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

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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Nathan Grayson

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