VANE’s opening sequence drops you into pure chaos, a storm rages on while you run blindly around trying to escape the world falling apart under your feet. After a minute of clambering around you finally find sanctuary in the form of a house, only to have the door closed abruptly in your face. Jump ahead two minutes and you’re a bird perched on top of a tree, desert stretched out as far as the eye can see, the storm a distant memory and a distant rumbling on the horizon.
The opening puzzle took me a little longer to crack than I would care to admit, purely because I wasn’t quite sure what I was doing was, in fact, the thing I should be doing. There’s no dialogue so you rely on glimmers of light as indicators as to where you should be heading and this can at times be confusing, but in turn, it also encourages you to explore the world more than you perhaps would have.
As the story progresses you gain the ability to transform from a bird to a boy and back again with the use of an ominous glowing gold substance, this mechanic plays heavily in the first few puzzles, but appears to be forgotten towards the end, the game instead favouring your wing-less form.
Visually VANE is stunning when in bird form the light jumps from your wings in stunning shades of green and blue, and the horizon shimmers with possibility in the distance. The beautiful art style isn’t quite as impressive close up however, I encountered a fair amount of clipping if I dared venture too close to a cliff edge, and when landing as the bird I occasionally got to glimpse the hidden underbelly of the game.
The more I played of VANE, the more I started to enjoy myself, once you get a handle of the finicky controls and start seeing a pattern in the way the puzzles worked, the more fun the game becomes. It wasn’t until near the end of the game that I started to actually have an interest in the story, unfortunately, even after finishing the game I’m still a little confused as to what actually happened, the game has you asking countless questions throughout and then refuses to answer any of them.
VANE has all the makings of a great little indie puzzle game, unfortunately, it misses the mark in a few ways that make it equally frustrating as it is enjoyable. At its best you’re soaring across the beautiful landscape, enjoying all the freedom your wings allow; at its worst, you’re fumbling around in the dark fighting with controls to complete your objective.
*Code kindly provided by the publisher for review*