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A Lot or a Little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Vane is a downloadable exploration and puzzle game for the PlayStation 4. Players control a determined and resilient character that switches between the form of a bird and a child while exploring desolate ruins. The object of the game is to solve contextual puzzles, some of which involve cooperation and teamwork with groups of computer-controlled birds and children. As the largely allegorical story progresses, players get a sense of transformation -- both in terms of character and environment -- as well as growth and evolution. The controls are simple and intuitive, but players are provided no instructions or guidance, which could prove frustrating. Those with little patience should be ready to look up walkthrough assistance online, or suffer some degree of annoyance. Otherwise, there's no inappropriate content in the game.
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What’s It About?
VANE puts players in control of a character that switches form between a raven-like bird and a child. Both explore a desolate world filled with the sandy ruins of an ancient civilization, solving a series of contextual puzzles that slowly lead to its transformation into ... something else. As a bird, the player's primary objective is to summon and/or free other birds to render assistance in other areas. As a child, the player travels by foot to interact with objects and cooperate with other children to perform tasks, such as pushing a giant ball. As the game progresses, the world gradually starts to change. Much of this change is brought on by the protagonist, who uses the power of a mysterious golden material not just to switch between child and bird, but also to alter the shape of the world. In addition to solving the game's literal puzzles, players will also need to riddle out for themselves the meaning of the evolution that they see and cause in this strange and sometimes scary world.
Is It Any Good?
Those in search of action and answers won't find them in this artsy indie game, but they'll find a haunting atmosphere, beautiful visuals, and a sense that change is, for better or worse, inevitable. Vane is about exploration, discovery, and interpreting the things you find. What does it mean that the bird you control seems to have more agency than those it encounters? Is there significance in the fact that the children appear to be born from gold leaves, and that parts of their bodies retain a golden glow? Who once lived in the urban ruins we explore? Is the change that we create restoring the world to the past, moving it toward the future, or doing something altogether different? What's the end goal for the mysterious few who inhabit this world? Clear answers are few and far between (though you might find some hints in the text describing each of the game's trophies as you unlock them). The joy of playing comes largely from exploring this beautifully odd but not altogether alien world -- elements of which change right before your eyes in an almost painterly fashion -- and trying to make sense of what you see.
But the fun is slightly hampered by some noticeable glitches. The camera sometimes moves behind pieces of the environment, making it difficult to see what's going on. Players can also expect to occasionally fall through and become "trapped" inside objects in the environment. This is likely because of the game's unusual design, which sees important pieces of architecture transform, creating walls and floors where seconds ago there were none. But understanding why this happens won't necessarily make players any more forgiving should they need to restart the game and lose progress due to a glitch. Keeping this in mind, those willing to overlook the occasional technical hiccup will find a highly artistic and even poetic interactive experience in Vane.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about screen time. Vane can be finished in a single day, so knowing this, does it make sense to devote a full afternoon to it, much like you would a film, or is it better to break it into a few sessions?
Does the idea of changing yourself over time excite or frighten you? Why?
- Platform: PlayStation 4
- Pricing structure: Paid
- Available online?: Available online
- Publisher: Friend & Foe
- Release date: January 15, 2019
- Genre: Adventure
- ESRB rating: E10+ for Fantasy Violence
- Last updated: January 15, 2019
For kids who love poetic narratives
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