Vesta Review – Great Puzzles, Terrible Combat

Vesta is an isometric puzzler that causes as much head-scratching tension as it does headache inducing frustration. The FingerGuns Review;

The premise; Vesta is an abrasive 6-year-old girl and the last human occupant of an underground labyrinthian installation. Tasked by her companion BOT – a floating computer screen that follows her around – Vesta must “follow protocol” and make her way through this abandoned facility, heading ever upwards in order to report to “MOM” on the 1st floor. Unfortunately, the once functional base has fallen into disrepair, robots that once maintained the place are malfunctioning, areas have collapsed and have caused obstacles and much of the machinery used to traverse areas has ran out of energy. In order to help Vesta reach the top floor of the site, BOT equips the young girl with a device which can extract and inject energy into objects, robots and machinery. BOT also awakens a Military robot called DROID which will accompany the titular character along her journey and do the heavy lifting and fight off any attackers.

The abilities of the young protagonist and her companion DROID, along with the manipulation of ‘energy’, form the core concept of this game. It’s played on an isometric plane and you control both Vesta and DROID but only one at a time. Vesta is fragile, taking just a single hit from a robot to set you back at the start of a level/last checkpoint. DROID on the other hand can take up to 3 hits before it falls. Vesta has no offensive capabilities aside from dashing to avoid attacks. DROID counterbalances this by having a gun attached to his arm which he can fire in any of the 8 compass directions. Vesta can travel down narrow conveyor belts which are too small for DROID, but the large robot can move boxes and destroy obstacles. The pair can team up to cross gaps with DROID picking up Vesta and throwing her. Almost all of Vesta’s 36 levels challenge you to get both characters from one side to the other while accumulating enough energy to unlock the door at the end.

The accumulation and effective use of ‘energy’ is the main puzzle element used in Vesta. Almost everything in the game runs on it but it’s still a limited resource and the idea is to find it and utilise it in the appropriate way. In some levels, this involves continuing on with Vesta while leaving DROID behind, collecting energy and the retreading ground to activate lifts and platforms to allow the lumbering mech to follow. In other levels, DROID must shoot down attacking robots to which gives Vesta a short window in which she can drain the energy from them. The vast majority of the games levels are well thought out but require some trial and error which can be frustrating when checkpoints are few and far between.

For a game predominantly about solving puzzles, Vesta can be quite tense. Because of the fragility of Vesta, who can only take one hit before dying, there’s a constant feeling of unease when she’s away from the relative protectiveness of DROID and his gun. While most of the malfunctioning robots in the game walk a predefined path, they often move quickly or fire projectives that require precise timing to avoid and this gives the game an exciting, if anxiety inducing feeling.

The plot line to Vesta is drip fed to the player through small conversations with BOT and other characters at the beginning or during levels and through the occasional cut scene. It’s a tad prosaic but does just enough to set it apart from other similar tales. Throughout the game there are terminals which you can interact with in order to read passages left by the past occupants of the facility Vesta finds herself in. They’re certainly not essential (in fact, some of them repeat themselves which feels like a waste) but they do help to flesh out the plot. There are some moments of absurdity (one conversation about a robot having the abbreviated name “SS” and a relation to the Nazi’s stands out) but it’s a satisfactory if mundane window dressing to the game play.

Visually, Vesta maintains a comic book-esque art style throughout. This spans from the cut scenes which are presented in comic book panels with speech bubbles to the bold colours and polygonal 3D models in game. There are some lovely particle effects used in the game that give the levels a sense of depth too. It’s not the most visually impressive game but it does what it does well.

Unfortunately, there are a number of frustrations in Vesta that often threaten to ruin the positives to the game. The boss battles, especially the first one, lean more into action rather than puzzle solving, requiring precise moment and quick shooting which the game doesn’t do well. The boss battles in general are not very well thought out, abandoning the positive aspects of the general aspects of the game and have odd unmarked pitfalls making them the low points of the game. DROID’s weaponry often feels clunky – only being able to fire in the direction of North, North East, East, etc on an isometric plane can be quite fiddly and the game could have benefited greatly from full 360 degree firing angles to make the combat sections less frustrating.

Similarly, when DROID throws Vesta, there’s no indicator of where the young girl will land. A projection arc would have been very handy and would have prevented a number of unnecessary restarts when I’ve accidentally thrown Vesta off a platform to her doom. On other occasions, DROID won’t raise his weapon because he’s too close to a piece of environment and his projectiles will sometimes hit invisible walls. There are also rare occasions when the set up of a level means you can make the level impassable by throwing Vesta across a gap that probably shouldn’t be possible.

Vesta is an interesting and often tense puzzle game that lacks that final polish and tries to do too much. It feels like the game should have stuck to what it does well – the puzzle designs, the soundtrack and bold visual art style – instead of trying to include combat which results in the core mechanics being at odds with themselves. Vesta is at its best when it’s challenging your grey matter rather than your thumb reaction speed and thankfully, it does that more often than not.

Vesta is available now on PS4 (review version), Xbox One, PC via Steam and Nintendo Switch.

Developer: FinalBoss Games
Publisher: FinalBoss Games / EastAsiaSoft

Disclaimer: In order to write this review, we received a review code from the publishers. Please see our review policy for more information.

Leave a comment