Block Rockin’ Beat
You’re sat in the corner of a club sipping a cherryade. The club is filled with the usual suspects getting sweaty on the dance floor. It smells, you’re miserable and you want to go home. All of a sudden the mood changes. Lights flood the dance floor and the music shifts key. Is that country music?! The club’s residents stand in line. Something isn’t right. All of a sudden they break out in the most glorious line dance that ever was danced. These are no amateurs. They’re moving with such unified rhythm that it makes you feel uncomfortable. It’s definitely time to leave. The only problem is that the exit is on the other side of the dance floor.
In a mad panic, you run towards the line of dancers. A chap sporting a plaid shirt and Stetson pushes you back from the crowd. You try again, only to be shunted away from a lady in a rather fetching leather waistcoat. After many failed attempts you step back and take a moment. You begin to notice a pattern. They’re dancing in perfect unison with every four steps moving a dancer along this rhythmic conveyor belt. Now’s your chance. You slide into a gap and become one with the music. You navigate the dance floor, shuffling and sliding along with the crowd. Before long you find yourself at the exit. You’re finally free. You exit the room with coursed euphoria only to find another dance floor filled with other dancers busting a groove to another tune. Is this hell? Yes. Yes, it is. Fortunately, though, Vectronom is not.
If my scenario of line dancers has left you bewildered, let me rephrase. Ditch the country music, swap the line dancers for cubes, swap yourself for a cube and swap the dancefloor for cubes with holes in and you’ve got Vectronom – a rhythm game whereby you navigate a cube through a series of obstacles in sync to a number of electro beats. Simplicity is key, with each level set within an isometric plane. You control the cube with the control stick, directional or face buttons (Nintendo Switch), eventually leading to the goal. And that’s it. No jumping. No attacking. Just navigating through the level.
You’d think that would wear thin after a while and you’d be wrong. Vectronom is a prime example of a game doing something simple, well and it’s a rare example of a game where audio takes precedence over, well, pretty much everything else.
Each of Vectronom’s levels has a core principle. You need to get from point A to point B, all to the backing of some lovely electronic music. In the beginning, you’ll barely break a sweat with levels literally being a simple traversal across a narrow pathway. Later on, however, you’ll be taxed with dodging all kinds of obstacles with puzzle elements thrown in for extra measure. There are also collectables dotted along the way which direct you from the easiest path or require you to navigate at a specific moment in time. It’s a risk/reward kind of scenario.
As you venture further into Vectronom’s story mode, you’ll end up facing an incredibly complex sequence of events with shifting floors, spikes appearing from nowhere and moving platforms. At face value, it can be overwhelming but once you listen to the music that compliments the level it all starts making sense. Every beat of the soundtrack alters the level in some way and it does so on a short loop. Once you tune your ear to the music, you’ll pretty much disregard the visual elements on the game which, may I add, are beautifully simplistic.
Vectronom requires you to have faith in your aural abilities and this ‘traversal by ear’ often forces you to put yourself in danger. It goes against every instinct of playing puzzle games like these but you know that if you move into a spike, it will disappear in the next beat. The key to success with this game is all in the timing and it’s something that is thoroughly encouraged throughout. Each level has three badges to collect, the first for completing it without failing, the second for grabbing all collectables and the third for having perfect rhythm. The earlier levels are easy to “cheat” and you can just rush through to the end with ease but you will feel empty in doing so. You’ll also be doing yourself a great disservice as it’s not until later on that you realise the game needs to be played to its tempo. Anything else will result in failure but when you do nail it, the feeling is euphoric.
It’s very rare that a puzzle game gets me this excited but here we are. Vectronom is truly great. It’s rare that a game of this calibre crops up and I dare say it’s an instant classic. It’s perfectly suited to the Nintendo Switch’s “pick up ‘n’ play” style and at just under a tenner you really can’t go wrong. I would’ve loved to have seen some extra things to unlock – maybe some character skins or level themes – but I’m honestly just being picky. If you aren’t too fussed on collecting all the badges for a level you can blast through the game fairly quickly but you’ll have a bloody great time doing so. It’s also a game that can only truly be appreciated in motion so check out this video then go and buy it!