First screens of Chillingo’s vamp fest teased us with the promise of un-dead slaying, combined with one-on-one beat ‘em up action… So, after almost a year, how does it fair?
Vampire origins is the tale of Vincent, a vampire slayer working for an ancient group known as ‘The Order’. You soon learn that you were defeated by a Vampire lord, and your wife murdered. Brought back by death himself, you must now track down your wife’s killers, avenge her death and put an end to all blood suckers everywhere.
The game plays in a similar style to the classic Resident Evil or Alone In The Dark series of games. Presented in 3D with a fixed camera, you move Vincent around the screen with a virtual joypad. As you leave one area, a new one pops into view instantly, so there’s none of that slow opening door loading screen from back in the day. Enemies spawn from various points in the environments, such as giant bats from the sky, zombie like vampires from coffins, and axe wielding dwarves, and you must pick them off by aiming Vincent at them and tapping the on-screen fire button. A red target appears over the enemy so you know when a shot will be successful.
Some of the enemies are pretty cool, I particularly like the dwarves. They let out nasty little screams and come running at you with there axes sparking as they drag them along the ground. Delay in taking them out and they’ll throw an axe at your head. The larger enemies are good too, troll like vampires that plod along and throw rocks at you.
There are various weapons to help you on your quest. A pistol is the default, it’s unlimited ammo is particularly helpful… a magical pistol we can only assume… then there is a magnum, shotgun and stake gun, all far more powerful and good for taking out the bigger foes, though ammo is limited for these.
The weapons appear as pickups around the environments, as well as scrolls that give you information and extra story on the types of vampires, and of course health potions to keep you alive.
There are two control methods and neither are perfect. The default is the control stick and fire button. Both weapon’s selection and shooting work well enough, but the movement is a problem. Navigating a single area is all well and good, but when you move off screen to a new area, the control stick resets. This is particularly problematic in an Indiana Jones inspired section where you must run from a rolling boulder. But as you enter a new area your character stops, ignoring your continued press in that direction of the pad, so you must lift your thumb and re-apply. In that short time the boulder can catch you. It’s not impossible, but it is frustrating. The other control option is touch based, here you tap where you want Vincent to walk and tap enemies to shoot, however this can get a little messy with you shooting when you want to move out of the way. if you should choose one option, then I’d stick with the stick.
One interesting control mechanic in the game is the magical eye, this allows you to tap and hold the screen to cast a magnified eye over the environment to seek out hidden booty. I initially thought this was kinda neat, only to find that the developer must have got bored with the idea, as I only ever found one object with it…. it’s a wasted and ultimately pointless addition to the game.
Another wasted opportunity in my eyes are the boss battles. These are nothing more than well choreographed fight sequences requiring only simple finger swipes to cause Vincent to fence his way to victory. Now I understand that these quick-time events are used in many a high profile game, including God of war. But when the iTunes description of Vampire Origins promises “Thrilling boss fights based on actual sword fighting techniques”, but in reality only offers a line tracing mini game, then forgive me for expecting more!
What the game does get right though is the odd set piece that require some intense fighting and a little, but simple, puzzle solving. There’s a fun section in the game that requires you to ward off a large zombie templar with the words from a prayer book, as you search for a magical sword, all the while fending off hordes of un-dead, as well as protecting the prayer book from those pesky dwarves I mentioned earlier!
Graphically the game looks pretty good. It illustrates the dark mood of the game well, with spooky gothic environments and nasty looking character models. The animation is nicely done particularly the boss battles, their only redeeming feature! It’s on par with an early PS2 game with low resolution textures and low poly models, but on the small screen it’s good enough. Presentation wise, I do love the style, the story, told by graphic novel style stills is a little hard to follow at times though, mainly down to poor writing. However, the plot does get more interesting as you progress, it’s just a shame that by the time that happens it’s all over.
This brings me to the main problem with this game, it’s length. Due possibly in part by a low level of difficulty, the game is over way too quickly. Two hours play time just doesn’t cut it for an action game, especially at $6.99. To be shown the end credits when things just start to get interesting is like a slap in the face. We’re promised more to come in the next chapter, but why not give it to us NOW as downloadable content?
Ultimately, Vampire Origins is a fun action title at times, but considering we’ve been waiting for what seems like an eternity for this game’s release, it’s mainly underwhelming, particularly due to it’s length. The price though is the main killer issue here. You just don’t get enough nag for your buck, and in a crowded AppStore that’s a big problem.
Vampire Origins is out now for $6.99