I spent some time this past week playing the two PS3 games offered to PlayStation Plus subscribers for July: Vessel and Dead Space 3. Having invested at least a few hours into each title, I found myself surprised by how each game left me feeling, and not because my expectations were proven right.
I went into Vessel believing the title would be right up my alley - it's a side-scrolling puzzle-platformer, after all.
You play as Arkwright, an inventor who has created automated fluid-beings called Fluros. Comprised of a liquid sapping seed, Fluros take on the property of whatever base liquid with which the seed comes in contact. These beings carry on basic button-pressing tasks throughout a room: Press button, open door/squirt liquid. Much of the early game involves timing these button presses with lever pulls. This was roughly the first two hours for me and it did not immediately grab my attention (I say as much on the Short Pause Podcast Episode #3). This was my Vessel surprise and, had I stopped there, I would be writing about how I didn't care much for the title.
I returned to the game to collect a few more notes (graphics are fine, music is whimsical, controls are good-but-floaty like LittleBigPlanet). What ended up happening was I spent another hour with the game and, to my surprise, started enjoying it.
After a few more puzzles, I was able to build a gun that gives Arkwright the ability to contain and shoot liquid. This mechanic, combined with light physics-based puzzles and the introduction of lava, is what tantalized my gaming senses. This was my Vessel surprise switch-a-roo.
I said in The Offerings that I wasn't sure how much time I'd spend with Vessel, as it's a 9 - 12 hour romp. Having played the game for about three hours now, I can see myself continuing for at least a little while longer, if only to see what else the game has in store.
Dead Space 3
Also mentioned in The Offerings, was that I've never played a Dead Space game. I was familiar with the gist of the happenings up to this point, but was happy that the opening cinematic is a recap.
What's kept me from playing any Dead Space until now, despite the warm reception to the titles, is how well I handle interactive horror: I don't. I hate haunted houses. And, yes, I realize Dead Space is just a game. But if there's a threat pursuing me, Isaac Clark, well that's just as intense as a freaky individual pursuing me, Eric Jordan, in an a weird, unfamiliar house.
I spent my first hour with Dead Space 3 trying to get over the controls; they felt heavy, lumbering. My first thought was this was Visceral Games' way of heightening tension during creepy combat scenarios (like Resident Evil's tank controls). But since mobility is rarely ever an issue, it was probably just me trying to find a reason to not continue playing. Save myself from getting creeped out, y'know?
As I grew more familiar with the way Isaac handles, I became more comfortable with the possibility of being able to handle some creepy sh...tuff. I know some have bemoaned the series' gradual shift from horror to action, but there've been enough jumps to get my ol' ticker tocking. And - holy crap! - why do all the doors have to sound like a hellish atrocity is happening every time one opens or closes?!
My Dead Space 3 surprise is that I might be in it for the long haul. It's a pretty good looking game with some neat lighting effects (the green glow of the visor along the walls and floor jumped out the first time I saw it). The sound design is the creepiest aspect to me, what with those hell doors and everything. I'm about 20 - 25% through the game so far, and as long as the sounds don't get more disturbing, I'm interested to see what happens with these Markers, Unitology, and all this crap.
Have you jumped into Dead Space 3 or Vessel yet? Will you? Share your thoughts with us in the comments, and come back next week after I've explored Doki-Doki Universe and Muramasa Rebirth for the Vita.