Publisher: Friend & Foe
Developer: Friend & Foe
Release Date: 01/15/19 (PS4), 07/22/19 (PC)
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Sony is well known for their “artsy-fartsy” games that started way back on the PS1 with titles such as Intelligent Qube and Vib-Ribbon. Later games such as echochrome and Unfinished Swan pushed this further as indie-friendly games that are all about art and vision rather than sales. Vane is another game in this…vain…ha! It sadly misses the mark on what these other art house games do.
You play as a girl who can turn into a crow and you start out flying around a valley and the direction of what to do is unclear just like the story itself. Most of these artsy games have some clear story through visual or audio representation and by the end, you get the message, but Vane doesn’t have either of these. We open up with the girl delivering a gold something to a large crow elder in a storm and she gets shunned away and gets eaten by the storm. As we fly around as the crow we are attracted to shiny objects in the distance on windmills and these release gold leaves and more crows follow you to the centerpiece windmill that requires enough crows to release a gold ball.
As this ball is released you are taken prisoner and somehow you must free more crows and the gold stuff turn you into a little girl that can walk around. This second area is the last time you will use your flying skills as the entire back half of the game sees you just walking around and rolling a giant gold ball around. So that’s the entirety of the game. There’s no point to it all and the ending doesn’t answer anything either. There are a few push/pull puzzles with the giant ball as you need to find more girls to use your scream powers to rewind time in a large enough area to recreate bridges. After that it’s more stuff with the gold and no explanation as to what it’s used for, who are these crow elders, why are we bringing this gold ball to the top of a tower? Nothing, there’s no investment for the 2 hours of your life you will never get back.
If you’re going to do an artsy game at least give us a story at the bare minimum. Journey did this wonderfully and was memorable because of the visuals, music, and visual story it told. The problems don’t end there with Vane however, there are glitches and bugs that require restarts such as physics issues in which I would get stuck on something or the giant gold ball would roll in the wrong direction and not be retrievable. One time my crow wouldn’t transform into a girl and required a manual restart.
At least the visuals are nice with an abstract fractal typesetting with some great lighting and well-designed characters, but it’s all for naught if there’s nothing to care about in the game. Vane is a sadly missed opportunity with too much emphasis on visuals and less on something the player needs to strive for. We know these girls are desperate to save something, but what? It’s never clear and not really worth the time to play through.