Game: Vitamin Connection
Genre: Action-Adventure, Multiplayer, Party
System: Nintendo Switch
Price: US $19.99| AU $29.97 |CA $ 27.42 |£15.14| €18,02
Age Rating: EU 3 | AU PG| US E10+
Release Date: 20th February 2020
Review code used, with many thanks to WayForward Games
At the Sable family household, Boyo has a high temperature, but his mother tries out a new vitamin. Enter Vita-Boy and Mina-Girl who use their capsule ship to bust bacteria!
A Fantastic Voyage
In each level you navigate through the tunnels of a body (or something similar) to get to vital locations. On the way you’ll shoot bacteria with your vitamin beam, grab enemies and objects out of the way and carefully rotate to avoid obstacles. You’ll reach crossroads and use your map to find your way around the system. If playing with someone you’ll need to both choose the same direction to continue.
The game can be played in single player, which mostly uses button controls, but it’s preferable to play it with someone else. Doing so will have one person holding a joy-con vertically, they control the movement, claw and fire button. While the other player holds it horizontally and controls the ship rotation with motion control, opens/closes the claw and controls the direction of the vitamin beam. The camera is at a controlled speed but the fast forward can help. Annoyingly one linear level doesn’t allow for it at all.
Not the Intestinal Tract!
The levels may take you up, down, left or right. Initial obstacles include a substance you need to shoot through to move, panes that rotate the way your ship does and fibers. Those need to be cut by rotating the ship to the blue or pink side to match and push through. The vitamin beam itself runs on a cooldown. Later levels become more complex with mirrors to reflect the beam, rotating obstacles that go in different directions and invincible enemies that rain down. If you’re confident in your skills there’s a fast forward button (two times if both players are pressing).
The walls themselves deal damage, which might be why there’s so many health pickups around in the form of sparkles. Inside the walls are spots you can shoot which will also give you some health and rarely a star. There are five stars in a level, collecting all five will give you a bonus level. The bonus levels are small challenges with an extra story. This gives you incentive to explore even if you’ve found the way to the vital points, especially since some stars only appear when heading back. As you hit dead ends or come back from vital points you can’t be too careful as enemies and fibers may re-appear.
Once you’ve reached a vital location you won’t fight a boss (with one exception) instead you’ll need to complete a mini game. There are a few different kinds, in these you can take damage and with enough you’ll lose and have to start again. There’s a rhythm game, one where you avoid touching the electric wire, table tennis and a lot of rotating ones.
Most of these were pretty good but we really didn’t like the hand grabber one. In that one person uses the IR camera to move the Hand up and down to grab something, while the other moves left and right (with obstacles that make you drop it in the way). In single player you don’t need to use motion controls.
Outside of the main menu you can play these mini-games to get new high scores. As you progress through the story you’ll unlock new levels for these games. At the end of a level you’ll also get a little love test. Perhaps I should be concerned I got acquaintances at best with my boyfriend?
Picture of Health
The game has vibrant colourful 2D art. It is a simple style but still has a fair bit of detail even in the backgrounds. I’m not sure how to pinpoint the design but my boyfriend said it reminded him of a flatter/simpler Powerpuff Girls (the original show). One kind of enemy explodes like fireworks which is fun. Before and after a level are some cutscenes that show that aesthetic a lot more. These are short but cute. During levels you’ll also encounter other inhabitants such as the germs or Pro-Biotic. All characters except your duo are fully voiced and really help add humor to the game.
Vitamin Connection’s soundtrack is great and varied, as you go through levels tracks will change. It almost feels like you’re listening to a radio with Japanese and English pop among others. Stages may have their own tracks, at one point some rapping dogs inside a dog have their own jam.
Once you’ve beaten the campaign you’ll unlock New Game Pro. This lets you play through the same levels but as Pro-Biotic. The in level scenes also change a little bit, including a funny exchange where he pretends to be nice to the viruses. From the little I’ve played of it I’ve noticed a few more/ more difficult enemies, an extra star per level and adjusted mini-games. Personally I found the first hand grabber game a lot easier than the one in the main game. He also shoots two lasers at once, and doesn’t have to match colours with the fibers (he is grey after all).
In both modes you can get a perfect fever score by not getting hit at all. You may also need to eliminate all the enemies. Alas you’ll have to find someone better at the game than me to tell you what you might get for clearing a level perfectly.
The game design itself was pretty great barring some minor points. The biggest issues have more to do with the Switch hardware itself. As the rotating player I would have to re-calibrate constantly, while easy it was annoying. Similarly movement can be difficult especially in some mini-games as the joy-con sticks are quite sensitive.
One thing that might bother me more than others is that solo and co-op have different save files, so in order to check things out I had to find another co-op partner or start all over again. In single player there was a lot of non-motion controls alternatives that didn’t seem to do anything in co-op. Especially annoying for the claw and hand grabber game.
If you manage to fall behind the camera it can be very difficult to get back before dying from wall damage. The only solution we found was pausing the game and opening let us move again for a second. There was one glitch during the first table tennis like game. Somehow we managed to get the ball behind the timer and it stayed stuck until the game ended. At least we won.
— Paige (@PaigeGGuy) February 18, 2020
Asides from some small problems I found Vitamin Connection to be a fun little co-op game. Some early levels might be a bit slow but the levels and enemies became much more varied afterwards. We didn’t use as much verbal communication as we should have. Though I definitely had to say “babe” quite a lot. It took us less than five hours to beat the campaign (perhaps it could be done in four). That said, it has collectables to get bonus missions and the pro campaign. Which shakes things up enough that I’ll be going through that with a different player.
Personally I found the single player more difficult but that might be because I wasn’t used to the controls. I can definitely recommend it if you’re looking for something to play with another, and can rely on your teamwork.
Final Verdict: I like it a lot!