The Gamer's Notebook

The Gamer's Notebook

Relatively speaking: it could be worse

Indie title saves a lackluster month of gaming 

By Chris O'Neal 03/29/2012

This week, I readied myself. I protected my chest with both of my arms and pressed my back against a brick wall in dreadful anticipation of the rage-inducing finale of arguably one of the greatest video game trilogies of all time, Mass Effect 3, as it became the veritable D-Day of the gaming industry.


Unfortunately for some gamers (“some” is a relative term meaning “a lot”), the conclusion to developer Bioware’s penultimate title left “some” with a bad taste in their mouths. Rather than moving on, these fans have taken up pitchforks and demanded satisfaction.


Believe it or not, there are other games to play, games in which the ending isn’t as divisive and my well-being isn’t in danger of being purged from reality by the fists of an angry god (“god” being a relative term meaning “unhappy gamer”).


Take Vessel, for instance, an indie title from Seattle-based Strange Loop Games. Vessel combines several things that make gaming fun: a throwback 2-D side-scrolling adventure with a seamless interactive environment new gaming liquid physics in which any “liquid” can become a sentient being and a slick soundtrack to accompany it, all reminiscent of the best Pandora station tagged under “electronic.”


Vessel follows the exploits of inventor M. Arkwright as he manipulates and crafts stunning visual creatures out of water, using minutely detailed turbines and other complicated machines. Things go a bit awry when molten hot magma comes to life — one would expect a watery hug from walking water, but wouldn’t welcome the same from a lava being.


Fans of Super Mario Sunshine, the Mario title that introduced the world to Mario’s water fetish, will notice that Vessel has taken those mechanics — using water to get around — and mastered them. Arkwright is able to leap from platform to platform via streaming water, he’s able to use his water creations to manipulate the world around him, and he can even have some fun tossing them to their doom.


While cornered and under attack from a barrage of Mass Effect 3 complaints, one can simply shut one’s eyes and dream of the soundtrack to Vessel, more reminiscent of a Bonobo or Air album than a score for a highly inventive game like Vessel.


As with most innovative indie titles, Vessel is available for the PC via Steam.


If you choose to avoid all of the hype, all of the complaints and praise, and simply skip Mass Effect 3 (and at this point, no one could blame you), there is always Capcom’s Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City. Right?


Based around the happenings of the first and second Resident Evil, in which a virus escapes a faux-mansion in the woods and wreaks havoc in the small town of Raccoon City, you take control of a team sent in to erase all evidence of your employer’s involvement, your employer being Umbrella Corporation, a pharmaceutical company (“pharmaceutical” being a relative term for “bio-engineering terrorist organization”).


Your team consists of four somewhat mean-looking folks with guns: your enemies are zombies and the protagonists of the first two games — and also your own teammates. Not because they’re out to get you, but because they have the combined intelligence of a raving Mass Effect 3 fan in full mood swing.


You know what? It’s best if you skip this one, too. It’s best if you just hide on your computer, download Vessel and lock out the rest of the world. Bad games lead to fear, fear leads to anger, anger leads to submitting a complaint to the Fed because you didn’t get the ending you wanted. It happened. A Mass Effect 3 fan is attempting to sue Bioware for the ending to Mass Effect 3.


Surely these are the end times.


Vessel is available now for the PC via Steam, while Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City can be acquired for the Playstation 3 and the Xbox 360.

Chris O’Neal almost became a Jill sandwich. Follow him on Twitter @AgentONeal.

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