★★★★

Velocity’s conceit is disarmingly simple. Squeeze the square button and a target cursor appears on screen. Let go and your intergalactic fighter/ rescue ship will insta-warp to wherever it was pointing, removing you from the eye of a storm of bullets, for example, or allowing you to appear in a walled area of outer space that was otherwise impenetrable.

The puzzle shoot ‘em up is a fascinating if under-populated sub-genre, appropriating the scrolling space visuals of R-Type, Gradius, Twin Hawk and so many 80s arcade galactic frontiers and matching them with complex score mechanics as in Psyvariar, or colour-matching concepts, as in Treasure’s Radiant Silvergun and Ikaruga (both available on XBLA).

Velocity’s puzzle dynamic is more straightforward than in those examples, sporting a focused simplicity that bespeaks developer FuturLab’s belief in the idea, and the fact that the idea is well-suited to handheld play. It’s this combination of the familiar and unusual that makes Velocity such an engaging proposition from first touch.

Your task is to rescue human survivors, floating in pods through outer space. Fly your ship over a pod and the survivor is brought aboard. Enemy turrets and ships attempt to slow your progress, but the true enemy in your aim is the auto-scrolling, that moves your ship through the level at a fixed rate. Fail to teleport into cordoned off sections of the level to pick up a survivor before the screen scrolls too far and you’ll have to give them up for dead, spoiling you chance of securing a top grade.

You play against the clock too, able to fast-forward the level’s scrolling to speed past the lulls in action and hurry yourself to the end point. This facility adds yet more risk/reward control to the player, as you attempt to squeeze every last second of acceleration at the risk of making fatal mistakes.

With 50 levels there’s no shortage of content, a sizable game for a PSN Mini, and there’s a certain charm in the rudimentary presentation. That said, levels end with close to no ceremony, and the in-game sprites are too complex for 8-bit pastiche but too simplistic and flat to excite. All of the hard work has gone into refining the feel of play – a commendable decision that pays off in the hands – but which does little to excite the eyes.

Velocity could have been a lost Toaplan or Konami arcade game from 25 years ago. But in its clarity of vision and tight, satisfying controls it feels far fresher than that accolade  might suggest. A must play, then.