The game escapeVektor caught my attention a while back because Nintendo Life gave its first incarnation, on WiiWare, a rave review. The game has been commonly described as as cross between Pac-Man and Qix. I sort of remember a freeware game called Boxer that featured pretty much identical gameplay where you played as a green diamond who outlined orange boxes worth different points while trying to avoid the red circle enemies. I've never been able to find out more info about that game (if anyone has heard of it, I would be extremely grateful if you let me know!), but while searching online I came across another game that seems to have similar gameplay that was released on Game Boy and is called Amazing Penguin.
Anyway, back to the main topic. escapeVektor has subsequently become available on 3DS and PS Vita. Usually I try to play the first game in a series, but the WiiWare release only includes one of four chapters. That one chapter is plenty substantial, though, and would take a few hours to get through without trying to get all the platinum medals for shortest times. As it is once I got past the first chapter in the 3DS release and tried out chapter two and the new bonus levels I didn't feel very motivated to continue playing the game. The gameplay in general is pretty solid, though. The concept is simple: trace around the map's rectangular boxes while avoiding enemies. You're armed with a speed boost that gradually refills and bombs that destroy most enemies, and basically you get more points the more boxes on the map you complete without using a bomb. That scoring mechanic adds a nice increase in challenge that definitely makes the game more interesting, and as a long-time Pac-Man fan I enjoyed this game for similar reasons as why I enjoy Pac-Man games.
The game has a minimalist approach to its visuals that feels a bit dated nowadays, but is fine. There's a sliver of a story that kept me somewhat engaged, and there's an emphasis on leaderboards if you're into that sort of thing. One of the biggest complaints about the game is that the game is by default zoomed in so that you can't see much of the board at one time. As Edge's review puts it: "you’re forced to squeeze the zoom button [the R button on the 3DS] throughout to make it playable, with no option to toggle it". This was definitely an annoyance, and something that presumably gave the WiiWare version an advantage since it's on a large screen and more zoomed out. The problem with the zoomed in view reminded me of when I played the version of Pac-Mania that had appeared on the GBA version of Pac-Man Collection, but the problem wasn't as pronounced because the zoom wasn't quite so close and the general speed wasn't as fast. Avoiding enemies isn't too much of a problem in this game since you can outrun them, but the biggest annoyance problem is definitely the turrets that shoot bullets: you really can't see them at all until it's too late, and they were easily my most common cause for "dying" (although actually in this game you have unlimited tries). There's a good variety in stages, although the bigger ones do get a bit tedious. The stages are often symmetrical, which helps ameliorate the problem of the zoom level as it makes it easier to remember where hazards are placed.
All in all I enjoyed the game and agree that it's very polished, but, like I said, once I finished the first chapter I'd had enough. There are four chapters in this release compared to the one chapter of the WiiWare release, and that includes 150 levels (compared to 30 in the WiiWare release), although I think that that total includes the bonus levels that seem to be repeats of the regular levels but with new objectives, such as "eraser mode", where "if you go over any claimed lines which border unfilled cells you will turn those lines back to empty". Collecting all the medals was mildly diverting, although there's a fair amount of trial and error involved because you're not just trying to find the quickest path to cover all of the map, but the quickest route. That route is dependent on where the enemies who are patrolling are at each moment, and the only way to know if you can squeak by an enemy at just the right time is by trying it. Anyway, the gameplay is solid and fans of Pac-Man game who are into chasing high scores would probably enjoy it.
Capture these escapeVektor links:
- Official site
- Review of the 3DS version at Nintendo Life
- A behind the scenes look with the developers, at Nintendo Life
- Entry on the 3DS version at Metacritic