Developer: FinalBoss Games
Publisher: FinalBoss Games
Release Date: 19 January 2018
Price: $14.99 / £8.99
Reviewed by Phil Myth
Vesta is a top-down 3D puzzler, in which you must work your way through several levels of an abandoned space colony in order to find out just what happened to everyone, and why you were left behind.
You primarily play as the titular heroine, using her power pack to move charges of energy from one apparatus to another, activating platforms, opening doors and firing up escalators as you go. All this is done with the aim of reaching the elevator at the end of each stage with 3 full charges in order to take it to the next level.
A little help from her friends
As well as drawing power from various mechanisms, Vesta can also sap the various defence robots of their energy in order to unlock new paths. Doing so requires the stunning of those robots, something Vesta cannot do herself.
Fortunately you can switch control from Vesta to her personal security droid who can fire shots to disable enemies, as well as activate switches, push and pull blocks, and toss Vesta over small gaps.
Switching between the two, and figuring out which abilities will need to be utilised in order to make your way through an area, makes for a nice variety in the challenges. Whilst the tools are pretty much the same throughout, the way they’re applied across the game’s 36 stages ensures that no two levels feel the same.
Get a move on
The learning curve is nicely balanced too, with the escalating complexity married perfectly to your growing understanding of the game’s mechanics. There were one or two occasions where I was left scratching my head, but it made it just that more satisfying when I eventually figured out the correct path.
However, there is a certain level of tedium that sets in around halfway through. This is mostly down to how achingly slow both Vesta and her battle droid move around. Whilst precision is always welcome, if you figure out where you need to place the various energy balls in order to get to the end, but die in the process, starting over feels like a huge chore because of the sluggish movement.
This is compounded by the fact that Vesta is killed with a single hit, shot, or explosion. Frustratingly, if you cross directly in front of an enemy triggering their attack, it counts as a hit whether they make contact or not.
The battle droid can take a little more punishment - three hits to Vesta’s one - but you’ve got to be careful where you leave them when switching between the two, lest a wandering foe take them down whilst you’re figuring out a puzzle elsewhere in the stage.
Similarly, if you make it to the end of the stage without a full energy tank, back tracking to find the power cell you missed or forgot takes far longer than it should because of the pedestrian movement.
It’s so dull in fact, that I almost stopped playing because it was ceasing to be any fun. What did compel me to continue however, was the game’s story.
There’s some mystery as to why the base’s security robots are turning their firepower on it’s sole remaining inhabitant. Vesta is inquisitive and likeable, asking questions of a floating, guiding computer, that is less than forthcoming in answering, and you do find yourself becoming as wary of everyone else’s motivations as Vesta herself is.
The key plot points are played out in brief interactions with other functioning but incapacitated robots that you occasionally come across. However, in a similar fashion to Metroid Prime, you can learn far more about the background to the game’s events by checking out computer terminals littered throughout.
Whilst the narrative is simple, with a telegraphed yet satisfying twist at the end, it nevertheless subtly touches on larger themes such as the role of government or religion in some of these optional exposés. The thought behind the narrative elevates a game that would otherwise just be an uninteresting puzzler.
Graphically Vesta isn’t exactly beautiful, but it did tickle the part of my brain that’s nostalgic for N64 adventure games in the right way. I daresay it’s a love it or hate it art style, but I’m rather fond of it. Likewise the music is unobtrusive and forgettable, but adds to the ambience in the right way. It runs fine in both docked and handheld modes by and large, but on wider shots or where there's a lot going on, the frame rate does judder a little. Fortunately these instances only pop up once or twice.
Most impressive though are the handful of cutscenes that play out like a comic book. Frankly, this approach to story telling in video games isn’t done nearly enough and the art is rather on the pretty side.
Ultimately Vesta does a lot right. Every one of the levels are cleverly designed and satisfying to puzzle out. The presentation won’t be to everyone’s liking, and the slow pace of traversal is almost completely off-putting, but the game’s narrative is compelling enough for you to want to see it through to the end.
Pros & Cons
+ Clever story
+ Intelligent level design
+ Gorgeous comic-book cutscenes
- Tedious traversal
- Love it or hate it art style
- Unavoidable enemy attacks