The first thing I noticed when I pressed start on Vanishing Grace was the striking art style. While I admit that photorealistic graphics are great, not to mention terrifyingly immersive in games such as Half-Life: Alex, but there is something magical about stepping into a beautifully hand-drawn 3-D world like Vanishing Grace. Even if most of this 3-D world is confined to a single ramshackle hovercraft.
You play as Joel, a young man who has spent his life isolated from the rest of the world in a place called the Citadel. A solar storm devastated earth back in 1993 leaving it uninhabitable save for the Citadel. Joel’s lifelong friend Grace has reason to believe the government of the Citadel is hiding something. It doesn’t take long to learn that Grace suffers from a mean case of wanderlust and harbors serious distrust for authority figures. Using her engineer skills, Grace builds the aforementioned hovercraft and sets sail into the desert to search for the answers she desperately wants. Months later, Grace’s ship returns to the Citadel unmanned, leaving Joel no choice but to go after her. We learn in a very early scene that Joel is married and not to Grace. To make matters worse, he and his wife Elena have a baby on the way, and as you might imagine, she is not happy that Joel is risking his life to go after his dear old friend. I imagine all of Ted Moseby’s girlfriends felt this way about Robin Scherbatski at some point. And for good reason.
Vanishing Grace managed to subvert my expectations in two ways, but unfortunately only one of them was in a good way. Let’s start with the good. The small team at Monte Perdido very clearly put their focus on the story. The writing, which is almost all dialogue, is realistic and understated in a way that has always rung true to my ear. Even when it threatened to venture into the heavy-handedness, they managed to reel it back in before it was too late. But as always, good dialogue is only as good as the actor reading the lines, and in this case, they did a great job. With veteran voice actors from Firewatch, Wolfenstein 2, and Batman The Telltale Series, each line is delivered with conviction and really sold me on the story. I was truly invested and couldn’t wait to see how this story was going to play out.
The other subverted expectation wasn’t good. From the early promos and comparisons to Far Lone Sails, I was expecting to be constantly putting out fires, managing overheating engines, and repairing ship breakdowns with the power tools lying around the ship. And I did all of those things, but only once. This is oddly my biggest complaint about the game and it ties into my second complaint. It’s only about two hours long. I think if they had added the need to race around the ship to fix leaking pipes, or broken solar power generators while solving the puzzles that otherwise make up the gameplay, it would have been more satisfying. Not to mention longer. But I’ve always liked fixing things, and those types of management sims have always brought me a strange sense of satisfaction.
The game ran fairly smoothly, but I did need to switch to teleport during one section in chapter six when I couldn’t cross the threshold into the ship from the deck. It also crashed once while I was collecting the first fifteen minutes of gameplay for the YouTube channel. I don’t know if it was because I was recording or not, but thankfully, that was the only crash, despite recording and even occasionally streaming gameplay to my TV.
The wife watched me play for a while and mentioned that my ship was cute. I don’t know about cute, but it is very cool. Like any good camper, it has a bathroom, bedroom, workstation, and a fully functional control room. Each of the rooms is full of life and interesting things, but you can only interact with things that make sense for the certain puzzle you’re trying to solve. For instance, the 3-D printer or blow torch you need to solve one puzzle is no longer an object you can interact with for the next puzzle. This design choice acts as a clue to the current puzzle, but it ultimately becomes an even bigger clue that the world you’re in isn’t real. It’s a shame too because otherwise, Grace’s little ship is the perfect ride to take on a road trip through the end of the world. I mean you can stand outside while on the front deck and toss a boomerang at your leisure! What’s not to love? And why aren’t there more boomerangs in VR games? I admit that it’s a little silly that this boomerang is how you retrieve the fuel for your ship, but it’s totally worth it.
I didn’t stick it out to the end to solve the puzzles. Nor was it the 3 times you actually step foot off of the ship to investigate some ancient ruins like a 90’s gas station. These were weird fetch quests in a world that had remarkably little to offer. Instead, what kept me going was the physical and emotional journey of the two main characters, and the mostly sad love triangle between Joel, his expecting wife Elena, and Joel’s first (and probably true) love Grace. I’m not sure how I feel about the ending, but it probably ended the way it should have. The real problem I had with the ending was how fast I got there. At maybe 2 hours, it’s not a long journey, but it was a good one, and one I’m glad I got to take.
Vanishing Grace Quest Review
Overall - Very Good - 7/10
Vanishing Grace is an adventure puzzle game about a man searching the apocalypse to find his dear old friend. Or maybe it’s a game about a young man running from a troubled relationship and the responsibilities that come with it. Either way, it’s a good story that is over too soon but is ultimately a trip worth taking.
- A beautiful hand-drawn world that is fun to explore
- Well written and well-performed story
- Grace’s Hovercraft is a great ride to take on a road trip
- VR Boomerang!
- Really good story but only two hours long
- Limited world interaction dampens immersion
- Puzzles are hit and miss
Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using a copy of the game provided by the publisher. For more information, please read our Review Policy.
Reviewed using Oculus Quest 2.