Well, I can’t say that I’ve ever wanted to be a bird in a game before, but have you seen the trailer for Vane? It looked amazing! I wasn’t sure how being a bird played into the whole narrative, but I wanted to explore that world! Opportunity came knocking and I opened the door and became the boy (and later the bird) and went for a vacation in some crazy-weathered desert. When I started on this journey I was lost. As I continued to explore, I was still lost. Will you get lost? Will you fly into a sand storm and get lost? Will you jump off of cliffs simply because you can? (Probably…) Let me break it down for you. (At least as best as I can.)
So as I mentioned, the weather is crazy bad. I start out as a boy carrying something shiny-looking in the middle of a thunderstorm. Is the shiny thing metal? It sure looks like it. Let’s just say that this seems like a terrible idea for anyone in a thunderstorm. Nevertheless, here I am. I got a little lost on where to go (a running theme for me here). There isn’t much hand-holding going on and that truth set in early here. I’m never told what to do or where to go. While I’m not usually a fan of being told where to go, I don’t do the whole directionless style very well if it’s not an action game. If there are bad guys or some over-arching objective, I can wander with a purpose. Here, I wandered around because I had no better options. With no direction, I had to pick one direction and stick with it. (Just not the band.)
There is a definite boundary for me (the player) and if I went too far in a straight line, a nasty dust storm would carry me back to where I started. (The world is big, but not super big.) I kept flying around and kept a sharp eye out and eventually noticed something shining in the distance. Flying over to it introduced me to one mild issue: the controls. If I was going very fast, slowing down to stop and land on a specific landmark was a bit difficult. Sometimes I would have to circle multiple times to finally land on my target while other times I was spot on. I suggest slowing down first and coming in for a soft landing. Generally this is how the game works. I had to keep exploring and find points of interest and put the results together to figure out what I was supposed to be doing in general. That is until I morphed into a boy because of a golden ball and the power of golden confetti… because that’s how it works. At that point, the camera is more of a foe. The camera would sometimes go behind walls at times or not let me adjust it to my liking. There was one part near the end that I couldn’t quite see the ledge well and I fell off of the stairs a few times. It wasn’t a long fall, but it was still annoying because I swear I wasn’t that close to the ledge. However, the camera was far away and I was walking near a wall that almost covered up the turn in the stairs.
As a boy I spent the majority of my time wandering around and randomly picking directions. There were a few places that looked like obvious choices, but turned out to be dead ends. They didn’t look like dead ends, but upon continuous jumping, falling and not succeeding, I had to pick a new path. Some paths later on down the road would go on and on and others would circle. The whole time I spent adventuring, I had a very real sense of awe at the vastness of the lands, caves and all of the weird places I was exploring. At a certain point, I didn’t feel like I was playing a game anymore. Vane is better described as an experience with puzzle elements. There was a world to explore, but it was more about figuring out the mystery of the lands I was traversing and why these creepy bird-men kept shutting doors on me. Also, to push a ball. You’ve got to push the giant golden ball… and yell at it… a lot.
Nothing really got me stuck until I got to said giant golden ball. The yelling mechanic came in full effect here as yelling at this ball (in-game only because my controller and TV doesn’t care how I feel) helped create and shape new paths hidden from… possibly time or destruction… or space-time? Either way, yelling at the ball is key as that creates shock waves that have the magic, platform-making effects in them. This is also the time where I found a few glitches and fell through places that I shouldn’t have. (I’ve reported them so hopefully you don’t fall through the world like I did. Flying under the world is pretty cool though. Not every time, but sometimes.) Still, there was a lot of not having specific directions on what to do here so there was a bit of “hmm… I’ll go… that way?” There’s not an infinite amount of choices, but if you’re doing something wrong, you won’t be told. You’ll have to come to a point where you realize that what you’re doing isn’t as effective as it should be and move on. (Is Vane a metaphor for life?)
So what’s the story? Why wait until the end of the review to talk about it? That’s because there isn’t much of one. You’re less being told a story and more experiencing one. The story, I believe, explains why the world is the way it is. I know that you start off as a boy who constantly gets a door shut on him by these weird bird-men. Later I’m a bird and I hang out with other birds and chase shiny things and then turn back into a boy and push a giant ball around because it seems like a good idea at the time. I can’t go heavy into the details because I can’t figure out how to do so without giving “spoilers”. There is a twist near-ish the end and even now I’m not quite sure how I feel about it or even if I understand it. I grasp what happened, but could there possibly multiple endings? Maybe. I’ll have to explore that possibility later.