Taking inspiration from classic titles such as Journey, Ico and Rime, Vane is a beautiful exploration / puzzle game that just released for the PlayStation 4. It’s a game I was very eager to launch myself into after watching pre-release footage. I was mesmerised by the game’s beautiful world and intrigued by its core mechanic that allowed you to swap between a child and a bird to allow different forms of traversal.
Once I actually got my hands on it however it quickly became apparent that Vane was never going to live up to the heights of the games with which it took inspiration. Glitches, lack of direction, and awkward controls all hold Vane back from being something genuinely special.
Vane was a disappointing release for me, and the reason for this is pretty simple; the game became a chore to actually play. It’s the kind of game that throws you into its world and wants you to simply explore at your own pace. Vane wants you to uncover its beauty and its secrets as you play. There will be some light puzzle solving as you go, although the majority of your playtime will be searching for the next ‘thing’ that you can actually interact with and make some form of progression. It’s all very ethereal and up for interpretation by the player. Vane therefore can feel quite directionless. A feeling I never had playing similar games such as the ones mentioned previously. All too often I found myself unsure of where to go or what to do, and I didn’t feel motivated to find out either.
Whilst the game is beautiful in many ways, it also lacks consistency in that department. The visual style and some of the animations are genuinely quite excellent. But at the same time there were moments where the animations were stiff and unresponsive, the character model would clip through the environment or itself, and the game would just glitch out in a visually unpleasing way.
These moments were an unfortunately far too common problem to ignore, and turned something that was initially so beautiful into something that felt unstable.
Perhaps one of Vane’s largest issues was its controls. Soaring through the skies as a bird should be absolute bliss, but it wasn’t. Controlling your character had an awkward stiffness to it, with the camera not helping at all as it draws in towards your character for seemingly no reason. Maintaining a consistent speed and altitude as a bird was a big problem when trying to cover ground, but even worse was when you had to make more finite movements to land on a perch. I felt myself battling the game just to play it.
It’s certainly not all negatives though. At Vane’s core there’s definitely something very charming, intriguing, and alluring about this game. Having a beautiful world to explore and a story that unfolds without words – there’s some good ideas, but ideas that require a bit more finesse to their execution.
Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of Vane is that the game, despite its flaws, is still a promising little title. It still has good ideas that if implemented well could have made for a powerful experience. Unfortunately it just didn’t come together in a cohesive or enjoyable package.
There were moments when the game showed its promising side and I personally would have endured the negatives just to see those positive moments. However when the game glitches out and large swaths of progress are lost, it becomes very difficult to work up the motivation to keep playing.