die you get to see the textures up close and all feelings of wonder are immediately dashed upon the rocks of mediocrity.

The one real plus of this game though is the sheer amount of content on display. It seems quantity over quality was the name of the game here. There are a number of modes with a ton of levels and parameters and if you can take this game’s bullshit then you could play it forever. Unfortunately that “if” back there is a very big “IF” and you’ll most likely grow tired of it in a half hour. On the bright side it’s only ten bucks so if you’re a spend-thrift gamer and desperately need a new PSP game that could sustain you for a while then this might fit the bill; that said you’d be better off rooting through the PSN for a classic title that’s since been reduced in price.

All in all this is just a bad game, I derived literally no enjoyment out of my time with it. While Vertigo has some decent points as a value title, this type of gameplay just does not suit the PSP and not enough work was put in to compensate for that. The experience grates both the nerves and the eyes and I simply cannot recommend this title. For completely wasting my lunch breaks at my other job while doing this review, Vertigo gets a 1.5 out of 5 stars. While I can certainly appreciate hunting for a good deal, even at its bargain price this game costs far too much considering the actual quality of what you get.

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