Vasilis Review (PS Vita)

Game: Vasilis
Genre: Adventure, Unique
System: PS Vita (also on PC, MAC, PS4, Xbox, and Switch)
Developers|Publishers: Marginal Act|Sometimes You
Price: US $4.99|AUS $7.55|UK £3.99
Age Rating: EU 16+|AUS 15+|US M
Release Date: February 26, 2020

Review code used with many thanks to Sometimes You

When I heard about Vasilis I was very intrigued. I enjoy graphic novels/memoirs, so the hand drawn art style really caught my eye. Plus, any sign of life for the PS Vita is welcome in my book. At first glance this seemed right up my alley. So was my first impression correct? Let’s find out!

What is it?

Vasilis is an adventure game created by Marginal Act and ported by Sometimes You. It was inspired by political events that took place in Ukraine in 2014. As best as I can tell, it was originally published in Russian. You play as an elderly woman who wakes up and finds her husband Petrya missing and an unrelated dead body. This propels her out the door and into the building unrest outside her front door.

The Gameplay

The controls are very simple. All the action is walking, retrieving items, giving the items in inventory away or using them to complete tasks, and talking to various characters. The instructions may be a tad unclear for some (me included), but any confusion can be resolved by some experimental button pushing. However, there is no way to have your character walk faster. Just a warning for the impatient.

The game saves automatically which is very handy in a handheld game you may want to play in super short bursts. I shut it down whenever I needed a break and it just jumped back in right where I left off. No forgetting to save here!

My main complaints on the basic gameplay are that the map is hard to read and the buildings aren’t labeled. Now if you have fairly good memory, this probably isn’t an issue. If you’re like me and can get lost in your own hometown, then you may find yourself frequently consulting some of the handy YouTube walkthroughs just to remember where the building you need to go to is located. There’s also a journal function to look over what people have said to you, but I didn’t find it extremely useful personally.

I also occasionally had trouble distinguishing items I was supposed to pick up from the background. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the only thing that is hard to distinguish in this game.

The Story

The overarching story of this game is very simple: An elderly woman in searching for her husband amidst upheaval. That much is clear, and I was very interested in learning what happened to him. But as the saying goes, the devil’s in the details and this game struggles to show what’s going on and how to advance the story. To be fair: This could be a translation issue. I strongly suspect at least part of it may be, as the dialogue is hard to follow and sometimes (often) nonsensical. Another contributing factor is for the most part you can talk to the NPCs in any order, which makes it difficult to sort out the story chronologically. Some of the characters who assign you tasks repeat the same tasks if their spoken to again, even after those tasks are completed. I fully admit that YouTube walkthroughs were used a lot to sort out how what was going on and how to advance. And after all that, things get really weird.


The game is divided into 6 days (20 achievements for those who like their trophies). The first few days involve dealing with characters who mostly are discussing Petrya and the ongoing turmoil, with some odd comments about things growing. Then it advances to day 4 or so, and it lost me completely at that point. I’m reluctant to say what happens, partially because I don’t understand it at all, and partially because it would be considered a spoiler. But suffice it to say, your retrievals start to involve body parts and there is a sudden turn into the supernatural, or sci-fi, or…something. I’m fully open to the idea that this all makes sense in the original Russian, that it could be an issue with translation or a lack of cultural context to understand references. But I only speak English and it made no sense to me.

This is a significant knock against the game to be sure, but that’s far from saying I wasn’t consistently intrigued while playing this title.

The Art

This is where this game really stands out to me. I loved the line drawings. They are simplistic, but extremely creative. The lead is a fairly straightforward drawing of an older woman. This in itself is significant: How many games do you know of that feature older women as protagonists?! (Seriously. If you know of any, leave a comment). I LOVE that about this title. This alone adds points to this title for me.

