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Vessel preview: Don't forget to hydrate

You know how they say that water is the essence of life? In Vessel, water takes it one more step: It literally becomes life. Inventor Arkwright has invented what he calls Fluros, little creatures that attract any liquid around them and build them into a body. They're pretty great for doing work around his factory, especially because of their seemingly bottomless desire to step on buttons. Handily, Arkwright's entire factory seems to run on those little buttons.

Relying on the little guys probably isn't the best idea, though. If Fantasia taught us anything, it's that employing vaguely magical automatons to do your dirty work always goes awry. Soon, the Fluros have taken over the factory and start wreaking havoc, breaking down a variety of large machines that the good inventor needs to keep things running smoothly. So, obviously, he must go on a 2D-platformer adventure to solve that not-so-little issue.

Gallery: Vessel (XBLA / PSN / PC) | 5 Photos

He's not without Fluro help, thankfully. Need a remote switch pressed to get past a locked door? Naturally, there's a pool of water close by. Just toss a Fluro seed next to it, watch it soak up some water and create a brand new little dude to run over, flip the switch, and get you right on through. Luckily, Arkwright's got an unlimited supply of seeds, so the Fluros' relative fragility isn't a problem. Get enough water and you can summon an army of the things.

The usefulness of the seed's water attraction abilities don't stop there. Need some water from a leaky pipe to land in a very particular spot? Toss down a seed and the little stream will swing its way over. Even if the seed doesn't end up as a full-on Fluro, Arkwright will can put them to good use.

Don't pin the little guys down as biased towards that H2O, either; they'll make a body out of anything fluid. For some reason, Arkwright's got a bunch of lava just laying around in his lab, blocking him off from several switches. Fortunately, the Seeds will make Fluros out of the fiery stuff as well.

But what if there aren't any liquids around? However will we transport some to where it needs to go? Arkwright scoffs at your bucket idea, as he'd much rather use his dual-purpose gun, able to both spray water and suck it up.

Even in the short PAX demo, the variety of puzzles in Vessel was rather impressive. It doesn't hurt that the stylish steampunk-esque looks and custom liquid physics make the puzzler pretty easy on the eyes. Water flows freely and gorgeously, even when it's not going quite the direction that you planned. Lava glints and glows as it tumbles down inclines, chasing Arkwright as he desperately tries to figure out how to stop it. When a puzzle takes a while to figure out, just toying with the physics is thoroughly enjoyable, and often leads to the solution anyway.

In a gaming landscape full of puzzle platformers, Vessel is looking to stand out. And with its good looks, excellent water physics, and general science weirdness, it's certainly one to keep an eye on.

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