Yes, it’s ugly. Fuzzy, dull, and painted in oppressively bleak colours, Vanessa is, it's fair to say, not much of a looker. Look past its drab exterior, however, and you'll find an inventive and satisfying little puzzle game.
The story sees Vanessa, herself a bit of a puzzle fiend, discover a strange box she can’t quite figure out. One day, the box falls to the floor and a crack appears, whirling the bug-eyed heroine, her schoolmates, and the surrounding area inside its mysterious walls.
Naturally, this means she has to solve the one problem that has thus far eluded her, in order to rescue her peers and escape. Oh, rich irony!
The action plays out on the six faces of the cube. Vanessa runs and jumps across each flat 2D plane, and she also has the ability to rotate the face in 90-degree increments, moving from one face to the next until she reaches the exit.
Of course, it’s not as simple as rotating the face until you find a route, because gravity also comes into play. Rotate once in a clockwise direction and what was the right-hand wall is now the floor - and Vanessa’s position will adjust accordingly.
Your actions will also affect any moveable blocks, which often have to be guided to specific areas in order to remove blue tiles obstructing Vanessa’s path to the exit.
Attack the block
It sounds simple, but there’s an art to figuring out how it all pieces together, particularly once hazards are introduced. Vanessa’s positioning is crucial here, as you can't rotate faces when objects are in motion.
So you’ll sometimes need to make mid-air adjustments to ensure a safe landing, while in some stages it’s a challenge to move multiple blocks into position while remaining mindful of the protagonist’s safety.
Because rotation only affects the face Vanessa is standing on, your route to the exit frequently changes throughout the course of a level. You might find a simple staircase of blocks to climb, only to skip into a brick wall as you attempt to move onto the next face.
In other words, you’re simultaneously solving conundrums on the current face while trying to figure out the best way to traverse the others en route to the exit.
Dreaming the cube Some levels are deceptively straightforward, offering a seemingly direct route to the exit that turns out to be far more circuitous. The game cleverly mixes simpler, hazard-free scenarios with others that require careful manoeuvres.
A further layer of challenge comes in the form of par times and turn limits, testing your ability to memorise the level layouts to complete them as efficiently as possible, without diminishing your sense of achievement for merely finishing a stage.
Despite its bargain-basement looks, then, the adventures of Vanessa and her unfeasibly lengthy game title are far from nightmarish.
It’s accomplished rather than inspired, and smart rather than ingenious, but if you’re as puzzle-mad as Vanessa you shouldn’t hesitate to step inside her bizarre world.