V Is For Vortex in Review – Da Portal, Da Portal!

I never had the opportunity to play the game Portal, but from everything I read I’d imagine that the developer of V is for Vortex was somewhat inspired by that critically acclaimed game. I’m not going to give V the benefit of being coined a “2D Portal”, however. The problem it is that while the concept is sound, the execution is way too basic. As the game stands right now, it feels more like an early version than a final product, at least as far as content is concerned. V really needs to be expanded on and toughened up before it’s ready for prime time.

There are two modes to V is for Vortex: Story and Freeplay. Unfortunately, other than the fact that there’s a one page cut scene at the beginning of story mode and in freeplay mode you can start at whichever level you like, there really is no difference between the two modes. The idea behind the game is that you’re trying to get through a series of rooms. To do that you must use this gun you’ve found that creates two types of portals – a blue one and an orange one. Functionality-wise there appears to be no difference between the two types of portals. Basically they act as a teleportation device: whatever goes in one portal comes out the other. In most cases this will be you, but there are times where you can use the portals to do things like move a crate, which could then be used to press a button to open a door (that’s just an example, of course!)

To create a portal you select which color you want by pressing a toggle bar on the bottom of the screen. You then touch the spot where you’d like the portal to appear. The game does use some “line of sight” methodology, so if you can’t draw a straight line between the gun and the spot you requested your shot will just fizzle away. On the plus side, however, you can keep repositioning the portals until you get them in just the right spot. You can also fire in any direction, regardless of how your character is facing. Portals are also direction-sensitive, which means you’ll exit the receiving portal moving in the same direction as you entered the first portal. This will definitely make a difference in how you place portals in some levels.

My main problem with this game is how under-utilized all the concepts are. There are some rooms that require some thought and actually have slightly interesting puzzles (a couple of which I’ll admit I haven’t even solved yet), but most of them are way too straightforward. There are things on the walls that look like either guns or cameras, but either way they don’t appear to actually be used for anything. Building on the story in story mode would be nice as well, and overall the game could use more levels. There are only 18 currently, and with the exception of about 4 of them, you’ll probably beat the rest on your first try.

I’m not a big fan of the whole “doodling artist” look to visuals, mainly because it quite often feels more like an excuse for the artist not to really attempt drawing anything than a stylistic choice. Plus, its use seems to be running rampant lately. However, in V is for Vortex it actually works fairly well. The animation is minimal and there are no flashy special effects, but everything manages to blend well together and look good in its simplicity. The sound effects are equally minimal, though it seems like they could be beefed up a bit. I do like the popping sound an object makes when it comes out of a portal, but why not have some other simple sounds like a crackle when you get fried by a laser (yes, there are a couple of screens where you can actually die). The music seems decent enough, but for the most part it’s so quiet that you can’t really appreciate it.

V is for Vortex is a nice start to a game, but it’s far from what I’d consider a finished product. Most of the levels are too simple, there’s no real benefit to playing story mode over freeplay, and there’s certainly no reason to play again once you’ve beaten the game. The visuals are good enough, though the sound could use a little tweaking, especially so you can hear the music better. Given the current deluge of outstanding puzzle games in the App Store, V is going to have a lot of trouble standing out.


App Summary
Title: V is for Vortex Developer: Jonathan Mulcahy
Reviewed Ver: 1.1 Min OS Req: 3.0
Price: $0.99 App Size: 15.8 MB
  • Interesting Concept
  • Decent Visuals
  • Way too short
  • Lacks any sort of challenge


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