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PAX Prime 2011: Vessel Impressions

Strangle Loop games has created a rather interesting downloadable title with their first release as a developer “Vessel”. I got some hands on time with it, and generally I was pleased with what I got to see and play. So, let’s dig right in. Here’s how Strangle Loop describes their rather quirky puzzle action title.

Arkwright, inventor of the world famous Fluro (mechanized-fluid automaton) is on a quest to finish his next great invention – The Device – that will alter existence in unimaginable ways.
Travel to different industrial sites that use Arkwright’s Fluro invention to run their machinery. The Fluros, thought to be lifeless machines, are somehow developing minds of their own, mutating into new forms and running amok. It is up to Arkwright to understand (and exploit) these strange evolutions, and apply what has emerged in the field back to his lab work at home. Gather these evolved Fluros and machinery and bring them back to Arkwright’s lab to finish his grand invention. Explore physically modeled worlds, solve puzzles by controlling fluid and machines, and harness the power of the mysterious ‘Fluro’ creatures that populate the land.

The first thing you will notice upon seeing the game is its really great art style, that’s completely steampunk. I had to stop a few times and just look at some of the machinery in the background. Strange Loop did a great job conveying a really Victorian feel in some places, and I’m not being sarcastic when I say we could all use more steampunk in our games. I mean I have enough zombies, that’s for certain. Not only does the game boast some pretty sexy graphics, its gameplay elements were both fun and a bit different from the norm. The puzzles I played in the demo level were not too difficult, but just enough that I had to stop and think a few times. I didn’t fly through it, but I wasn’t stumped for a half hour (as I have found myself more than a few times in a Portal test chamber).
What also really stands out about Vessel is the Fluro.  Fluro are these liquid based creatures that you can seemingly create endlessly if you have the liquid on hand to do it. Once you give life to one of these funky little critters using either water, lava, or another liquid on hand, they will automatically set out to help you for said act. I was told that later in the game they’ll do more in the way of helping you, but I mostly only saw them hold switches down to open doors for me to advance. Another thing I found to be cool was the tool you’re using to repair the machines in Vessel’s world. It’s just a tank with a hose attached, but its uses were more dynamic than you might think, like laying out water over lava so that your character can make it across, as well as creating the Fluro you’ll need to help you along your way.

So, like I said at the start, I was mostly pleased with the game, but I really look forward to seeing how the game evolves in later levels; it’s supposed to be about 6 hours roughly, and coming to PSN, XBLA, and PC later this year for $15. I strongly recommend checking this game out if you’re a fan of puzzle/platformer games. It’s not only unique, but genuinely fun.

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