Ever since the aging, groundbreaking release of PC parkour FPS Mirror’s Edge, surprisingly few companies have made attempts to cash in on the bandwagon that is the parkour-inspired game. Defined as the art of efficient movement, parkour is a real-world sport that involves acrobatics with the ultimate goal of getting from point A to point B with as little expended energy as possible. In a recent port to iOS, developer Nekki has made its debut attempt to grab at the mobile gaming audience with parkour gameplay in the new title Vector HD.
With a flashy cinematic, Vector HD shows you a world very clearly inspired by Mirror’s Edge, controlled by a totalitarian government that brainwashes its citizens into mindlessly laboring in a high-tech office. You, however, manage to rip off your headset and dash through the building, ultimately leaping out of a window dozens of stories above the ground and initiating a daring rooftop chase.
Vector plays out as a side-scroller in which you are constantly chased by a hunter guard that will incapacitate you upon touching you. The game immediately introduces you to its unique parkour system, in which the timing of your actions dictates everything. For example, if there is a waist-high obstacle in front of you, your timing when you swipe upwards to jump could result in you stumbling on the front, and therefore slowing down slightly, simply jumping over the obstacle and maintaining your speed, or vaulting over the obstacle and passing it more quickly. More than jumping is involved, though. Vector requires you to slide, climb ledges, and make dashes in correct places in order to accelerate for huge leaps. It’s all incredibly intuitive, and is easily controlled with one finger. As you automatically run, the only focus you have to have is at what precise moments you make your movements.
Vector is more than just another running game, however. Unlike popular infinite games such as Temple Run and Mega Jump, Vector is episodic. The level has a set distance, and you must reach the end to complete it. With two areas (and a third yet unreleased), each having 20 levels, it will take hours for even experienced gamers to simply beat every level. On top of reaching the end, however, there’s a scoring system. Score cubes placed in difficult to reach spots and coin pickups that give you the game’s currency will slow you down if you attempt to reach them without executing the proper movement precisely. Each level also has two or three “trick” prompts, where swiping upwards in a certain spot denoted by a trick icon will perform a special parkour maneuver and grant you more points.
Unfortunately, tricks cost coin. This isn’t bad in itself, but the ultimate fact of the matter is that Vector is punishingly hard. Levels are generally easy to complete, but you must expect having to restart them over and over after the first few because the layout of the level catches you off-guard. Vector quickly becomes a game more about memorization than anything, as there are no checkpoints. That’s right, no checkpoints.
If this is the kind of thing that can deter you from a game, you’ve probably read enough. There is nothing fun about trying to beat Vector. Certain levels will absolutely require dozens of restarts due to extremely difficult sequences of obstacles. In a lot of cases, it’s not even that the obstacles themselves will kill you – but the Hunter on your tail definitely will! Vector’s solution? Consumable gadgets that are paid for with the currency. One gadget allows you to briefly slow time, whereas the other releases a shockwave that kills the nearby hunter. If you’re buying every trick, of course, you will have to go and play more just to get this currency – and neither gadget guarantees you will complete the level, so in all likelihood, you will simply waste precious coin on tougher levels. Naturally, Vector has one more trick up its sleeve to compensate for this: You can buy coin with In-App Purchases.
You have already paid for Vector if you’re playing the full version. Nekki wants to coerce you to pay more, however. Only the most dedicated and skilled of gamers will even reach the end of Vector without paying a dime extra. For most people, Vector is a pay to win game. Spending money makes victory more possible. This glaring flaw turns an otherwise innovative and creative platformer into a poorly thought-out money grab built on frustration and repetition. At least infinite games involve entertaining repetition. Any gamer will tell you, however, that having to restart a level a dozen times isn’t fun under any circumstance.
I recommend avoiding Vector HD altogether despite its 99 cent price in the Apple App Store, but if you’d like to try it out for yourself, a limited free version is also available. Vector is developed and published by Nekki Games.