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Vessel Preview

One of the coolest places to be during the Penny Arcade Expo this year was the sixth floor, where various third party companies were showing off their electronic gear or independent game projects. Among these companies were Strange Loop Games, perched in a corner with a few other producers and showcasing a new Xbox Live Arcade/PlayStation Network project set to debut early next year. It’s literally pouring on the love with Vessel.

Here’s the game in a nutshell. An inventor has come up with a way to establish humanoid forms out of water, using a substance balancing system that gives them a life of their own. Not everyone is crazy about it, however. One of his earliest creations manages to get loose, setting out to create some kind of liquidy uprising. As the young upstart looking to make sure all is cool with your creations, you set out to stop it from creating havoc.

Water plays a huge part throughout Vessel, as you’ll not only use it in some particular cases, but also certain effects of it. During some parts of a stage, you’ll need to manipulate it in order to move ahead. In others, you’ll need to rely on fellow liquid beings in order to proceed, such as making one that grows in size and hits a switch when necessary, or one that sticks to the side of a wall, changing the flow of water that goes across a series of pipes.

Case in point – one of the game’s many stages involve a flowing waterfall in the center, just narrowly missing pouring into a pipe so you can grow one of your liquid beings. You’ll need to set up these little globs in just the right areas to keep the flow of water going, and sometimes have to move from one side to the other just to make sure everything goes your way.

Level design plays a huge part in Vessel’s appeal, and Strange Loop Games has dozens of them available to solve, along with full leaderboard interaction. We didn’t really get an idea if the game would include any sort of multiplayer, but co-op wouldn’t be out of the question, and it’d be kind of cool to get a competitive thing going on, particularly between water and lava creatures.

One other thing worth mentioning is the presentation. While the game is a slightly smaller project than most well-funded downloadable fare these days, Vessel has a unique art style that resembles the classic 2-D puzzle games of all, while retaining realistic water physics that will boggle your mind and plenty of cool lightning effects, especially whenever lava is around. This is one of the prettiest indie games we’ve seen in some time, and we only wish all developers had an ambition to do something like this.

Vessel is set to arrive sometime in early 2012 for both PlayStation Network and Xbox Live Arcade. If you’re like us and savor the classic favor of 2-D puzzle solving (but with a fresh new coat of 3-D paint), this is bound to leave you gushing.

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Robert Workman
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