VEV: Viva Ex Vivo
VEV is a very intriguing game in which the player controls a single-celled artificial life-form (called a VEV) while navigating through a collection of well known materials (such as soil, water, blood, etc.) for energy. The over-arching theme is to collect as much energy as possible to survive and continue to the next available level. Each sample has a 10,000 picojoule goal to continue to the next sample. It is the player's goal to exceed this limit and to explore the samples thoroughly to gain an understanding of the materials on a cellular level as well as observe never before seen organisms and predators.
The controls for VEV are very straightforward and within a matter of minutes you will gain total comprehension of how to manipulate your little VEV. A Playstation controller is your only option for this PSVR game. The joysticks move the VEV around the sample, the X button absorbs the energy that you have collected and the triangle button releases an electrical charge that can release the grip that enemies may have on you. R2 gets the VEV to use a boost technique, but uses more energy. L2 slows you down and lets you expend less energy.
After beginning, you are immediately thrown into the sample and are swimming around looking for energy. Your VEV has a type of gravitational pull for the energy so you don't have to run into the energy balls directly, rather can just graze by them while still collecting them. Each sample possesses a completely different environment as well as their own challenges. You start with 100pJ of energy and as you swim you use some of your energy so you really need to keep a sharp eye on how much energy you are using up and how much you have collected. If you speed up too much then you expend energy at a much faster rate. It is a give and take scenario for when to boost and for how long. Run of out energy or fail to reach the goal of 10,000pJ of energy and you lose.
My favorite part of VEV are the visuals presented. It is incredible to be swimming around while just observing the atmosphere all around you. It truly does look like something you would see from your high school microscope if you could shrink down that small. As a science nerd, I loved how realistic it seemed. The overall theme was very well utilized and it shows from the insignificant details of the game to the foundation of what makes the game unique. There is no other PSVR game like VEV in terms of the detail to the cellular level. Swimming through a blood vessel while red blood cells pass you, or dashing past a water bear in the water is simply outstanding.
During the first play-through of the game you are very concentrated on actually beating the game so it is easy to ignore your surroundings and make the mistake of not appreciating the landscape. However, once you've beaten a level you can go back and just admire the view, go slowly and play for more enjoyment without being anxious about where the next batch of energy will come from.
Some of the VEV levels are certainly harder than others. Even like the second level, Soil, it is very difficult to find enough energy to break the 10,000pJ goal. Most of the time unless you have made some really poor choices you won't have to worry about actually running out of energy altogether, but beating that 10k pJ barrier sometimes can be a bear. Your first instinct is that energy would be clustered around little nooks and crannies, but that isn't always the case and at times you can go 3-6 minutes without seeing any energy at all. It really is a challenge and one that feels heavy to the player. Because you are the VEV, as it runs out of energy you feel as though you yourself are running out of energy and as it dwindles you feel like your life is at stake rather than a fake little made up device. This fact adds a lot to the game and makes the gameplay very anxiety driven, which I think is a good thing. You have to care about something concerning to the game, or the developers failed to connect with you.
Each sample makes you swim for 15 minutes, no more, no less. This is somewhat puzzling to me, because 15 minutes on one level is a pretty good amount of time. But this allows you to fully inspect the sample, gives you ample time to get your 10k pJ of energy and allows you to feel good about your experience so you feel you can move on to another level once finished.
The game is short unfortunately with only 7 samples: a calibration level, fresh water, soil, blood, cerebrospinal fluid and 3 user defined levels. But the simple version is only $5, which makes this game an almost must-buy. It definitely has $5 worth of enjoyment and play-abliity in it. No sample has boundaries, so the sample is essentially never-ending. If you swim toward one direction for 15 minutes you won't hit the end. The game may suffer for a lack or re-playability, however, just because you do have that goal of being on the leaderboards for collecting the most energy but that is about it. Once you fully discover a sample, there isn't any other reason to go back unless you just want to experience the level again or to collect more energy.
- My first recommendation is to press the options button and adjust the VEV speed from slow(the default) to fast. Those who get a little motion sick from PSVR won't be able to use fast because it is very disorienting at first, but if you can use it, you will have a distinct advantage. Use as high of a speed as you can tolerate. The slower your VEV is the harder it will be to turn and this will waste time and precious energy. A fast moving VEV can turn on a dime so this helps navigate through the samples and collect energy.
- Initially, each energy pellet you collect is worth only 5pJ. However, the more you collect, the more each pellet will contribute to your energy. So after you collect so many pellets, each additional pellet will be worth 10pJ, then 15, then 20 and so on. So the best strategy is to swim around and collect energy, but don't absorb that energy until the very last second before you run out. This maximizes energy collection.
- Each sample has it's own distinct strategy. Some levels require you to boost through the entire level, others make you much more conscientious of enemies while others will challenge you to find the sample-specific areas where energy will be obtained. Go into each level with an open mind and keep your head on a swivel.
My recommended improvements would be two-fold. First, any additional samples would be awesome. I don't consider the length of the game to be a fault because it's only $5. That deal is great. But if there were more levels that would be awesome. There are some bundles you can buy that seem to have some additional levels, but those also cost a bit more. It could still be a worthwhile investment though.
My second and last recommendation would be to allow us adjust the time we are in the sample. 15 minutes is a very long time. It doesn't sound like it, but at the end of each 15 minute period, I was always ready to move on and get out of that sample. So it would be cool to have the player choose a 5min, 10min and 15min option. That way if you were to go back and replay it and you just wanted a quick play you can choose a smaller time period.
Overall, VEV: Viva Ex Vivo is a very impressive game for the PSVR. It will never be a cornerstone of the PSVR library due to it's lack of excitement at times and the length of the game, but for $5 you can't beat it. Because of that price I cannot neglect VEV and think that it is certainly a very fun and unique addition to your PSVR game collection.