Vitrum Is A Puzzler That Doesn’t Need Your Silly Gravity

By Nathan Grayson on September 14th, 2012 at 5:00 pm.

Based on the hands, I'm pretty sure this game stars Miranda from Mass Effect.

Ours is a world that likes things safe, dependable, and right-side-up. If everything suddenly goes all topsy-turvy, it’s generally because we’re on a rollercoaster or learning a stern lesson about the fact that bikes do not, in fact, pass right through waist-high railings. But Vitrum doesn’t take place in our world. I mean, it’s full of glowy neon lights, yet awash in an aural sea of gently lapping ethereal beats. Humanity, however, cannot resist a thumping techno-infused rave in such settings. I rest my case. Also, gravity kind of works differently, I guess. Reeeally differently. In short, Vitrum’s free demo will make you say, “Wait, where’d I go just now?” a whole, whole lot.

And that’s both a good and bad thing, in my book. Vitrum’s central conceit is that you can obtain different one-use powers from a colorful array of crystals. One, for instance, gave me a quick forward air dash, while another generated a platform out of thin air. However, my favorite – and the most frequently used one in the demo – flipped the entire world upside-down. It’s a bit like 7DFPS non-shooter, er, Flip’d, if you ever gave that a go.

And that aspect of Vitrum, at least, shows promise. The last (non-secret) puzzle in the demo saw me switching back-and-forth between floor and ceiling to collect boxes that’d ultimately open a door, and I really had to force my brain outside its usual gravity-constrained box to get everything in order. Unfortunately, while combining powers in each hand (for instance, dashing over a Pit O’ Death and then flipping the world) was neat, the single use limitation meant I couldn’t pull off some of the coolest tricks I discovered in Flip’d – like essentially flying by rapidly switching the gravity back and forth.

Moreover, other aspects of Vitrum’s demo weren’t nearly so strong. The more platformy bits felt imprecise and awkwardly timed, leading to many frustrating and unnecessary deaths. Also, much like the neon glowiness and gravity, level layouts felt like they came from another planet – one where, unfortunately, common sense and architecture are seemingly at war with one another. The end result? Confusing layouts and constant cries of “No one actually makes rooms this way!” On top of that, all the environments felt way too uniform and same-y. Once things opened up, it was far too easy to forget where I’d already solved puzzles and where I hadn’t.

There’s certainly potential in the bits I played of Vitrum, but it needs work. It is, however, set to launch fairly soon (third quarter of 2012), so I’m not sure how much evolving it’ll be able to do between now and then. We’ll see, though. Until then, give the demo a try here. Or just watch this trailer.

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5 Comments »

  1. wowcool says:

    VVVVVVitrum

  2. plsgodontvisitheforums says:

    I must be far far gone already – when watching the trailer my human brain is programmed to only hear techno infuzed noises where obviously a gently lapping piano score should be :s

  3. zapatapon says:

    Why do most first-person puzzlers with otherwise good ideas feel obliged to include annoying skill/timing-based platforming bits? In an ideal puzzler, the solution should be hard to figure out, but require a minimum amount of timing or precision skill to perform. Including skill-based sections feels like the game is insecure about the quality of its puzzles taken alone.

    I don’t understand why the basic principle that first-person platforming = not fun is not clearer to everybody. Or I am the only one not enjoying this?

    • Aatch says:

      I agree, the worst is when you have both, both hard to solve and hard to execute. I’ve seen that a few times. I do enjoy platform challenges, but it should be the case that I can almost immediately see the correct path through and merely have to do the platforming.

      Portal was a good example of this, where there were few intersections of skill, puzzle solving and timing. Occasionally there may have two of them, but that was only rarely.

      Basically, without the platforming, you don’t feel the sensation of traversing some puzzle, you just solved it and moved on, without the puzzles, it is just a platformer and first person is not good for that. So sometimes you need a bit of an intersection, a bit that reminds you that (in the case of Portal anyway) there is somebody, or something, actively trying to kill/test you with these puzzles.

      But yes, I agree with the general statement that puzzle games should be puzzle games. Platforming can be there for added texture.

  4. aymar.fisherman says:

    Vitrum just got released!

    Now you can play all the stages, collect all shards and unveil its secrets!

    Get it here:
    http://www.9heads.com/games/vitrum

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