It can be difficult to find time to finish a video game, especially if you only have a few hours a week to play. In our biweekly column Short Play we suggest video games that can be started and finished in a weekend.
Before I started playing Vignettes, I was expecting it to be a lot like Gnog, a puzzle game that turned puzzle boxes into toy-like dioramas. Maybe it was because the two games share the same brightly colored aesthetic, centered on an object floating in space. But where Gnog adds a lot to the enjoyment of its puzzles by turning them into toys you can fiddle with, Vignettes goes in the opposite direction: it starts as a toy before turning into a puzzle.
Most of Vignettes is predicated on a visual trick. You are presented with an object, say a bowl, and by either clicking and dragging with your mouse or by moving your finger around on your touchscreen, you’re able to turn and rotate it as if it was floating weightlessly in space. If you rotate the bowl so that you are looking at it directly from above then rotate it away from there, you’ll be surprised to find you aren’t rotating a bowl anymore but a lamp. As you twist the items around they’ll change into other objects when their silhouettes match up. In this instance, looking at the top of the bowl is just like looking directly down at the lamp.
The surprise at seeing one object morph into something else is incredibly fun. You sort of randomly fiddle with the objects until the novelty of it wears off, which is about the time you’ll realize that you keep seeing the same objects. This is when the game really begins. As you start to look in the game’s menus you’ll find something of a flowchart showing the item you currently have and then the immediate objects it can turn into.
Some of these options are marked as question marks, since you haven’t seen them yet. So you go back in and start puzzling out how you might create a different silhouette that might get you to this new object. From here things get more complex, because getting to new objects doesn’t always mean getting the right silhouette.
Take the lamp and bowl example from before: once you are on the lamp, you can’t go back to the bowl. If you try to, you’ll get a light bulb instead of the bowl, and clicking the light bulb changes the colors of the object and the background. By going back to the lamp you’ll then find that there are new objects you can get to that you couldn’t before because of the color change. That is the simplest example, but some objects reshape to make new shapes you can use, or you might need to get a code off of one object that’ll tell you how to unlock another.
While finding all the items is effectively the end of the game, there are still more puzzles to solve, though these have a logic to them that can be a bit more obtuse than the main game. This puzzle-solving exploration in Vignettes makes it almost akin to a minimalistic adventure game. And like the objects themselves, the game turns into something a lot more interesting than what it starts out as.
Vignettes was created by Skeleton Business. You can get it on Itch.io or Steam (on Windows or macOS) for $7.99, or on Google Play or the iOS App Store for $2.99. It takes about three hours to finish.