The Legend Of Zelda is one of those series that has had an immeasurable impact on gaming as a whole, yet no copycats have yet managed to quite hit the heights of the famous series. Every now and then, however, you come across one of those games that just gets it. Enter Vesta, a quirky sci-fi puzzler starring a girl and her big robot buddy. Though it stumbles every now and then, Vesta measures up remarkably well to the standard set by Zelda, and is certainly worth a look to anybody interested in solving some environmental puzzles with an action twist to them.
As you wind your way through the mazelike environments, there’s a broader narrative slowly being drip-fed to you by occasional cutscenes and collectible datalogs. Vesta is the lone human in this mysterious facility, told to go from place to place by a GLaDOS-like AI who instructs you to help in keeping energy balanced in this mysterious factory. As you’ve probably guessed, the AI is decidedly more sinister than first appearances suggest, and may or may not have been involved in whatever happened to the rest of the humans.
Gameplay can be most closely compared to the Tower of Spirits portions of The Legend Of Zelda: Spirit Tracks. Much like how you controlled both Link and Phantom Zelda to traverse the game’s central dungeon, here you must control Vesta and her hulking DROID buddy to navigate the complex factory environments. Vesta can’t harm enemy robots, but she can draw out their energy once they’ve been stunned by DROID’s cannon. DROID can’t fit into tight spaces, but he can move blocks and toss Vesta to new heights. It’s through using their unique abilities in concert that success is achieved, and though the puzzles are never too taxing on the brain, they almost always leave you quite satisfied when you finally find the answer.
Though the majority of the puzzles will keep you entertained and engaged, it seems that Vesta comes up on frustrating bottlenecks every now and then that can pull you out of the experience pretty quickly. You may reach the very end of a level and discover that you don’t have enough energy to carry on, requiring you to backtrack all the way back through the level to harvest a cube you forgot. In some cases, you may do events in the wrong order and find yourself unable to continue, meaning that you have to scrap the last ten minutes of gameplay and either go back to the last checkpoint or restart the whole level outright. Fortunately, these instances are rare and checkpoints are placed generously enough that you usually don’t have to redo an entire level, although issues still do manage to arise often enough to be noticeable.
There are 36 levels strewn out over four different 'worlds', and the difficulty curve scales up nicely as you progress through the narrative. It should take about 10 to 15 hours to see it through to the end, and for the completionists, there are also a series of collectible MacGuffins scattered about each stage in obscure places. These don’t appear to actually do anything per se - they’re just there for the sake of being collected - but it nonetheless provides an incentive for you to scour every corner and replay stages as needed. Suffice to say, Vesta provides plenty of value for the asking price.
From a presentation standpoint, Vesta manages to impress, doing an awful lot with very little. Cutscenes are presented in a striking animated comic book style, and the look is then carried over somewhat into a 3D setting for the main gameplay. The graphics bear more than a passing resemblance to the style of Metroid Prime: Federation Force, and we mean that in the best way possible. Characters and environments have a charmingly chunky design that complements gameplay well, and the attention to little details - such as pipes that are closer to the camera being blurred out a bit - shows that the developers really put in the time to make this as polished a game as possible.
Vesta does a remarkably fine job of aping the design and simple brilliance of Zelda puzzles, while putting its own unique spin on things as it does so. Though its puzzles can sometimes be unfairly or frustratingly designed, a pleasing visual style, meaty campaign and generally satisfying gameplay loop make this a win in our book; we’d absolutely suggest you give Vesta a try (especially if you’re a Zelda fan). There’s plenty to love about this quirky puzzle game, and it’s one you’ll likely want to revisit from time to time.