In my third year of university I signed up to do a course entitled, “History and Appreciation of Music”. I didn’t particularly want to take the class but I had to make up a missing credit or else I wouldn’t have graduated at the end of the year. My time in the class, run by a lecturer that looked like a Kookaburra exposed to large quantities of static electricity, didn’t last all that long. In fact, I attended only two lectures and promptly switched to a different subject. I sensed my looming failure in HAM because, in the very first lecture, we were tasked with listening to a piece of music and finding the beat. Once found, we had to clap it out. Now, I’m aware that I’m not a smart man nor am I inherently talented at anything in particular, but music is the most baffling subject to me that I will never profess to know anything about. I couldn’t find the beat, couldn’t hear the beat and I couldn’t keep up with the beat. Hence, the schedule change.
Yet if Vectronom had come out three years ago I think I probably would have managed far better with that troublesome search for the rhythm (a good name for Blue’s album). Vectronom is all about “rhythm”, the whole game is structured around forcing you to move in time with the music playing. Keeping tempo and moving to the beat is the only way to scale the game’s many puzzles. It’s not just you that moves with the music, the stages move as well. Blocks will slide and disappear in time with the music meaning your movements have to be totally in-sync to reach the end of the level.
Every puzzle the game presents you is far more like an obstacle course than anything that requires you to sit back and think. In fact, most of the game’s levels can be beaten on the first try, which is hardly a bad thing but rather a credit to how well this game communicates with the player visually. If you leap into the fray without paying attention to how the music is moving the track, you’ll no doubt fall off the edge or have your apparently sentient cube impaled by a spike. However, if you were to sit back and watch the movements for a bit, understand how the course is shifting, the rest is just timing. It’s a simple idea expanded on in all directions with every course having three stages, each building on already established elements to their logical extreme. There are some baffling patterns in the game and I’ll admit I had to stare at a few for more than a handful of moments before the pattern clicked, but it’s an exhilarating experience when you find the rhythm and perfectly time each jump to the next movement; almost hypnotic in a sense.
When you latch onto that beat, moving perfectly in sync with the course, everything else fades out of focus. Vectronom often contrives ways to make the experience more difficult for the player, sometimes partially blocking their view or adding in blocks that catapult you over a space. But, once you know the pattern you need to move you could probably close your eyes and run the game flawlessly. The music is clear and precise, driving your movement for you. You could very reasonably just respond to the game’s audio rather than looking at the visuals which are minimalistic yet bright, meaning you always know exactly what position you’re taking up. I’ll admit the isometric camera did obscure my depth perception on some occasions, but never to the extent where I felt frustrated by it when I died.
And I died plenty. Perhaps this is just my absolutely dreadful rhythm, so your mileage my vary, but Vectronom is tricky. It asks for precision in its solutions and if you’re not on the ball (block?) you’ll be set back to the start of the level to try again. It can feel like quite a test at times; focusing so intensely not to miss a beat can be exhausting after a while but the levels are segmented and paced just right so that you always have some breathing room before leaping into the next set of challenges. The game isn’t an incredibly long experience but scattered pick-ups throughout levels and a system that scores you on how well you follow the beat will require a bit of time to get right if you’re looking for the elusive 100%.
I’m a big fan of Vectronom. For an exceptionally reasonable asking price, you get a smart, hypnotic puzzle-rhythm game that’s both challenging and unique. As one would expect for a game that’s based around moving to a beat the soundtrack fundamentally SLAPS. Do as the game recommends and plug in some high-fidelity speakers when you’re playing and floods of people will no doubt pour into your living room and scuff up your newly carpeted living room floor with excessive dancing. There are some great tracks in Vectronom that I’ve actually begun listening to outside of the game, a feat few games have ever accomplished for me.
As much as I would have liked the experience to be a touch longer overall, I wasn’t disappointed when I completed the last course. That’s the beauty of rhythm games; even when the levels are done, you’ll still go back to them because moving the beat is just so much fun. All I’m saying is that I really wish this game had come out in 2016. If it had, I could probably have survived the Hellish experience that was History and Appreciation of Music and not been forced into taking Latin.
Magnopere etiam suadetur.
Last Updated: June 4, 2019