The city has a lot of character. It felt very much like wandering through an early to mid-century piece in a modern art gallery. There is a lot of minor motion in this game that gives the impression of bustling activity. The trees move slightly, the people sort of shiver in place. Combined with the excellent background track, I definitely felt as if I were in a place where people were struggling and planning a revolt. It seemed they were very much alive and fighting.

This character drawing reminds me so much of Alberto Giacometti’s work.

And the people! This is where I feel particularly justified in stating that I felt as if I were wandering through a modern art piece. It reminded me of the works of Alberto Giacometti or maybe Edvard Munch. The people varied from completed sketches, to unfinished outlines. They bend in ways that humans never could, their mouths expand to the size of their head, and some of the heads are scribbled out entirely. Body proportions are strange and over-sized. It’s very surreal and excellent at making everything feel like it’s in turmoil.

If my library employed this guy, I wouldn’t lose my library card so much!

There’s a lot of weirdness to contemplate long after you finish this game. What is with that bar with squirrel heads? Why do the eyes blink? What was up with the bouncer at the library that was roughly the size of a mountain? It’s a very strange experience that doesn’t leave your mind easily.

The Negatives

The biggest negative for me was the story. I just couldn’t follow it. If you primarily play games for the story, you’ll probably want to pass on this one.

There is also a glitch with the sound options that makes it difficult to adjust the volume. This is unfortunate, because the background noises are hard to hear, minus the scribbling in your journal noise which is LOUD. If you’re like me, you’ll have turned the volume up to hear, only to jump out of your seat when you first talk to someone that triggers the scribbling noise. I wrote Sometimes You, and they are aware of it but doubt there will be a chance to fix it. They did suggest using the D-pad to try and adjust the volume as it is more successful. My advice is to be very careful if you’re using headphones because of the volume balance.

There’s also a scene where you set several gears into motion to solve a puzzle (the only one in the game) and it causes lag in your characters motion. This is reportedly due to limitations in the Vita.

There are one or two other things I thought were glitches, but were actually the game working correctly. The most notable one was a time travel feature unlocked at the end. It’s handy for going back and completing missed achievements, but it does it jumps around a little oddly at first. Keep at it and you’ll get it working in a way that makes sense.

There are a few scenes at the end that are a bit hard on the eyes. There’re some objects floating in the foreground of one environment, and there are several scenes involving a sort of animated signal that moves out from a source in waves that was very tough on the eyeballs, at least for me. Also, the text is very tiny and there isn’t a way to change the size. To be fair, this isn’t an issue unique to this game. Ports sometimes don’t adjust for smaller screens.

Some of the smallest text I’ve seen in a game.

The loading between screens takes a while, but if you’re used to certain games (I’m looking at you Disney Magical World!) then it’s not a huge issue, but it is quite a bit longer than most games.

A minor spoiler but I feel it’s worth a mention even with the rating: This game has some disturbing content, which one would expect given that it takes place in a city undergoing upheaval and the game’s rating. There is a cut scene where the protagonist is being interrogated, and the motions involved made me briefly think she was being sexually assaulted, although I am fairly sure the intent is that she is being beat up by a corrupt official. However, since it not only crossed my mind, but the mind of a friend who saw me play that part of the game and independently came to the same question, I thought it worth mentioning as a heads up.

The Conclusion


This is a very strange game, and I can’t rate it very highly due to the confusion in the story. However, as an experience I found it fairly remarkable. The drawings, motion, and atmospheric soundtrack made it something I won’t be forgetting anytime soon. If I ever find a better explanation of what the story is, I may go back and try it again to see if I can follow along better. I would not be averse to wandering around this surreal environment again, and the nifty time travel feature you unlock at the end makes that a very inviting prospect.

Until then, I will enjoy the platinum I got to add to my Vita collection and ponder why those squirrels in the wall were blinking! My best advice is to take a look at the first several minutes of a video walkthrough to see if you think it’s for you. I definitely think it is worth the $4.99 PS Vita price and I would be very interested in seeing more from this creator in this art style.

Final Verdict: I like it

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