Note: iOS 9 + Facebook users w/ trouble scrolling: #super sorry# we hope to fix it asap. In the meantime Chrome Mobile is a reach around
hot  /  reviews  /  videos  /  cblogs  /  qposts


Review: Vessel

5:00 PM on 03.14.2012 // Darren Nakamura

Water you waiting for?

Puzzle platformers are a bit of a staple of independent games. Since Braid saw critical and commercial success in 2008, the genre has almost become saturated, and while each game may explore its own new ideas in various ways, it has become increasingly difficult to care about them on the level they deserve.

Vessel focuses on fluid dynamics as its central idea. Like any good puzzle platformer should, it constantly does something new with that idea, making for a densely packed game with little filler content. As a physics-based puzzle game, it suffers from a few pitfalls that keep it from being truly great, but Vessel is still a very good game and certainly worth the time and money spent on it.

Vessel (PC)
Developer: Strange Loop Games
Publisher: IndiePub Games
Released: March 1, 2012
MSRP: $14.99

Vessel puts players into the shoes of genius inventor Arkwright, whose creation of Fluros has revolutionized industry. Fluros are machines that animate liquids and can be programmed to perform various tasks. At the story's inception, these semi-sentient beings have locked Arkwright out of his workshop, and he decides he needs to better control the Fluros before they wreak too much havoc.

A lot of the back story is implied, or gained gradually over the course of the narrative through Arkwright's own journal entries. It starts simply; stuff is messed up and you have to fix it. However, the uncomplicated setup paves the way for some pretty intellectually taxing puzzles.

In the beginning, the puzzles involve simple manipulation of water in order to turn turbines, lower bridges, and open doors. Before that gets predictable, the player is introduced to the first type of Fluro, which will incessantly hit switches, usually to Arkwright's benefit, but sometimes to his chagrin. Shortly after learning how this Fluro functions, Vessel introduces a new type that will chase the player before attempting to pounce on him.

In all, there are five types of Fluros. In addition to the two described above, there are Fluros that seek out more of the liquid that composes them, as well as a pair of Fluros that are either attracted to or repelled from light. Additionally, there are five types of liquids that can be used to build a Fluro. Water is the default, lava will hurt Arkwright and create steam when contacting water, red and blue goo will form an explosive when they contact each other, and green goo is luminescent.

And yes, you can make a light-fearing Fluro out of the glowing green liquid. It will whimper and immediately kill itself, knowing it can't escape its own light. It's kind of heartbreaking.

The difficulty curve on the puzzles is pretty spot on. Vessel gradually introduces new mechanics, and constantly builds new experiences to take advantage of those mechanics. Toward the end, there are some particularly tricky puzzles, as the player has a substantial inventory or Fluros and liquids, and figuring out exactly the combination necessary for the task at hand is sometimes frustrating. However frustrating a puzzle may be, it is still satisfying to finally have the epiphany necessary to complete it.

Therein lies one flaw in Vessel, and most other physics-based puzzle games. There are a handful of puzzles in which the solution is apparent, but the execution is finicky. Sometimes the liquids don't act the way one would expect, and frequently the Fluros themselves behave strangely. There was an instance of a puzzle near the end in which I knew the solution, but the first two tries resulted in the necessary Fluro bumping into something the wrong way and exploding. On my third try, doing nothing conceptually differently than before, I was successful. Sometimes, game physics just break, and it's irritating when it happens toward the end of a longer puzzle.

Thankfully, Vessel checkpoints frequently. Although the levels do flow together fairly seamlessly, each puzzle is discrete and typically only takes up a screen or two. So while the physics will sometimes create a frustrating situation, the level design and checkpointing save it from being rage-inducing.

Another element that soothes any potential rage is the world itself. Simply put, it's beautiful. The fully rendered backgrounds have a simple, clean aesthetic that is visually interesting, but not so much that it distracts from the task at hand. One thing that really impressed me is that the different environments not only look different, but also have a completely different feel. The factory area is cluttered with machinery and puts Arkwright into relatively tight spaces, while the orchard is much more open. It's a small touch, but the puzzles in the orchard are affected by the extra breathing room, and it adds more than just visual variety.

While the environments offer a visual treat and look fantastic in still images, the animation isn't quite on the same level. As a fully rendered game that functions on a two-dimensional plane based heavily on physics, Arkwright's running animation is almost QWOP-esque. It is slightly stiff and unnatural, but against the gorgeous backdrops, it stands out. The animation for the various liquids is also a bit jarring, though not quite as much as the protagonist's movement.

The music in Vessel is also handled very smartly. The tracks that play in the factory are low and mechanical, while those in the orchard are much brighter and more free flowing. On their own, they are interesting pieces worthy of listening, but Vessel also dynamically builds them depending on what is happening in game. Solving a tough puzzle on its own is enjoyable, and that feeling is amplified when the solution causes a subtle musical transition.

With roughly ten hours of gameplay and little to no filler content, Vessel is a great value. Its main selling point, fluid physics-based mechanics, is also the source of its minor failings. For those not too fatigued with puzzle platformers, it is a solid title oozing with atmosphere and intelligent puzzle design.



Vessel - Reviewed by Darren Nakamura
Likable - That's a seven, which is actually a different number than five. It's more than ok. We like this game. I don't want to play it every day forever and ever, but it's definitely worth the time I invested in it, and I'll be picking it up again to relive the fun sometime down the line.

See more reviews or the Destructoid score guide.

