vridniX is a strange game. It has so many elements that will be familiar to anyone who has played a platformer before: tricky enemies and platforming, and some extra abilities to gain as your character progresses. Except, vridniX changes that formula up by removing the ability to stop, making vridniX a sort of endless runner that forces you to think and act fast at every moment. But the most surprising thing about vridniX is its surprisingly poignant, extremely weird, but captivating story. vridniX ends up being a sort of Super Meat Boy endless runner with a Don-Hertzfeld-meets-Newgrounds sense of humor and art style.
In vridniX you play as the only Naqq in existence, the titular vridniX, living with a people called the Wamnis. When the Trogogluxes come to threaten all life on the Neta-Vark, vridniX sees his chance to become something he’s always wanted to be: a hero. See, vridniX, being the only Naqq, never really quite fit in with the Wamnis, but they tolerated him until he started out on his adventure. And in trying to be the hero, vridniX actually ends up wrecking many lives across the various peoples of the Neta Vark. I don’t want to spoil too much, as I wanted to play for the narrative as much as the gameplay, but vridniX’s tale is one of a tragic hero, and is way better than it has any right to be.
vridniX’s gameplay is interesting. I immediately considered fast paced platformers when I first got a hold of it, with Super Meat Boy probably being the closest analogue. But the thing is, vridniX can’t stop, making most decision-making moments split second. If you hit a wall, you will immediately change directions. vridniX can latch himself onto the ceiling, jump off of walls, change direction mid-air, and after a while, he will gain new abilities, like being able to dash midair. This means you will die a whole lot, and despite the controls being as tight as any game like this requires, it sometimes feels quite unfair. So often I would throw myself against levels endlessly until I finally eked my way out of whatever nearly-impossible situation I found vridniX in this time.
vridniX, being a Naqq, also has the ability to rotate the screen when you find special ‘orbs’ that look like swirling rifts. Rotating the screen allows vridniX to reach areas that he might not have been able to get into before, or surpass obstacles that he might not have been able to get past. Rotating the screen also turns those Trogogluxe projectiles into pills for vridniX to take that allows him to defeat them, but the Trogoluxes are not the only enemies you will be encountering throughout your time with vridniX—in fact, vridniX makes enemies of almost every group he comes across, sometimes by his own fault, sometimes by misunderstanding, but the result is always the same: he makes mortal enemies in each of the unique zones he travels through.
There are six major zones in vridniX, each with their own theme, enemies, hazards, and bosses. Each zone is made up of about 14 stages each. The level design ranges from decent to pretty fun. Most stages require you to bypass hazards or defeat enemies before you progress, but others are gauntlets that either require you to defeat enemies, catch an enemy, or get ahead of a screen that is closing in. As you discover more of the fate of the Naqq, you also play as a few other characters, including the hero of the Wamnis, both in the past and the future. There are also several sections that require you to play as two characters simultaneously, mirroring your movement onto theirs. These sections are simultaneously inspired, and horrible—but I loved them. In fact, there are so many encounters that I thought would be impossible, but I just couldn’t tear myself away.
vridniX actually does several things I haven’t really seen in platformers before, and a few that I haven’t even see video games do before. It elegantly skirts the line between feeling like an inspired garage-indie title and feeling like a fully realized platformer that can take on giants like Celeste or Super Meat Boy. vridniX is something special, and is full of joyous frustration, humor, and a deep, poignant sadness that will probably stick with me for a while.
vridniX is out now on Steam.