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Vessel Review

publisher: IndiePub
developer: Strange Loop Games
genre: Puzzle

ESRB rating: E

release date: Mar 01, 12
» All About Vessel on ActionTrip

When a glitch prevents you from defeating the game's final boss and the only thing you feel is relief, I'd say it's a pretty good indication that you haven't been having much fun. But unlike the silly games you usually play, Vessel isn't exactly about 'fun'. It's more about pumping blood into your atrophied, "pew-pew" obsessed brain. And let me tell you, it's a painful process. In Vessel, you're the rat in the maze and the game plays you (Okay, that just freaks me out. - Ed. Vader).

Scared? No? I'm just trying to make sure you have the right expectations. You see, Vessel is actually a collection of tests. It can lure you in with its shiny exterior and make you its bitch with its mind bending and sometimes frustrating puzzles. Not that they're terribly frustrating, but quite a few of them are "spiced up" with platforming elements and that will put off some players. The puzzles in this game are the type that you generally figure out pretty easily, but can end up spending upwards to 15-30 minutes on the more complicated ones, because solving them isn't up to you alone. But we'll get back to that.

You play as M. Arkwright, an inventor who managed to create a limitless workforce in the form of liquid based creatures, called Fluros. These Fluros are born from dropping a Fluro seed into water and their purpose is to replace humans in operating heavy machinery (Hey, that's just how I was born. - Ed. Vader). But we wouldn't have a game if the Fluros didn't run amok, and it's the player's job to clean up the mess and discover the root of the problem. Actually, the 'why' isn't important here because there's no real story. Not even a sense of mystery or at least some humor. The Fluros are cute and as you progress, you'll discover various new types, but other than that there's no reason to care about anything that's going on. As I've mentioned earlier, in Vessel, you're simply being put through a series of brain-teasers.

To survive these brain-teasers you'll have to bend the unruly Fluros to your will and you'll do so by manipulating them with the help of liquids with different properties, brute force, light/darkness and even by putting yourself up as bait. For instance (and this is a made up example), if a machine needs steam to operate you can attract a lava Fluro under its intake cone and spray water on it. Naturally, there isn't any lava nearby and walls prevent you from getting within 20 meters of the machine. Good luck with that one.

With the exception of the starting zone, in each major area you can attempt to solve the puzzles in any order you like. Surprisingly, this is where things can become unpleasant. I wasted more than an hour trying to repair machines 1, 2, 3 and 4, only to discover a new type of Fluro seed near machine 5, and suddenly what seemed impossible, became easily doable. I teleported back to the start of the area and repaired all 4 machines in less than 20 minutes. So, I spent an hour feeling like an idiot and I still don't know whether those puzzles had alternate solutions, or the developers thought it'd be amusing to mess with my head. (Could be. - Ed. Vader).

But, to be fair, the bulk of the aggravation was usually the result of my own incompetence. The puzzles can be very difficult and the Fluros are capricious little bastards. One tiny mistake on the player's part and they disintegrate. Time to start over. You can't save your progress during a puzzle and add to the equation the fact that the game has a tendency to crash pretty often. Even easy puzzles can become torturous for stupid reasons and here's an example: you have to trick a Fluro into switching a lever. He hates bright lights, so what you have to do is spray glowing goo in the opposite direction of where you want him to go.

What could be simpler? Well, too many things can go wrong here:

1st attempt: the glowing goo is sticky and creates a mess on some grating you have to spray it through; 2nd attempt: you spray the goo at the perfect angle, but not before the Fluro runs into you and melts; 3rd attempt: the Fluro is well on its way when you realize you won't have enough goo to guide him to his goal; 4th attempt: the Fluro is right near the lever, but makes a hairpin turn for no good reason and melts in the light; 5th attempt: the goo sticks to the goddamn grating again; 6th attempt: you spray the goo, but you're tired and accidentally create the wrong kind of Fluro; 7th attempt: success! vessel.exe crashes to desktop. Tormented by temptation to politely say "Screw you, Vessel, I'm outta here!" I somehow managed to persevere and play on. That was the worst case scenario, but similar things did happen now and then. I honestly doubt I've solved more than 15 puzzles without making any mistakes.

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7.8   Good

Advanced mind gymnastics for serious puzzle enthusiasts, slightly innovative gameplay reminsicent of that found in Abe's Oddysee and Abe's Exoddus, music is sparse but good;

Repetitive and predominantly boring environments, Vessel is more about hard work than about fun gameplay.


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