Now, here's a challenge.. .not just in the form of another perfectly crafted and extended shooter in the so-slick-it-slides Velocity 2X. But, where to rank developer FuturLab among the pantheon of coding talent. I have a long memory, so the likes of Ultimate, Denton Designs, Bitmap Bros, Psygnosis (Studio Liverpool) and Platinum are on my list.
But to the game, thanks to the extended hype as one of Sony's leading indie lights, there's minimal surprise within. Take the classic Velocity shooter, that was as tight as a nut to start with, and crank that another turn. Add in the swish new elements where Kai Tana runs, leaps and teleports around tricky little sub-levels to achieve more goals and open up new areas. Then, polish the whole thing with loving layers of parallax, bigger and better explosions (such a shame the Vita doesn't have vibration) and the refined whole is a stellar gem in your hands.
Putting it free on PlayStation Plus makes it seem worth a three-month subscription at the very least, and in a fine week for the Vita, it stands alongside TxK as the format's stand-outs. I'm sure the PS4 version is also excellent and even crisper, but it feels perfectly at home on the handheld, no hint of being a hand-me-down port.
The design is truly awesome, from every static neon-tinged screen that draws the eyes, to the music that perfectly sets the pace and the crystal cut environment, its all brilliant. Each trophy and level objective is fine-tuned for constant reward and challenge, something few games pull off. That's why FuturLab deserves to get mentioned in the same breath as other epic developers. But, after only a couple of games and evolutions, perhaps its next title will be the one that sets their star in the firmament.
Not everything within Velocity 2X is perfectly evolved. In the confined spaces of the levels, enemy patterns are bland and overly familiar and the bosses should be more "bossy". Teledashing through enemy soldiers seems like a gameplay gimmick too far. The notification wall should have an option to display in-game, so you can go and trounce your friends instantly. And, I'd love it if one or two levels allowed for a little gentler exploration of the immaculate landscapes and perhaps a little more back story. But those are pretty minor quibbles.
So, get your shooter-head on and bathe in the near-perfect world of Velocity 2X, and then wonder what the cunning coders at FuturLab will come up with next that will send their brand to the stars. No pressure, guys!
Price: £12.99 (PSN, currently free on PS+)