700, 000 parsecs from Earth, on the planet OPS, Vesta is woken by Bot (an expressive floating TV) to get on with her chore of mining and storing energy. Vesta is in a mining colony called The Complex and she’s the only human there, so whatever jobs the machines can’t do Vesta has to. Geared up with your Multifunction Energy Transnobbler (a vacuum cleaner that stores energy) and an insatiable curiosity to find out where the other humans are, Vesta heads out to question M.U.M, the AI that runs The Complex. Only problem is, M.U.M has the whole compound armed to the teeth with surveillance drones. It’s not long before Vesta meets Droid and, being a military killing machine, decides to aid Vesta on her mission.
In this isometric puzzler you’re tasked with switching control between Vesta and Droid in order to collect enough energy to enter the capsule at the end of each stage. The puzzles aren’t particularly original but this doesn’t detract from their craftsmanship. Expect the usual burden of navigating moving platforms, avoiding environmental hazards and dragging metal boxes to activate switches in the floor. The puzzles’ difficulty tended to irregularly fluctuate throughout the game. I never got the impression that there was a consistent, satisfactory curve. Some stages were unnecessarily long and infuriating while others would have save points that allowed you to skip testing segments entirely.
The levels are littered with optional secrets to collect. At first I tried my best to collect them all as there’s nothing else to do in each stage but without any obvious reward for finding them I eventually gave up on this endeavour. I read that the secrets unlock cutscenes and comic book pages that enlighten you to the world of Vesta, but even now I can’t find any options – in the pause menu or on the start screen, at least – to access them. I’m clearly missing something but it’s not enough of a dangling carrot to lose sleep over.
Each character has their strengths and weaknesses. Vesta is fast on her feet and can transfer energy to where she needs it but she’s just a little girl made of meat so it’s one-hit-kill for this redhead. Droid on the other hand is slow-moving but can take up to three direct hits before retiring. He’s great at dragging heavy crates and he’s also got a massive gun – essential for paralysing enemies so Vesta can drain them of power. Mastering both characters is necessary for solving the puzzles and so is mastering hiding spots. As you only control one at a time you inevitably leave the other exposed, so you’ll want to put Vesta somewhere safe and comfortable while you’re controlling Droid.
Vesta has three distinct art styles that are all colourful and childishly charming. The cutscenes play out as an animated comic book which helps establish the tone of the game. It’s full of character and comedy, and it would have been nice to have seen more of them. The in-game graphics can only be described as ‘podgy’, with all the characters resembling toys; soft, simple and inviting. Vesta will definitely appeal to all ages.
I didn’t have a good time playing Vesta though, and I want to take the time and address the reasons why.
The moment you’re introduced to Droid’s shooting mechanic I instantly knew it would be a problem. I’m definitely being nitpicky with this one but Droid cannot shoot 360 degrees; You can only shoot in 8 directions, which makes sense for a 2.5D game, but not everything in Vesta abides by the invisible grid that the world is built upon (looking at you, homing missles!) so why should aiming? This felt counter-productive given that you use the right analogue stick to aim. Throughout my playthrough I kept thinking, “what a terrible design decision this was”. I never fully adjusted. The best I can say is that I eventually tolerated it.
Vesta has two layers of depth and the depth of field you need to have full view of is in the background, which means at certain times the foreground will obscure whatever it is you’re doing – and it leads to failure 100% of the time. Sure, it makes the corners of your TV look pretty, but it’s hard to appreciate it when it hides the drone shooting a round of fireballs at you. If I wanted to play it blind I would wear a blindfold.
Vesta has a serious issue when it comes to registering collisions and I have a few examples that always left me pulling out clumps of my own hair. On at least two occasions I was killed by a dead enemy after draining them, and I was frequently squashed to a pulp by robots that weren’t physically touching Vesta – and I’m not referring to the ones that did area damage. Dodging is pointless; it doesn’t matter if you’re out of reach, once the enemy’s attack animation is in motion you might as well save yourself a few seconds and restart. If you pick Vesta up and throw her and Droid gets hit, she dies. She’ll be in mid-air, falling away from your assailant, but she’ll succumb to death anyway. Droid will often get caught in invisible cracks on elevators and moving platforms. It’s obvious the game isn’t sure whether he’s dying or traversing, but as is with most cases in Vesta, you’re better off dying and trying again. How forgiving should I be? Clipping, I understand. A glitch that fixes itself after restarting, I can shrug off. But issues like this are unforgivable.
I can confidently say you should avoid this game but if you don’t mind the aggravation of constantly restarting a level and you want to challenge your patience (re: insanity) it might be the puzzler for you. Vesta felt needlessly unfair at times and it was never because of poor level design or lazy puzzle creation, but because of its pathetic collision detection. For all its flaws I adore its look and its characters, and it has an interesting plot that wouldn’t feel out of place on Star Trek, but ultimately Vesta is too broken to recommend playing.
Should you play it? No.
Why? There are too many technical problems that became overwhelmingly distracting.
But… It’s a fairly short game with a simple premise and a cool little story to invest in.
Reviewed on PlayStation 4. Review code supplied by Finalboss Games.