Vane is an explorative puzzle game which encourages you to get lost to help solve the puzzles the game contains. I can tell you after about getting halfway in the game I wished I could get lost and not play the game anymore.
Vane is a bit a like a Yu-Gi-Oh card. It has great artwork which is inspiring and cool to look at, but when you get down to it, it’s attached to a shallow and poorly thought out franchise. That’s a little like Vane and its story which is quite simple and resembles a fairy tale, you’re a child who can turn into a raven who is trying to get through a barren world but the magical tower to complete some kind of task. But it’s not really all that compelling.
The story itself is bare bones but I suppose that’s so game academics can read into what the story represents, I can imagine with a story this short and thin that will happen a lot.
The simple nature of Vane‘s design also makes it quite tedious to explore when solving puzzles and completing tasks, but of course these tasks would be a little easier to resolve if the game didn’t have what feels like a totally pretentious attitude towards gameplay as it gives you very little in the way of hints or guidance on what to do. Now I’m not one for having your hand held throughout the entire game, but there is a happy middle-ground between patronizing hints and making it too easy and burning the instructions and making you work it out on your own.
As for Vane‘s gameplay, you switch between a child or raven to solve puzzles. Most of these puzzles involve you exploring different kinds of environments, like deserts, a factory, and a magical tower. Much like the story, Vane‘s environments are pretty simplistic too but are also fairly pretty in the way it looks like Picasso had re-created an old 8-bit game in 3D, giving it his surreal flair.
Though overall, it did become a little tedious to explore these environments as flying can a real hassle with having to constantly tap a button to stay aloft and landing on certain objects feels like your trying to land a helicopter on a helipad the size of a dinner plate. Not only that, walking around is a slog as you have no sprint and your character is cursed to lightly jog everywhere which is a real annoyance when you’ve cracked a puzzle and want to resolve it
To be honest, if you have your wits about you, the first few levels are all quite straight forward. For example, the first level involves you in crow mode trying to topple a tower to spill out some magic ooze to help you move to the next level. You quickly realize that you need to explore the desert you are in to find more birds to sit on the vines on top to topple it and all is good.
Well, that good vibe doesn’t last long as the fourth stage became the straw to break the camel’s back and exposes the many cracks in Vane. The 4th stage is a huge departure from the gameplay in previous levels as in human mode you and a team of NPCs mostly push around powerful magic that repairs the damaged platforms that surround the magic you are trying to enter.
Vane was also host to a mix of bugs and just bad level design with the one-two knock out that prevents me from recommending this game in its current state. Here are the five things that lead to this statement:
- The first was in the factory level when my characters head seems to merge with a rock at head height and all movement was lost so I had to restart.
- The previously mentioned boulder lead to several restarts later down the line as when I needed to use it’s matter building powers for the first time to link two platforms, you have to have it in exactly the right place as your NPCs will push it off the platform before the final bridge is formed.
- When exploring the platforms and I came back my boulder had vanished and guess what I had to restart.
- The boulder got trapped in a hole in the platform and what I did I have to do? Oh yeah, restart the level from scratch.
- On a restart, my NPCs couldn’t be bothered to help me move the boulder so you know what I had to do.
Basically, that boulder became the bane of my life during my playthrough of Vane. A bonus sixth thing was a command prompt didn’t show to explain who could move a hidden door and it wasn’t until I looked at a walkthrough that I realized this.
I did power on through only to discover that the final level is just a slog, a trippy walking simulator as you follow a strange group of cloaked beings up a tower with a matter changing trumpet. This linear path has you eventually reach a strange room where the floor keeps turning into different obstacles like a small wall or a bridge where the climbing mechanic takes a break and it wasn’t until about 20 minutes in that I realized that you weren’t supposed to try and get into the glowing tower but must move away from the tower to move forward (clever but annoying) and all of this hassle… so you can queue and absorb a glowing ball of energy. Worth it.