Review: Vessel – It’s never too late to play a great game!

VesselOpening

This little gem of a game passed by relatively unnoticed last year. Vessel is a puzzler/platformer developed by Strange Loop Games. It has the most interesting concepts that I’ve seen in recent time. Its unique gameplay keeps gamers interested and on their toes. Ultimately, it’s lacking some polish, but that doesn’t stop it from being an amazing game.

You play as a genius inventor named Arkwright, whose creation of Fluros have revolutionized industry. Fluros are machines that manipulate and animate liquid to perform various tasks. Unfortunately, the Fluros have taken over most of the town, and it’s up to you to fix them.

The game’s setting takes place in an alternate steampunk past during an industrial revolution. The story starts off in Arkwright’s workshop. You’re given a brief insight into the back story about the creation of the Fluros, then you’re accidentally locked out of your apartment and it’s off to start some puzzle solving!

Vessel00

The game’s main mechanic is liquid. You plant Fluros seeds, and once the seed has enough liquid, it becomes a semi-sentient being that helps you solve puzzles by activating switches.

Vessel01

You can use different types of seeds to perform different tasks. The first seed is a basic type that lets the Fluros move and jump around.

Vessel02

They’re kind of cute, in a weird alien blob way.

The fluid simulation does work but, being physically simulated, it does lead to some random happenings. For example, there are a couple of instances where the fluid buildup might glitch, but it quickly sorts itself out after a second creation. Also, you can’t actually control the Fluros. They move along a scripted path, which sometime leads to the Fluros stepping on the wrong switch or crashing into each other. These problems were minor, not game breaking, and usually sorted themselves out.

The puzzle-solving in Vessel really gets your brain tinkering. With no instructions and no hints, the game lets you sort out solutions on your own. It was really refreshing not to have a game hold your hand or tell you everything with giant shiny arrows. It instead teaches by building upon new mechanics from previously learned puzzles. Make no mistake, Vessel is NOT easy. There were times that I had no idea what to do, so I just started throwing random seeds around to see if something happened.

Vessel03

It usually doesn’t.

There were times my brain would start screaming, “Please! Stop! No more thinking!” and I would force it to work, because I really wanted to solve the puzzle. I might be painting a scary picture, but the puzzles aren’t really that bad. The most time I spent was probably fifteen to twenty minutes on one. It just makes the game all the more rewarding once you figure them out.

The art style has a minimalist feel, and the steampunk style fits in nicely with the game’s overall appeal. The main character wears goggles, and he kind of looks like a character from Penny Arcade.

Vessel04

The environments are well done, but they do tend to blend together, which adds to puzzle complexity since key areas don’t stand out. The textures can be a little bland and are used over and over again. They could use much more variety.

Overall , the graphics aren’t too shabby, and I haven’t come across any major graphical issues.

Vessel05

Score: B+

All-in-all, the gameplay is really unique and enjoyable. The game is pretty lengthy, and the puzzles are always challenging. Some physical properties of the fluid felt like they needed to be tightened, but it’s still a solid game.

The game is available on Steam (there’s also a demo!), Xbox 360, and PS3. Check out Strange Loop Games on their official site, Facebook, and Twitter.

Check out the trailer here:

I hope to see more stuff from Strange Loop Games in the future!

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