Vectronom review: Finding your rhythm

Ludopium's music-based platformer has arrived, but does it hit all the right notes? Our review.

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Vectronom is a new platformer made in collaboration by the team at Ludopium and ARTE. Shot in an Isometric point of view, you play as a cube maneuvering through a 3D space trying to make it from one point to another. The premise doesn’t stray too far from your typical platformer. However, Vectronom looks to shake up the formula with its own spin on sight and sound in regards to game design.

Hitting the right notes

Playing Vectronom reminded me of the games I used to play on Cool Math back in grade school, for better or worse. The core mechanics are directional movement and jumping; easy to pick up and learn. On one side, keeping it simple is a part of why I really enjoyed Vectronom. It’s important that platformers don’t get too convoluted so that the focus can stay on what’s most important: the environment and level design. On the downside, Vectronom is built on a great foundation of gameplay, but I wished the devs had pushed the envelope a little more in terms of content. The rhythm based gameplay could work beautifully in co-op levels, endless mode, or other forms of side content besides the mainline of levels.

There’s also something to be said about the platforms themselves. On a handful of levels, the colors of the different blocks combined with their shape and layout created a bit of an optical illusion. There were moments when I wasn’t 100% certain what block I was about to jump on, or couldn’t tell if I had myself lined up to properly execute my next move. This design flub isn’t a major one and could likely be resolved with some color swaps or a little shading.

Vectronom doesn’t feature a traditional campaign with a narrative throughline, but instead hosts a series of levels broken up by different sections on the main hub. Each section has its own theme that can be found in all of its levels. For example, one section centers around levels that use structures to obscure the cube from player vision, forcing you to rely on beats and rhythm to finish them. The initial set of levels do a great job at setting up the rules of Vectronom, and then provide a variety of challenges that fall in line with said rules.

Playing on loop

When it comes to platformers, it’s vital that the rules and standards for success and failure are clearly defined and abided by. Nothing feels worse than when you lose or fail in a game in a way that was undeserved. Vectronom is fair. There were levels that I failed 150 times before I emerged victorious, but I was always confident that those shortcomings were my fault, rather than the game cheating me.

The first set of levels and sections don’t take particularly long to complete, and can probably be done in one or two sittings. Once completed, a new pathway opens up that houses the most difficult stages Vectronom has to offer. These levels throw new wrenches into the mix, such as closing the field of view to a small circle around the cube.

Although a player may find themself clearing through Vectronom fairly quickly, there is a substantial amount of replay value thanks to pickups and beat precision. After each section is complete, your success will be measured by attempts, item pickups, and beat precision. In the earlier levels, I went out of my way to snag up every pickup available. This strategy soon fell apart once the levels started to completely kick my butt and I became desperate finish at whatever cost (see 150 failures). This opens the door for many hours spent hopping around the later stages trying to gather every pickup, while staying completely on beat at the same time. It’ll be awesome to see what Speedrunners are able to accomplish with Vectronom.

Staying on Beat

In Vectronom, the key to success is synchronizing your movements to stay in tandem with the music playing. Each level has a different song that sounds like something you’d hear at a nightclub. These upbeat tunes serve as the biggest clue how to solve the puzzles thrown at you. The pieces and platforms on a stage move, disappear, and reappear at the same rate as the music. Align yourselves with these patterns to smoothly get through a level. It was impressive that even as the stages went on and the difficulty progressed, the level design was able to stay true to this formula.

The implementation of music in Vectronom is some of the best and most creative I’ve ever seen in a video game. There were several instances in which a level had me completely beat. The movement patterns seemed too sporadic and I couldn’t get a grip on how to get my cube to the endpoint. I had to stop, take a step back, throw all of my calculations out of the window and just go with the flow. It sounds odd, but I truly feel as though Vectronom is an easier platformer if you loosen up and follow its lead. I just hopped around to the beat of the music and the pathway to success quickly revealed itself. I often found myself nodding my head and rocking back and forth in rhythm as I traversed a level.

The constant flashing lights definitely warrant an epilepsy warning, but are fun, and the vibrant colors play into Vectronom’s overall charm and appeal.

Conclusion

Vectronom is a superb platformer that utilizes music in a creative and dynamic way. Ludopium and ARTE’s collaborative effort shines bright in this rhythm platforming hybrid. Although the lack of additional content/ game modes feels like a missed opportunity to truly up the ante, Vectronom is still a romp that’s easy to pick up, and hard to put down.


This review is based on a PC code provided by the publisher. Vectronom is available on PC and Nintendo Switch for $9.99.

Donovan is a young journalist from Maryland, who likes to game. His oldest gaming memory is playing Pajama Sam on his mom's desktop during weekends. Pokémon Emerald, Halo 2, and the original Star Wars Battlefront 2 were some of the most influential titles in awakening his love for video games. Donovan is currently studying broadcast journalism at Bowie State University with hopes to join the Shacknews team full time after graduation. He is a huge Star Wars nerd and film fanatic that will talk with you about movies and games all day. You can follow him on twitter @Donimals_

Review for
Vectronom
8
Pros
  • Uses music to enhance gameplay
  • High replay value
  • Solid and simple controls
Cons
  • Could use different game modes or alternate content
  • Color pairings can make for confusing level layouts
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