by Marjolein Verheij
previewed on PC
Water is life
Water is the essence of life they say. In Vessel, an indie side scroller from developer Strange Loop Games, it most certainly is. The game revolves around Fluros, creations made from water, lava, glowing goo or chemical spills that were invented by M. Arkwright. The cute looking liquid beings have unique abilities including melting, reforming, mixing with other types of fluid and re-growing lost limbs. This flexibility makes them the perfect workers to operate the machinery of Arkwright’s world. They’re easily destroyed, but also easily created.
But over the years the Fluros have started to change. They merged with the machinery, evolved and are now taking over the worksites, wreaking havoc as they go. It’s your job, as Arkwright, to clear all worksites of these rogue Fluros and restore peace and order to the world.
Looking like something akin to a Ghostbuster, Arkwright is equipped with a water gun and a backpack in which he can store liquid. He also carries seeds with which he can grow Fluros when things get to complex for him to manage on his own. His Fluros are friendly and always eager to help, even when they need to go up against rogue Fluros. To create one, Arkwright has to find a source of liquid – usually water - and plant the seed. It sucks up the water and grows into full-grown Fluro. If no water is available, or if it is too far from the obstacle you have to pass, you can use the water gun to suck water into your backpack and carry it back to the place it is most needed. Even if the source of water is underground, you can still suck it up through grates in the floor. Once grown into a full Fluro, your creation will try to help you where it can.
The puzzles you need to solve will get tougher and tougher the further you get into the game. You will have to create, manipulate and destroy a wide variety of Fluros on your way, as well as operate complex machinery to solve them. An important part of solving them is understanding just how the different properties of liquid work when you put them together. Arkwright will encounter different evolutions of Fluros along the way and their natural changes can help him solve the tougher puzzles. He can add any newly found Fluros to his arsenal by collecting a number of different seeds through his adventures.
Evolved Fluros all have different colours and abilities. The blue ones are attracted to water and can suck up any water they encounter into their bodies until they explode rather violently. A well placed blue Fluros that is set to explode is strong enough to open a door should you so wish. The white Fluros love buttons and are therefore masters in opening doors and walls, allowing Arkwright to pass through the opening to get to the next chamber. Mixing the red and blue liquids of dissolved Fluros will cause an explosion as well while yet other combinations allow them to be stuck onto walls to change streams of water or lava.
Vessel uses the proprietary “Vessel engine” for its animations and it does a wonderful job bringing the game world and its inhabitants to life. Lava glisters, water splashes and streams flow very realistically and the Fluros are the cutest creations I have seen in an indie game to date, and that’s not because others haven’t tried. Even if you don’t manage to solve a puzzle in one go, you’ll have lots of fun creating and playing with these creatures and watching the rest of the liquid in the game. Everywhere you look, you can see clearly that Strange Loop Games has poured their heart into creating Vessel. Marketed as a ‘liquid physics-based gaming experience’ I can’t wait to get my hands on the finished game.