Trace Vector – What We Think:
Trace Vector harkens back to classic arcade titles like QIX, Tempest and Star Wars (1983), weaving worlds out of little more than glowing colorful lines and electronic blipping soundtracks. Featuring gameplay based around fast reflexes and quick thinking with a gentle nod to contemporary rhythm-based titles, Trace Vector puts you in the boots of a lost pilot attempting to fly his ship back to his home system. To do this you will navigate through levels made up of multiple branching lines that need to be traversed carefully in order to make it through.
The narrative of Trace Vector is told through short text based scenes set in the pilot’s seat. Lost in deep space, you are trying to fly home in a ship that also houses an AI. As you travel deeper into the game, you’ll be rewarded with a short scene at the end of each world. The troubles faced by your character and the AI are explored through these scenes, and they are sufficiently well written as to have you looking forward to the next installment.
The bulk of your time with Trace Vector will be spent travelling through its fast-paced levels. Each world has six such levels and there are a good number of worlds in the adventure mode. The gameplay consists of a line going from left to right, branching at various points, filled with hurdles that can speed you up, transport you to another line, or end your journey prematurely. Your ship is constantly moving along this line and so you need to keep up to ensure you don’t find yourself flying into an unpleasant fate.
Direction and Magnitude. Oh Yeah!
Instructions are restricted to either flying up or down to possible junctions in the path. This may seem simplistic, but the accelerating speed of the game and the sheer number of potential paths through a level will require you remain highly alert. Thankfully, you can also slow down time by pressing the space bar, an act that makes it easier to navigate the trickier junctions while consuming a sizable quantity of your one crucial resource: fuel.
Fuel is gathered throughout each level in the form of small cubes placed along your path. These are usually placed on trickier routes and so you need to be quick if you want to collect every fuel block on a level. You lose fuel constantly and you’ll lose a large chunk if your ship crashes into a dead end. If you run out of fuel, it’s game over and you’ll have to start the current world again, making for a compelling challenge. The difficulty ramps up as you travel into the later worlds and some players may find the need to regularly restart frustrating during these stages.
A Trace of Nostalgia
The visuals of Trace Vector are, as the title suggests, vector based. For those who remember the days when graphics like this were the norm in gaming, this should be a point of some nostalgia. In any case, the neon lines and explosions are completely appropriate to the gameplay and make for a refreshing change.
The music composed by Michael Birch, aka “Flexstyle,” is an 80’s-style pulsing soundtrack featuring Simmons drum fills and Arp 2600 sounding arpeggios that does more than just accompany you on your mission – in fact, it changes dynamically to reflect your progress and influences the increasingly taut maneuvering you must negotiate. Though this isn’t a rhythm game on rails in the strict sense, the music seems to offer cues as to how the levels may shift.
Re-Trace Your Steps
If you manage to push through the challenging adventure mode, you can go back and try to achieve high scores by collecting every unit of fuel in each of the worlds. Beyond this, the endless mode offers an ongoing challenge for those looking to master the leaderboards. If a fast paced challenge with an unusual aesthetic appeals to you, then Trace Vector will certainly deliver.
While the game is available for PCs, the developers are promising versions for Android and iOS later this year.
Watch the official trailer for Trace Vector: