Vessel is a puzzle platformer, featuring the heavy use of various forms of liquid, as well as the AI of creatures made up of these liquids. The first game by Strange Loop Games, Vessel features 4 experienced creators, some previously from EA, brought together by this single project, and working together to make one original, beautiful game.
You are M. Arkwright, inventor of the liquid automaton, Fluro. With this new technology you have changed the world, and Fluros are used as labour from factories and orchards, to mines. Over time, however, the Fluros have begun to change; their behavior and even shape evolving and branching out unpredictably. This has caused problems for the industries that use them, Fluros wreaking havoc and generally not doing as they’re told. So you’ve taken it upon yourself to get these places working again, while investigating and harnessing these new forms.
In between clearing up the mess the rogue Fluros have made, you are also working hard back at your workshop to use what you’ve learned about their evolution to create an even more powerful, and stable, form of Fluro. And, when you have time, upgrade the equipment you’ve invented to control the fluid these creatures are made up of.
These developments and new understanding of how the different Fluros behave are told to you in a Journal, with brief but descriptive entries, along with sketches explaining how you might be able to use these new behaviors to your advantage.
The main thing you’ll be doing throughout this title will be solving puzzles. Using your knowledge of the behavior of the Fluros you encounter as well as manipulating the liquids they are made out of will allow you to progress to a series of machines in each area that have stopped due to the errant Fluros. Once you’ve fixed all of the machines in the stage, you’ll need to defeat a boss, or otherwise disable some big machine that was causing all the trouble in the first place.
At the beginning of the game, you invest a backpack and hose which you’ll carry around with you. This allows you to suck up and shoot out a variety of liquids, helping you out in the puzzles. You’ll also be able to “Sample” a Fluro, letting you create a completely new Fluro of varying kinds from a sample you’ve already collected.
If you are playing on the PC, and using the keyboard and mouse, you’ll be fine for the first few hours of this game. But once you start relying on the hose more and more, the controls get really fiddly to use. You effectively have to move, jump, grab, and deploy Fluro “Seeds” with one hand, and use the mouse to suck of shoot liquid.
For me, that wasn’t very practical; it took so much thinking about just to do simple tasks, so I gave up on the keyboard and mouse entirely, opting for a gamepad instead. Once I’d made this change everything was infinitely easier to control, so I’d recommend using a controller from the start.
That said, playing this game, while frustrating on some of the more taxing puzzles, was a great experience. The fluid simulation is really smooth, and is a great change from the usual boxes found in most physics puzzlers. The way the Fluros behave and react to their environment is wonderful, and figuring out how to properly harness their unique behaviors gives you a great sense of satisfaction.
There’s tons of gameplay to be had here; the amount of puzzles and content is simply amazing. There are many indie physics puzzle games out there that simply don’t have the mileage and variance to keep you going for more than a couple of hours, but Vessel is sure to tie you up for a few days at least!
Audio & Visual
The music in this game is absolutely wonderful. The soundtrack was created by Jon Hopkins, a big name in the music industry; and it shows. The music is atmospheric, pumping, moving, and above all else, beautiful. The music reacts to gameplay in such a way as to reward you with crescendos when you solve a puzzle, and giving one synergistic experience to the player.
The tone of the music goes perfectly hand-in-hand with the game itself. With a sense of heightened 3D realism to the world, each area has it’s own unique and colourful glimpse at the universe of Vessel. Everything is beautifully rendered and animated, with each object having it’s own physical presence, letting you interact with and manipulate them in easy and obvious ways.
The machinery you use, with a little tinkering here and there, is very easy to understand and utilize, leaving you to worry about solving the puzzles rather than figuring out where the buttons and levers are. The lighting is dynamic, keeping the world varied and interesting, as well as affecting the behavior of certain Fluros.
Whilst this game can be said to be a 2D platformer, the level of depth and detail within the areas is astounding; everything having it’s own 3D, stunningly realised model, even well into the distance. It’s a joy simply to exist in the world of Vessel.
This game is great. The soundtrack, art, fluid simulation, and overall attention to detail, makes Vessel a wonderful game to play, start to finish. And as the game crescendos and intensifies as you near then end, you’ll be left on a high note that will leave an impression and stay with you well after you’ve finished the last puzzle. Do yourself a favour; GET THIS GAME!