- John Bush
Game Review #514: Vitamin Connection (Nintendo Switch)
Reviewer: Akio Kahoshi
Developer: WayForward Technologies
Category: Action, Adventure, Shooter, Multiplayer
Release Date: 02.20.2020
Watch the Trailer
Buy Vitamin Connection from the Nintendo Switch eShop here.
Every once in a while, a game comes along that manages to feel completely different from the usual. Vitamin Connection is one such game. By combining the Vitamin Connection’s style, gameplay, music, and writing a unique experience is created. One I enjoyed from start to finish.
Take Your Vitamins
At its core, it could be classified as a side-scrolling shooter, but that definition does not entirely describe the experience. Just as important is navigating through the twisting corridors while avoiding hazards by spinning the ship (done using the shoulder buttons in solo play, or by tilting the joy-con in co-op). Playing solo I found the base controls fairly intuitive and immediately felt at home using them to navigate tight corners. The game’s six sub-games that take the place of traditional boss battles also use the base controls, making it far easier to jump into each one.
The only time I actively struggled was when the grabber was introduced during the second level. Once I got used to it though, I realized how the designers had carefully built the sections for the grappling hook with the controls in mind. As long as I set myself on a proper course, I was free to use the grappling hook in interesting ways, including using objects as a shield to protect myself. This is just one of the many clever ways the game changes up gameplay without additional tools that would have only overcomplicated the gameplay.
Capsule Ship Shape
Visually, the game has a striking style that pops from the screen with its bright colors. It also ran silky smooth, except for one section of one level. In a section with over a dozen enemies and dozens of projectiles moving through the air or colliding, I noticed a small drop in frame rates. This drop was brief and barely noticeable. Besides that, I encountered no issues in both handheld or docked play.
I did not run into any bugs during gameplay, which is always appreciated from indie developers. There was one odd thing I encountered; I could not switch between docked/tabletop mode and handheld mode without reloading the entire game. Perhaps there is a way to do so, but if there is I clearly missed it. Since I like the Switch for its ability to immediately switch to handheld mode when I undock it, this was a minor annoyance, but given the frequency that the game saves, not a critical one.
DJ Dog Bone In The House
Probably the most pleasant surprise for me was the game’s soundtrack. The music plays as if listening to a radio station, even including station self adverts playing every few songs. The genre from the songs covers a wide range, from rock to pop, rap to Eurobeat, and even classical Japanese. Vitamin Connection has songs both in English and Japanese, all of which fit the experience perfectly. There were a couple of times it almost felt like I was playing a Katamari game, and I loved it.
One of my favorite uses of music was in the dance sub-game. Each one had a different song, all with rhythms that were easy to follow. In addition to the general songs, there were stage-specific songs, and it seemed the Vitamin Beam added to the melody during a few. Whether standard stage music or sub-game music, I can safely say this game has a standout soundtrack.
Dead Ends And You
Each level, or “story,” in Vitamin Connection is played out in a series of corridors, where the ultimate goal is to reach each Vital Location and clear the sub-game there. With the way the levels are designed, this often includes having to backtrack along a corridor to progress. Wayforward managed to keep this from being dull though as the opposite direction of a path was typically different, or the game would increase movement speed dramatically to quickly get the player back to exploring new areas.
Difficulty wise, I found everything to be fairly accessible. While some of the areas certainly can get difficult in the later stages, the game is always generous with health restoration. The only time I died during normal stages was when I accidentally got myself caught offscreen. The difficulty is appropriate for the co-op experience, where the players are forced to coordinate. For those seeking additional challenges, finding all the hidden ion stars in each stage unlocks bonus stories and beating the game unlocks Pro mode.
While exploring the map, the player encounters other characters who make the host home. These characters, along with short cut scenes of the Sable family, help build a story that at first seems to be simply healing sick people. It quickly builds into something far more grandiose, humorous, and engaging, than I originally expected.
The characters were also fun, especially Pro-Biotic. Kaiji Tang steals the show as his voice actor, so I was excited to see he gets to play the main character in the Pro mode. Here, each stage is slightly different, and more challenging, than before and Pro-Biotic must navigate them anew. While not as story-rich as the actual campaign (following the campaign story from his perspective), I still found what I have played so far to be just as entertaining. Hopefully, Wayforward brings Kaiji into more of their work as his voice acting in this is brilliant.
Overall I was extremely happy with my time spent playing Vitamin Connection, and plan to spend more time trying to complete Pro mode. While completely different from WayForward’s other games, it holds its own within a company known for making high-quality games. In the future, I hope we see Vita-boy and Mina-girl again because I definitely have not had enough of them.
Buy Vitamin Connection from the Nintendo Switch eShop here.
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*A game code was provided for review purposes.