Vignettes lurks at the edge of gaming. At first glance, it feels like a throwaway toy, with you spinning objects suspended in space.
The more you fiddle around, though, the more you recognise that there’s plenty lurking beneath its luridly coloured, minimalist surfaces.
Amusingly, the game’s name is the first puzzle. After some deft spinning, flipping and prodding it eventually transforms into a chest, within which sits a telephone. Rotate that and it first becomes a saucepan, then a television, and then a picture frame.
If only the real world worked like this, your flat would be a whole lot tidier.
Sleight of hand
The trick is to position objects so that one surface is precisely against the screen, since transformations occur when you move an object ‘through’ a flat shape. And on whizzing through the first dozen or so objects, that initial spark of magic emitted from Vignettes begins to fade, and it even comes across as a bit fiddly.
This is an indication you should slow down. Vignettes is a game that rewards exploration and patience, and it hides a great many secrets. Some are simple – tapping an object might have it emit an explosion of colour, or open up for you to lob an infinite number of socks into – but others are intriguing scenes buried deep within the app.
You might awaken an ancient snake spirit, for example, or see a moon landing, despite having only moments earlier been trying to figure out how to turn a spurting fire hydrant into a porcelain cat by way of it temporarily becoming a dustbin.
It’s these hidden mysteries – these end points – that cement Vignettes’ place within gaming rather than it merely being an interactive toy. Although infused with a similar spirit to animated Vectorpark fare like Metamorphabet and interactive media such as Islands: Non-Places, Vignettes ultimately comes across like a reverse Shadowmatic twinned with an enigmatic, modern take on Russian dolls that somewhat resembles The Room.
It can be frustrating. The entire product is cryptic, right down to the interface, and it’s easy to slam into a wall, where you simply cannot figure out how to access a few missing objects. There are also times where it can be maddening trying to figure out a way back to an object you once fleetingly handled, only to ‘lose’ again.
Mostly, though, Vignettes is about the joy of discovery, the unique and personal nature of a tactile interface on a smartphone or tablet, and a further indication that, within the indie scene, gaming still has plenty left to say.
Vignettes is available for iOS.