Vessel (PS3) Review
Mark Adams / Mar 24th, 2014 No Comments
Vessel is the first game from Strange Loop Games. For the first game to be released by a studio, Vessel is a strange one. It doesn’t have pick-up-and-play qualities and it’s lacking huge budget graphical effects and sounds. Vessel is a puzzle game mixed with platform action. From the beginning, you know you’re in for something different. There are no instructions; players have to use their brain to work out what is going on.
Puzzle games for this generation have been a hit and miss affair, so is Vessel going to be a welcome addition to your PlayStation 3 collection? It looks different, it plays somewhat different and it throws in some interesting game mechanics that mean, in some ways, it’s different than anything else you may have played before.
Vessel starts with minimal introduction to the game. In a Bioshock-esque looking intro, the screen flows through a storyboard filled with various pictures and articles and newspaper cuttings that explain the story of our hero. The main character, Mr. Arkright, is a scientist and inventor who created the Fluros, a species made from liquid that have many qualities, all of which are needed to help players on their quest to complete the game.
The first time you pick up the game, you won’t have a clue what is going on. Players will move the character through dark screens with seemingly nothing much happening. These opening minutes could be an attempt to allow players to get used to the ridiculously dark playing area, but it’s something their eyes will not get used to. It could also be a way for the game to give players the feel for how the character moves and jumps. Either way, it is a frustrating way to start the game.
Once into the game, players must work out how to create Fluros. These little characters are there to help Mr. Arkright on his quest. They are usually created by turning some kind of dial in order to drop water, then pressing some buttons in order to mix in seeds.
Each Fluro you create will help you by acting in a certain way. Some will come with you, some will push buttons, some will swing on things and others do various things to help you out. They are not invulnerable though, and can be destroyed when touched or crushed during clumsy movements while turning cogs or accidentally jumping into them.
That really is the premise to the entire game – move from one large puzzle to the next large puzzle. Levers will need to be pushed in the right directions, cogs turned and more, all opening up a way to progress to the next level. There is little on screen to let players know what they are doing right or wrong, but players should keep an eye out for changing colored lights and levers.
Mr. Arkright handles fairly well, although climbing ladders can be a task as players must be pin-point accurate while ascending or descending. Players will quite often bang the character’s head or miss ladders or obstacles due to the game’s darkness.
Persist with the game though, and there is a lot to do. Vessel offers a genuine challenge for those who enjoy a good puzzle day. Other than the few annoyances in the game, Vessel is well thought out with some great physics and liquid based puzzles.
Vessel has a very dark and somewhat cyberpunk look. Graphics are beautifully drawn and lighting effects are nothing short of superb. However, as mentioned throughout the review, Vessels visuals are extremely dark. With Gamma on the game turned up full and the brightness on the TV turned up, it is still a strain on the eyes.
If the darkness isn’t enough to grapple with, the game features sections that bring the whole puzzle into view, shrinking characters on the screen. In theory, seeing everything on screen at once is a good idea. However, the small characters combined with the darkness of the graphics becomes quite frustrating to play with.
That said, the graphical style and animations are impressive. The scaling works well and the whole playing experience is smooth. Liquids react realistically, as do the physics of the character and the objects that he moves.
You know a games music is good when it blends in perfectly with the action. On the first run through of the game, players might not even notice any sound. The sound is ambient and full of meaning. It suits the game perfectly because it’s low-key but well represented.
The same can be said about the game’s sound effects. They all sound exactly as you would expect them and are well produced.
Vessel will appeal to people who like puzzle games, like spooky Cyberpunk settings and backdrops, and like to play games in the dark to appreciate a well produced soundtrack. Vessel is not for everyone and many will find the lack of any meaningful on-screen help a nightmare.
Puzzles are well played out and can be challenging and genuinely fun to crack. Finding out what a new Fluro can do is exciting. Working things out for yourself may sound old-fashioned, but it can give your brain a nice little workout. Vessel should be regarded like a fine wine. While not appreciated by everyone for its taste, it is something special.
tags: review , strange loop games , vessel , vessel review