Vessel is nothing if not another example of indie developer creativity and ingenuity. A puzzle platformer based solely on the combination of 2 elements: it’s efficient, if not one-dimensional, fluid physics; and it’s clunky but usually dependable AI “Fluros”. The puzzles start off unnecessarily simple, but the game makes up for it through clever methods to paint the setting of the game.
As the puzzles get more difficult, with different variations of liquids and Fluros getting thrown into the mix, it becomes more rewarding and more fun to figure them out, however the games physics and AI can be often become frustratingly clunky during later puzzles that involve numerous elements. However, these most difficult puzzles often have a few ways to solve them, taking the edge off of the frustration. The developers do hide secret puzzles that reward you with points to upgrade your gear, but not only are the upgrades totally unnecessary (I often forgot there even upgrades to be had at some points) and the secret puzzles are few and far between. The last puzzle, however, is the worst example of what this game has to offer and only serve to disjoint the flow of the epilogue. After trying to figure it out for literally an hour, I searched a guide to solve it, and it turns out the solution was the one I was trying the whole time, but the physics were simply glitching. It was very frustrating, but thankfully it’s the biggest fault I can find with the game.
Graphics are a wonderful blend of 2D point of view and 3D rendering. I can’t say I encounter any graphical lag either, although some puzzles caused lag due the amount of particles the game was simulating, which isn’t ok when I’m running the game on a quad core system. Graphics are smooth but the game is processor heavy. This game might not be for you if you have a 4GB RAM or lower system. The story is very straight-forward and although it often hints at some plot twists, they never actually happen. Although the story is lacking, the presentation is very good, especially as far as indie games go. Vessel uses as little written language as possible, and when they do, it’s only to offer some much needed context. All of the “ah hah” moments are experienced as they come, not read on the screen, as it should be. This falls apart at the end as well, however. Although the developer used some outstanding artistic devices that most big-shot game companies have never heard of, the deeper meaning was lost in a terrible lack of context. The ending ends up falling short whereas it could have been a masterpiece if they had simply given more context. The music fits the feeling of the game, but there’s only one track that plays throughout the 9-11 hours of the game, so if you play for long sittings, it will get on your nerves. After a while I just muted the music and listened to my own music. Vessel comes with my recommendation as a game that offers 9-11 hours of unique experience, and although the high points are amazing and the low points are terribly frustrating, the high points far outnumber the low ones, and the game is worth twice the price tag it comes with.
March 1, 2012
Strange Loop Games