As a famous TV show once stated every episode "And now for something completely different!"
One of the things about receiving game codes for review is that they do not come with any instructions or information about the game. Generally installing and beginning to play is enough to discover the objective but every so often along comes a game that doesn't fit into any frame or genre. VANE is such a game!
Like all Steam game players I looked for the game online and found a few websites about it. Steam Store is where you can find how to buy it (£13.49) and a little (very little) about the game. On YouTube where you can view an explanatory film about it. When I say 'very little' I really mean it, this is what it says about the game "In a ruined desert, a strange golden dust transforms a free-spirited bird into a determined young child, setting off a chain of events that will reshape the world itself."
To begin with the environment the young child is in is an ever-changing stormy land where the ground continually crumbles or shifts like thin corrugated metal sheets bouncing and blowing, breaking up and crashing wildly into and around the ruins of ancient buildings and towers from a time long past.
You control the young child as it runs and jumps, climbs and scampers in whatever direction you aim them in. There is no map, no compass, no signs, nothing at all to give you any clue as to where you are or where you are supposed to be or what you are supposed to be doing when/if you get there, wherever 'there' is.
After a fairly short playing time, basically just trying to find out what I was supposed to be doing as the child, metamorphosis takes over and the child became a large black-bird, like a Rook or perhaps a Raven. As the player you now have the ability to fly over and across the decimated, desert of the world. Some game controllers can be used to control the bird but it's quite easy with mouse and keyboard, mainly WASD and left/right buttons, once you get the hang of it. W will send you tucking in your wings and diving groundwards at speed and to flap your wings use the LMB. It takes a bit of practice to land [RMB] where you want to but practice makes perfect, well easier anyway.
Flying over canyons, rivers, lakes, sandy and rocky hills and mountains there can often be seen twinklings of light that you can aim towards. These lead you to a variety of locations, many of which are old style weather vanes, with a shuttlecock shaped frame atop them. Landing on these and pressing F flips the frame and it changes into a sort of short, ragged, weather-sock from which lights shoot out and a flock of blackbirds swarm around it. The birds fly off leaving you alone to try to follow them or to take off on your own to pastures anew (not really pastures as we might know them in the world we live really in).
Within reason this is a sandbox game where you can travel virtually wherever you want. You can fly for 'miles' without seeing anything or you might see higher mountains, broken ruins, beautiful lakes surrounded by sandy coloured terrain or rivers running deep down in and along ravines that would give the Grand Canyon a run for its money. For all the devastation and decimation this is actually a pretty game, and even if you never get anywhere as far as any objective is concerned, it doesn't matter as it's like taking a flying voyage of discovery.
If nothing else, this is a nice way to spend some peaceful time doing nothing. I haven't come across any puzzles, at least not any of the type usually found in Steam games, and I haven't really found anything much to do except look for new places to fly over and through. I'm not sure what else I can say about it without going online and reading what other reviewers have to say. I obviously haven't got very far with it, even though I have spent a good number of hours on it - I nearly said 'playing' but that tends to give the impression that there is some actual 'play' involved.
The weird thing about VANE (well one of the weird things) is that I am thoroughly enjoying it and I'm not really one for doing nothing. It's one of those things that you know you shouldn't be doing, you don't know why you're doing it, but you can't help yourself. This is more surprising when you consider it comes from Friend & Foe, the studio owned by the co-creators of action-adventures games such as The Last Guardian, Bionic Commando, Battlefield 3, and Killzone.
You can purchase the soundtrack to this remarkable game here (£6.99)