Vane Review (PS4)

Vane is an artsy puzzle adventure game from indie studio Friend & Foe Games, founded by experienced developers, some of whom have previously worked at Sony Japan Studio. As such, the inspiration from Team ICO’s past work is visible in Vane’s DNA.

The game’s opening puts you in control of a little boy who struggles to make his way towards a structure in the distance, as a storm engulfs his surroundings, tearing away everything bit by bit. Upon reaching a certain point, he finds himself trapped in the wind and is blown into the air. In the next section, you assume control of a bird who is in the middle of a vast, desolate desert. The bird is, in fact, another form of the boy.

Vane Review (PS4)

Vane’s minimalistic approach is made evident from the onset. There’s no UI overlay, no non-playable characters to interact with, no narrative, and no hints. There are, however, key points of interest that are brought to your attention as they shine from the distance. The art style and sound design echo this sentiment of minimalism, with a low-poly aesthetic and use of sound during key moments. If the intention was to evoke a feeling of isolation and loneliness, the approach works on all accounts. The art style is also reminiscent of that of Team ICO games in places.

Playing as the bird, gameplay largely involves locating the aforementioned points of interest across the desert and interacting with them in order to rally other birds towards the solution of a central puzzle that can only be solved once there are enough of them to assist you. In later sections, you’ll also be required to free birds from cages for the same purpose.

Puzzles get more complex in nature as you progress through the game’s different regions, where you’ll be required to transform into the boy in order to solve one part, and then switch back to the bird to take care of the other part. This back and forth transformation of forms is the core game loop that is essential to making progress.

Vane Review (PS4)

Transforming to the boy requires you to dip the bird into golden lava of sorts, which is either already located somewhere in the level or is contained inside a cage that needs to be broken so as to pour the lava out. Switching back to the bird is a relatively simpler task. As the boy, you merely have to find a ledge high enough to jump off from. Instead of falling, he quickly transforms into the bird.

Solving puzzles and traversing through areas builds a momentum shift, and you’ll notice that surrounding environments begin to get distorted. This is key component of the game’s overarching story, which is conveyed to you in an abstract manner much like in Team ICO’s games.

Controlling the bird is fairly simple and intuitive. One button flaps its wings in order to gain height and move ahead, while another slows it down. The bird slows down automatically when approaching surfaces that can be interacted with and lands on top of them. A third button is used to summon a nearby flock of birds and rally them.

On the other hand, controlling the boy feels like a chore and is often an affair riddled with issues. There’s a jump button as well as a grab button for pushing objects around. The latter is used for interacting with puzzle related objects, such as breaking open bird cages or pushing cages containing golden lava down a ledge so that it may pour out. Occasionally, you’ll also find the boy glitching through environmental objects.

Vane Review (PS4)

Camera control is problematic when controlling either the bird or the boy. Get too close to a wall or object and repositioning the camera often places it behind environmental objects, effectively blocking your view of the character. To make matters worse, the game also suffers from performance issues on the PS4, with random slowdowns blemishing the experience.

Vane is an experience filled with intrigue and mystery, but it’s held back by some technical issues. One can’t help but feel that it could’ve used some more time in the oven. That said, despite its issues, it’s better than the sum of its parts and worth checking out by fans of Team ICO’s past work.

Vane Review (PS4)
Vane Review (PS4)

Game Reviewed on: PS4

Game description: From the team at Friend & Foe Games, Vane is a stunning, emotional and unnerving experience. Developed with the conviction that players should find their own path through the world, the result is a minimalistic, stark environment that encourages exploration just to the edge of getting lost, set to an all-original brooding synth soundtrack.

  • Final Score - 7/10
    7/10

Summary

Vane is an experience filled with intrigue and mystery, but it’s held back by some technical issues. One can’t help but feel that it could’ve used some more time in the oven. That said, despite its issues, it’s better than the sum of its parts and worth checking out by fans of Team ICO’s past work.

7.0/10

Muhammad Ali Bari

Reviews Editor at GearNuke

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