6.0 Overall Score

Written by on April 6, 2011 in

First impressions can be a funny thing.  For instance, first impressions of Vertigo for the Playstation Portable might lead the player to believe it is nothing more than a frustratingly difficult Super Monkey Ball clone.  Closer examination, though, reveals Vertigo to be, well, a frustratingly difficult Super Monkey Ball clone that can become oddly addicting for a gamer of the proper temperament.

Vertigo, which was previously a game for the Wii, is a downloadable game for the PSP which puts a futuristic ascetic on the tried and true marble rolling genre.  The gameplay involves guiding a small sphere (or Xorb as the game somewhat awkwardly calls it) down obstacle course tracks of increasing difficulty.  Should the sphere fall from the edge of the track (and it will many many times) then the player will be treated to a long fall to the ground ending in fiery death before being deposited back at the last cleared checkpoint.  This wouldn’t be so bad except for the fact that the tracks are set so far up in the air that the fall can take anywhere from 4 to 10 seconds before hitting bottom.  When trying to trying to master particularly tough sections of tracks this long wait can be even more of a punishment than the slight time penalty for each fall.

The courses themselves come in 54 different varieties divided between eight different themed planets ranging from futuristic cityscapes to volcanic ruins to high rise construction sites.  While the graphical fidelity of the environments can be rather uninspiring with blurry textures and blocky shapes the shear structural variety of the courses helps to keep the simple goal of traveling from A to B fresh and interesting form one location to the next.  Vertigo also allows the player to customize the look of the Xorb but this is a feature that is easily forgotten since it takes a long while before any significant amount of options are unlocked.

Quite possibly the most important thing in a game of this variety is the control of the sphere as it travels.  Unfortunately this is one area were Vertigo falls a bit short.  The default tuning settings are extremely slippery and is little changed by adjusting the tuning options.  Add onto this the fact that the Xorb bounces as if it was made of rubber and it can become an extreme challenge to stay on the narrown and sharply twisting tracks.  The one saving grace here is the inclusion of a brake that stops the Xorb dead in its tracks as long as it is touching the track.  This is a function that will be used liberally in order to get to the end of a course but kills any and all sense of momentum.

In addition to the practice and career modes Vertigo mixes up the formula a bit with three other modes.  In arcade mode the player is lead through a branching series of courses that must each be completed before a timer runs out.  In time trial mode the player can race against the ghost of their previous best run on any unlocked course.  Finally there is bowling which is 10-pin bowling with the added challenge of steering the ball through the winding course towards the pins at the end.  Additionally, bowling is the one mode that can be played with multiple people by taking turns each frame.

Overall, Vertigo is a game that falls short of greatness but for a player with a good amount of patience and a desire for a skill based challenge in a cheap, portable package that can be played in short burst then Vertigo is not a bad choice.  This is certainly not a game for everyone but if it sounds up your ally then go ahead and take a crack at it.

A copy of Vertigo was provided to The Married Gamers for review and evaluation.


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Author: Tylor Long View all posts by

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