I love a good puzzle, give me sudoku or a picross puzzle and I’ll hand it back to you completed within a matter of minutes as I like to think I have a logical mind and can easily overcome any problem thrown my way. Imagine my surprise when I got my hands on Vesta from Finalboss Games and had to really concentrate to work out the solutions to the puzzles at hand! I’ve played a few games throughout 2017 which have you control multiple characters at the same time in order to solve puzzles, such as The Girl and The Robot, but what makes Vesta stand out is the difficulty curve and the ingenious puzzle/level design on offer. Don’t get me wrong, Vesta isn’t the ‘Dark Souls of puzzle games’ as every puzzle can be solved logically; however, some of them are just a little frustrating! Grab your robotic sidekick and come with me as I see if Vesta will leave you saying “Viva la Vesta” or “Hasta la Vesta, baby”…
Vesta is a colourful little puzzle game in which you take control of a 6-year old girl, Vesta, as she works her way through a mysterious factory. Because our main protagonist is merely a child, she is unable to do most things such as move heavy objects, leap large gaps and destroy enemy robots – this is where her companions come in! You are accompanied by two ‘friends’, the first of which, Bot, is a cross between GLaDOS and the floating TV robot from Job Simulator. He is always on hand to tell you where to go next, offer up hints and greet you on each new floor as he watches over you. He may also know a bit more about why you are the last human than he cares to let on, but you will only uncover that if you play the game. Your second companion is a lot more useful, Droid. Droid is the brawn of the group, you take control of him to shoot and stun enemies, move blocks, throw Vesta long distances and even block certain defence mechanisms from hitting and killing our main protagonist.
The mechanics of the game are simple but the way they have been presented and thought-out really helps make the game stand on its own among all the other games with a similar gameplay style. Vesta and Droid are the two controllable protagonists, each with their own strengths and weaknesses, and they must work together in order to find their way through the factory and figure out what happened to everyone. As I mentioned above, Droid can shoot, throw Vesta and move heavy objects in order to help solve each ‘floor’, Vesta can absorb up to three energy cells from power outlets or stunned enemies, dash, collect collectables and operate switches. So between the two, you have to constantly switch who you are controlling in order to help the other one progress. The game starts off fairly easy and gradually gets more advanced and intricate – I have been confused and lost at a few points due to how clever some of the puzzles have been.
All the puzzles follow the same theme, get from A to B whilst avoiding/destroying enemies and swapping power sources in order to operate moving platforms and doors. The game does change things up a little as you progress; for example in the earlier levels, Vesta only needs one energy cell in her pack in order to exit the level but later on, she’ll need three. This means you have to be careful and aware of which sources you can re-absorb the power from so you can still progress whilst still having enough to exit the level. I found this aspect really enjoyable as it really gets you thinking and makes you take note of what you’re doing rather than just being shoehorned to the exit.
The game is quite generous with checkpoints the further into the game you get. However, on quite a few levels, there are no checkpoints or none for quite a while which means if you make one wrong throw or accidentally get hit by a robot then you have to start the level from the beginning. This can get a little annoying but it’s a puzzle game so I wouldn’t expect any less! In regards to getting hit, Vesta dies with one hit, Droid can take three before passing away and Droid can carry Vesta around but if he gets hit then he drops her and takes damage. This could save Vesta from being hurt but it does mean there is a chance he will drop her into a hole (if you are near one). The loading times to get back into the action once you die is a few seconds and you have infinite continues – the devs clearly know that people will die over and over again so at least they made it nice and fast to get back into the game once this happens.
There are 36 levels in total which span over four chapters. Like I said before, the difficulty starts to go up as you progress through each level and then takes another hit as you jump between chapters. Each chapter has a boss on the final level, except it’s the same boss in each chapter! They change the arena you are in by adding more obstacles and new mechanics in terms of how the boss fights but the boss himself is the same character. I wished they would have branched out and made different bosses if I’m honest as you can clearly see the creativity of the level designs in both mechanics and textures, yet I fought the same guy four times. For you to progress through all 36 levels with no guides and work towards 100%, I would say it will take you about 8-10 hours to complete which isn’t bad for a small puzzle game.
For those of you out there who love your trophies and platinums, there are a lot of secret items to find. I can’t remember the exact number but you have a trophy for 50 of them then a trophy for collecting all of them, so there is more than 50. They aren’t too hard to find, but if you don’t find them on your first playthrough then you can use level select to obtain them and it may add a few hours onto your playtime (if not using a guide). I feel I should also bring this up, in the North American and European version of the game, there is NO platinum. They have taken all of the trophies which are on the Asian version and turned them into bronze trophies – so you can only achieve a 100% completion PSN score. If you purchase the Asian (Hong Kong if you want English) version of the game either physically or digitally then that version has the same trophies but it also has a platinum you can obtain. Just something to be aware of if you are looking to add another platinum to your list.
Graphically the game looks great – it’s really colourful, runs great and has imaginative cutscenes. When not using in-game graphics for the cut-scenes, you are presented with comic book style images which work really well with this title. The characters all look cute, even the bad guys, and everything has its own art style which makes it a joy to play. The game also shows off some nice particle and lighting effects as well as the depth of field to make the game more memorable and appealing. Sound-wise, I really enjoy the music, it’s calm and relaxing although I’ve found a lot of these insta-death games have calm music to balance the frustration you can build up if you constantly die!
One thing to point out, I have read a few reviews and some people on the Xbox version have mentioned a save bug and control issues – I never had any of these on the PS4, I was on the Pro, as my saves worked fine – it never crashed and the control mechanism for the robot and aiming is a bit fiddly (no free aim, locked to eight directional aiming) and it does glitch out if you aim too close to an object but it never broke the game or caused an unfair death.