Posted by Asher Asghar
As part of the opening salvo for PlayStation Plus' expansion to the PlayStation Vita, Chronovolt received plenty of pre-release coverage. The lure of a modern take on the seminal Marble Madness, tailor-made from the ground up to show off the system's wealth of control schemes, was an attractive bait. Unfortunately, Chronovolt displays a multitude of sins, which render its zero cost to subscribers a relatively moot point.
Playing as a generic heroine named Jessica, you are thrust into metal balls called Chronospheres, and tasked with putting a stop to a menacing mad scientist's corrupt schemes. To do this, you'll need to gather energy (or Chronovolts), navigate short levels in an allotted time, and avoid enemies who'll attempt to block your progress.
It's a distinctly un-engaging scenario which serves purely as a backdrop. This would have been acceptable were it not for the game's frustrating habit of halting your progress with ill-timed text-bubble conversations.
It's a shame, as the LittleBigPlanet-esque introduction teases an enjoyable adventure. That indication, however, is evaporated once the gameplay kicks in. While the graphics are serviceable, the movement of your mechanical ball is imprecise, the frame rate is inconsistent, and the levels lack polish. The title is also desperately glitchy. We encountered one example on the fourth stage where we had collected the requisite items and finished the level, only to be sent straight back to the start again. After repeating this process multiple times, the only solution was to start the game from scratch, which solved the issue.
If that wasn't bad enough, the game just isn't that much fun to play. Its physics are too forgiving, allowing the Chronosphere to pass over gaps with ease. Also, simple actions that utilise the Vita's functionality – such as tapping the touch screen to destroy enemies or rewind time – deny a sense of challenge.
The issues are exacerbated by the bizarre decision to apply the camera's vertical position to the face buttons rather than the right analogue stick. The latter merely pivots the camera left and right, forcing you to fiddle about with multiple different inputs in order to assume the angle that you actually want.
Furthermore, it's hard to recommend a title that hinges so heavily on micro-transactions. As progress is dependent on beating the clock, you'll need to splash out on quicker spheres for Jessica, which are available from the PlayStation Store. All of the levels can be beaten without the intrusive additional investments, but you'll find the title significantly less frustrating if you spend some real money on it.
Chronovolt is a glitchy and unsatisfying title that's hard to recommend. While you may glean some enjoyment from its opening moments, the novelty swiftly wears thin. This title is best rolled out of sight, and into obscurity.