(Review) Vane

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.)

*Insert “This is fine” Meme here.*

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.)

Be the bird… feel it’s birdness and molt like there’s no tomorrow! (There is no actual button for molting.)

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.

The power of confetti is strong with this game.

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.

Look! Look! I made friends and we’re all gonna push the giant golden ball together! What fun! Except when they stand idly by and do nothing… jerks. Where the crap is the dude on the right going anyway?

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?)

Like I said, sometimes you’ve just got to yell at the giant golden ball. Sometimes helps you progress too.

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.

Once I got over Vane not being a game in the more traditional sense and more of an experience with puzzle elements, I had more fun with it. Don’t get me wrong, it was fun, but I expect more out of a “game” than this. If I don’t treat it as such and spend my time enjoying the environments, atmosphere and puzzles, it all becomes much more enjoyable. The camera didn’t help that at times, but that was really a minor issue in the grand scheme of things. This is one of those titles that really pushes the “games = art” narrative really well. I’m not sure I’m the type of person that would see this and pick it up right away, but I did enjoy my time. It’s an easy game to recommend if you’re looking to explore a great looking land and chill to some puzzle elements.

Further Reading on Vane: Facebook / Official Page / PlayStation Store / Twitter

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