Darren Nakamura, Associate Editor
 Follow Blog + disclosure Dexter345 Tips
Darren is a scientist during the day. He has been a Destructoid community member since 2006, joining the front page as a contributor in 2011. While he enjoys shooters, RPGs, platformers, strateg... more   |   staff directory

 Setup email comments

Unsavory comments? Please report harassment, spam, and hate speech to our community fisters, and flag the user (we will ban users dishing bad karma). Can't see comments? Apps like Avast or browser extensions can cause it. You can fix it by adding * to your whitelists.

destructoid's previous coverage:

  Jan 07

Indie puzzle platformer Vessel not coming to Xbox 360

Still set for PS3, possibly releasing on Xbox One

View all:powered by:  MM.Elephant

Ads on destructoid may be purchased from:

Please contact Crave Online, thanks!

Cblogs of 11/26/15 + Combat Heropon-isms

Video games go mainstream

I’m Not a SJW, I’m an Anthropologist: Making the Case for Diversity in Games

Insidia REVIEW - A whole dark, gloomy, and kinda creepy world to explore

DS REVIEWS: Trace Memory

Things I'm Thankful For

Cblogs of 11/25/15 + Turkey N Stuff

Cheat Codes Podcast - Ep. 73: Stay Classy

NVGR: Updated Album "ADBC" (No longer an EP)

 Add your impressions

Status updates from C-bloggers

Confuseddalek avatarConfuseddalek
I found this weird game called Samurai Heroes for 8 dollars today. Its not bad.
Solar Pony Django avatarSolar Pony Django
Got Deadpool, Arkham Asylum and BioShock 1 and 2 all for 30$. Not to bad for going Black Friday shopping late.
RadicalYoseph avatarRadicalYoseph
If you haven't played Tales from the Borderlands yet, GO BUY IT! By far the funniest game I have ever played, and the characters and narrative are incredibly well written. Very few memes unlike BL2 by the way.
James Internet Ego avatarJames Internet Ego
Played all of Life is Strange today in one sitting. Bloody hell. You should all play it. Only game this year to make me cry. Bravo developers. Possibly the most valuable thing I've ever bought for £10.
Gamemaniac3434 avatarGamemaniac3434
Last night, got farther than ever in Wasteland 2. This is my third playthrough-once thru beta, once through the orig version, now on Directors cut. Worth the restart, and it speaks highly of the game that I like it enough to do this. DAMONTA HERE I COME!
KeithTheGeek avatarKeithTheGeek
GUYS HELP I KEEP BUYING MORE AMIIBO. Today it was Little Mac, since he went back up on Gamestop's website. I probably would have gotten Captain Falcon as well if I wasn't already running a little short on cash.
BigDoniel avatarBigDoniel
50 hours in and I can safely say that Xenoblade is the best JRPG I've played in years. Should hopefully be finished in time for X too!
Pixie The Fairy avatarPixie The Fairy
One job down on day I should have off, now for the other job.
CoilWhine avatarCoilWhine
I beat Murasaki Baby on PS Vita. Easy 100% trophy. That ending theme tho.
TheGwailo avatarTheGwailo
I have 34 games in my Steam queue alone, 4 on xbone, and a handful on handhelds. I have 3 days to make a dent. Time's up, let's do this!
Archelon avatarArchelon
Community Question: To make up for yesterday, I decided to ask a second Community Question today. Have you taken advantage of any Black Friday deals today? If so, what did you purchase? Feel free to share pictures of your spoils, if you have any.
Jiraya avatarJiraya
Some Black Friday artwork arrived today ! [img][/img]
Lawman avatarLawman
Black Friday is getting to me. All these games I kinda, maybe want that are at anywhere between respectable and deep discounts, but I'm not sure if I want to bite. I'm wondering if Godzilla's worth $12? After checking review scores, I'm not sure.
Amna Umen avatarAmna Umen
Mission complete![IMG][/IMG]
Serethyn avatarSerethyn
Black Friday slowly seems to creep its way onto Continental Europe, but I'm not complaining! I managed to get my grubby little paws on a new physical copy of The Wonderful 101 for €20! Thanks, America!
Archelon avatarArchelon
Community Question: Since I missed yesterday, I am going to do something a little different today. Are there any questions you would like to ask me for a change? If so, please feel free. I may add a second Community Question later today, as well.
RexterNathan avatarRexterNathan
Isn't PES 2016 Free-to-Play model just the demo with extra crap thrown in?
Fenriff avatarFenriff
Damn Gumo, you cold as fuck. [img][/img]
Atleastimhousebroken avatarAtleastimhousebroken
While partially responsible for one of the biggest jokes in the metal, Cold Lake by Celtic Frost, Curt Bryant is doing the soundtrack to the game Slain!. I'm digging the shitty garage band vibe.
LinkSlayer64 avatarLinkSlayer64
How is the Lightening thread STILL GETTING COMMENTS!?!?!? P.S. I am trying to make Chex Mix, but we lost my special recipe I custom designed. sucks man.
more quickposts



Invert site colors

  Dark Theme
  Light Theme

Destructoid means family.
Living the dream, since 2006

Pssst. konami code + enter

modernmethod logo

Back to Top

We follow moms on   Facebook  and   Twitter
  Light Theme      Dark Theme
Pssst. Konami Code + Enter!
You may remix stuff our site under creative commons w/@
- Destructoid means family. Living the dream, since 2006 -