I told myself I wasn’t going to review the recently released Xbox Indie Game, Vexis, until I actually finished it. Well, I can’t seem to finish it because the last stage has pretty much succeeded in making me feel incompetent. The thing is, I know the answer is staring me right in the face yet I just can’t figure the thing out for the life of me. I know where things should be but not exactly sure how to get them there. I’ve spent probably close to 2 hours on several different occasions trying to figure out this final puzzle. It’s true, I’m stumped.
Vexis is a clever little puzzle game that starts out simple enough, but by the time players make it to the end they’ll have their brain and reflexes properly stretched and probed. The object of the game is easy enough with the main goal to get a white block into a stationary black block. The players job is to guide the white block around by using the bumpers (or triggers) to rotate the stage and let gravity do the rest. It’s very similar to the hacking mini game in Bionic Commando Rearmed, only minus the 3D element. The game is split up into three “worlds” of 8 stages a piece, and each world offers a different mechanic that radically changes the way to approach the puzzles.
The first 8 stages are simple enough and do a fine job of getting the player introduced to how the game works. That said, the later half of these stages, while more complex, can usually be solved just by spinning the stage around. Do it enough times and chances are your block is going to find the goal. Thankfully the game gets spiced up once you hit the second world. Here the game introduces a new mechanic that manages to change the pacing of the game. In these stages there are several blocks that fade in and out, so on top of figuring out the puzzle there’s also a more action oriented and twitchy take on solving the levels. It feels rather good not only figuring out how to get to the goal, but also getting through the stages at the exact timing required to do it. Smart design choices give players a few moments to breath in these faster paced, more reflexive stages. The final 8 stages are where things really get out of control. Coming down from the quicker paced stages, these levels truly require the player to use their noggin. The new hook introduced here are timed blocks that always want to move downward once their timer reaches zero. Towards the end of the world players are tasked with keeping tabs on multiple timed blocks along with their own white block. It gets rather complicated, but succeeding always feels great. The key to these stages is to map out a game plan before rotating the holy hell out of the puzzle because chances are blocks will end up in places they shouldn’t be and it’s a nightmare getting them back to where you want them. I found myself sort of wanting a reset puzzle button because of this, but the game does offer the option to quit and restart the puzzle from the stage select screen, something I did often towards the end.
Vexis is presented in a very simple and stylized manner. It has an edge of quality to it missing in many of the XBox Live Indie games I’ve played, several of which you can tell were put together by talented coders that lack an artistic eye. The one music track, while decent enough at first, slowly began to grate on my nerves by the end of the game. It would have been nice had each world had its own track to go along with the pacing (faster music for World 2, maybe something a little more cerebral for the final set of stages) but the main track works well enough for what it is.
As for the longevity of the title, depending on how quickly someone figures out some of the more difficult stages there is about an hour and a half to two hours of game time here. There appears to be a ranking system in place once finishing the game, but since I can’t complete the final stage I’m unsure of how that exactly works or where I’d even stand. That said, if the player is really into it, they could most likely try to improve their overall ranking by getting through the stages in less time with the least amount of turns possible. It appears to be a slight bit of incentive to keep playing for those that really enjoyed the game and want just a little bit more out of it.
For 80 Microsoft points, the game is easy to recommend to anyone looking for a brief, yet challenging puzzle game.
Purchase Vexis from the Xbox shop!