VVVVVV isn’t the first time I encountered the gravity switch gimmick in a game (I think that was Mega Man 6 if I remember correctly), but to my mind it’s the game that does the most with it. You can’t even call VVVVVV a proper platformer, as you can’t jump. Only flip between top and bottom of the screen, which at first seems unnatural but soon becomes second nature. The flipping mechanism replaces the usual jumping one, but it’s not just a simple copy-paste job, since the flipping allows and enforces a different type of gameplay.
To get past deadly spikes or other death traps, you have to maneuver around them. Timing is important, as is a perfect control of the after-flip fall of your character. The best in-game example of this is Veni Vidi Vici (people playing the game will remember the longest and probably hardest flip in the entire game). A high difficulty is part of the core experience of VVVVVV, though while difficult in some places, it’s far from the punishing difficulty of games like I Wanna Be The Guy or similar masocore games.
What stands out to me about VVVVVV is the distinctive style, which isn’t exactly original – minimalistic graphics and 8-bit tunes are a dime a dozen in indy-land – but so well executed that it’s hard not to fall for its charm. Like the story, which really is more a rough idea than a fully fleshed-out story, all the other elements of the game, from the score to the gameplay to the graphics, work together to provide an experience that is more than the sum of its parts.
This is the second time I’ve played the game and it’s just as fun as the first time. The only downside I can see is that I haven’t seen any other recent games that try to do something more with the gravity switch gimmick, which IMHO has the potential to break out into it’s own sub-genre.