Vitamin Connection Review — Take Your Medicine
Vitamin Connection is the kind of game that deserves to succeed. It's easy to pick up, exhaustively fun, and vibrantly creative. It's loaded with charm, replay value, and oodles of original ideas. It's the kind of game that every Switch owner should have in their collection one way or another.
Recently-released in digital form on the eShop, Vitamin Connection comes from indie giant WayForward Technologies, the same studio responsible for games such as Shantae and the Pirate's Curse and River City Girls.
It very well might be one of the best games on the Nintendo Switch.
Vitamin Connection Review — Take Your Medicine
Open wide y'all, it's time for the pill.
In Vitamin Connection you play as Vita-Boy and Mina-Girl, two miniature beings who pilot a tiny capsule-sized spaceship. They are mailed to the residence of the Sable family, all of whom are afflicted by some sickness or malady. The two tiny teammates use their ship to tackle everything from tickling tonsils to tuning troubled televisions.
Every sprawling level sees Vita-Boy and Mina-Girl moving on rails through the colorful, bacteria-ridden insides of each family member. Branching paths mean that some backtracking is required, but re-treading areas isn’t the slog it might seem. Not including the game’s nicely varied level design, new hazards present themselves to shake things up. Add to that a wide-ranging catalog of enemies and the more Metroidvania sections of Vitamin Connection are easier to digest.
Luckily, each level has a full map that fills out as you go so it's hard to get lost, and there's often a collectible hidden down the path less-traveled, compelling you to move forward.
To get through it all, you'll need to twist and turn your controller, aim and fire your weapon, and control the movement of your ship all at once. In single-player, you do this by yourself using either two Joy-Cons or a Pro controller. In co-op, you can split the controls between two people.
It can be a little frightening at first; every scenario involves quick thinking and fast reflexes popping as you swap between traditional controls and several types of motion controls. Luckily, it doesn't take too long to adjust to things. Any failure ends up being a light smack, especially with the game's relatively lenient checkpoint system.
In lieu of boss fights, each level subjects you to several mini-games, each of which use the Joy-Con motion controls in a different way. One minute you may be playing a rhythm section with two sets of instructions, the next you'll be guiding a hoop around a wire. In others, you'll be playing air hockey against a computer opponent.
These sections build off of each other without compromising the game’s light combat focus or its relaxed tone. Consequently, they nicely crescendo into the actual boss fight at the very end of the game.
It's showing various symptoms of "Early 2000's-itis"
Vitamin Connection reminds me of the early 2000s, a time when Japanese imports flooded the U.S., stunning us with starry-eyed wonder. Vitamin Connection could have easily been a forgotten classic of that era; it carries so much of the same style and energy.
Vitamin Connection’s presentation really is something special. The game’s signature panache comes from Lindsey Collins (also known as 'linzb0t”), who was also the lead artist on the bright and stylish Cat Girl Without Salad: Amuse-Bouche. Her signature round and cutesy style shines through while still looking wholly unique.
Made up almost entirely of simple shapes with bright, primary colors, Vitamin Connection lacks sharp edges and angles (unless when necessary), instead opting for rounded, inviting shapes. This works in tandem with the game’s cartoonish but earnest writing, and its equally heartfelt dialogue. Every cutscene and exchange is fully animated and voice-acted; the production value is quite high considering this is an independent production.
Director James Montagna has mentioned that both Katamari Damacy and Jet Set Radio were major inspirations for Vitamin Connection’s visuals and music, and it shows. Vitamin Connection has such an amazingly robust and highly-produced soundtrack that most of its songs could have easily been Billboard Top 40 songs from 15 years ago.
The game is jam-packed with original music from a variety of different artists. The soundtrack spans many different genres, though J-pop certainly dominates. Cheerful lyrics in both English and Japanese are belted out with accompaniment from a variety of both synthesizers and real instruments, creating a happy, high-energy atmosphere that never lets up.
Even when the music drastically switches style, the soundtrack always feels appropriate for each level, whether it be in the form of a rap song or a gothy ballad.
The sound design, in general, is excellent, creating a consistently cartoonish and thematically appropriate soundscape. There are songs unique to each level, and songs play on a shuffled playlist every time you start a level, cutting down repetition significantly, which isn't much a problem anyway because every song is catchy.
The developers even went so far as to have an extra layer of music play whenever the Vitamin Beam is firing and made most songs have their own unique layer. That's just awesome.
There honestly isn't much I can find wrong with Vitamin Connection. Sure, it's a little hard to figure out at first, but the game teaches you all the basics, and doesn't punish you too hard for struggling at the start. Not everyone will dig the style and music, but speaking as someone who enjoys this sort of thing, the whole team executed it perfectly.
Vitamin Connection Review — The Bottom Line
- Very fun and creative
- Totally unique gameplay and controls
- Good by yourself or with a friend
- Lots of content and replay value for $20
- Great soundtrack and graphics
- Somewhat steep learning curve for controls, especially in co-op
- No 2-Player VS. mode for the various unlockable mini-games
- Minor backtracking may bothersome
To bring this love-letter in disguise to a close: Vitamin Connection is a game that everybody should play. Not just because it's a great game for families and kids, but because it's just a great game. Creativity and charm like this should not just be celebrated but rewarded.
The only things I wish Vitamin Connection had that it doesn’t is some sort of 2-Player VS. mode and a longer campaign. But it's also important to remember that when your worst complaint about a game is, "I wish there was more of it", you've still got a great game on your hands.
Vitamin Connection is available now exclusively on Nintendo Switch.