Fangs for the Good Time
Most accounts of vampires in print, film, and even video games tend to offer up sex, gore, violence, and horror as a primary means of enticing consumers to become immersed in a particular product. Agreed, such provocative themes are indeed what often draw people in to the dark fantasy realm of the undead, but occasionally something comes along that successfully bucks the trend. Offering a more wholesome, lighthearted, and cartoonish take of vampirism, A Vampyre Story will no doubt succeed in luring many adventure gamers into its depths.
After four years of waiting, a dropped publisher, and other delays, PC gamers were beginning to wonder whether Autumn Moon Entertainment’s much anticipated point-and-click adventure title, A Vampyre Story, was ever going to see the light of day (bad pun intended). Created by former Lucas Arts developer Bill Tiller – known for his contribution to The Dig and The Curse of Monkey Island, among other quality adventure titles – the game was originally announced in 2004 and planned for a 2006 release. This month, players finally get to sink their teeth into this stylish, vampiric tale in its entirety. Fortunately, the game’s overtly lengthy development cycle yields a pleasantly humorous adventure that’s about as charming as it is cheesy.
A Vampyre Story follows the comic plight of a somewhat unusual protagonist. The buxomly disproportioned Mona De Lafitte, a budding French opera singer, has found herself imprisoned in a gloomy castle in Draxsylvania by the short and extremely irritating vampire Baron “Shrowdy” von Kiefer. Though Mona herself has been made a bride of darkness, she chalks up her fangs, pallid demeanor, and a thirst for type O positive Merlot to a “little curse.” When Shrowdy gets staked by a pair of undead-hunting monks, the vampiress-in-denial decides to make a break for it with the help of her bat buddy Froderick. Unfortunately for them, escaping the castle and returning to Paris is no simple feat – thanks to a series of obstacles and other impediments laid out by the count’s demonic spirit.
Scouring every inch of the castle for hints and items to use in solving the puzzles necessary to facilitate a successful escape, you’ll guide Mona and Froderick on their way using many of the traditional methods typically found in point-and-click adventure games. Mona’s default walking pace is a bit slow, but navigating screens and dialogue can be sped up with a quick tap of the spacebar. As you explore each room in the castle and the environs beyond, you’ll locate scores of hotspots to interact with. Hitting the tab key reveals all of the available possible locations to interact with in a given screen. Instead of a simple one-click action, selecting a hotspot brings up a crossbar with four options: flying to the selected hotspot, speaking to it, physically interacting with it, and examining it. This gives you greater flexibility in how you choose to explore in the game. The downside is it also makes things move a lot slower than some player will like. Though only a basic amount of intuition is required in determining which action to use on most items and characters, you’ll frequently have to try several different approaches with many hotspots to be sure you don’t miss important clues needed to progress. Given the adventure’s supernatural theme, expect to be talking to a lot of seemingly inanimate objects.
While occasionally challenging, many of the game’s puzzles rely on simple logic and common sense. Paying careful attention to clues and items you’ve collected or seen along the way usually makes it possible to deduce what course of action must be taken to accomplish specific tasks and overcome various obstacles. For example, making a special potion out of different flavors of warm demon snot seems particularly complicated at first, yet careful inspection of the scene will tell you everything you need to know to concoct the proper formula.
Aside from the more involved puzzles, you’ll spend a lot of time collecting items, combining them, and using them throughout the game. The inventory system is a little different in A Vampyre Story. Small items you pick up will appear in your inventory immediately, but grabbing larger objects will produce a blue, ethereal “idea” of the item or the associated action it’s used for that can be dragged and dropped wherever needed. Doing so will then prompt Mona to switch to bat form, warp her to wherever you found the object, and return with it for use at the proper location. It’s an interesting way to change things up. It doesn’t really hurt or improve the gameplay. Thankfully, the warp scenes can quickly be skipped, for those without the patience for them.
The game’s cartoonish visuals are strikingly well-designed, and the colorful-yet-gothic motif adds a ton of atmosphere to the adventure. Mona, Froderick, and the other strange characters you’ll encounter have a lot of visual detail, expression, and animated personalities. Also, the development team doesn’t skimp on animations when Mona interacts with objects. Instead of standing there and making robotic gestures like many other adventure games, Mona actually goes through all of the motions of the task she’s doing. While this may not sound like a big deal, you’d be surprised how many games don’t even bother with it.
There’s a huge volume of voice-over dialogue and accompanying text to go through in the game. The voices are all well done, but much of the actual dialogue tends to land on the cheesier side of things. Mona and Froderick often go back and forth with humorous puns and innuendos. Mona’s naively playful, and somewhat ditsy, personality balances Froderick’s often sarcastic, annoying tone. There are plenty of funny moments to be found in the game alongside other jokes that will make you cringe. In the end, the game’s humor adds more to the mostly enjoyable experience than it subtracts.
As far as adventure games go, A Vampyre Story is interesting and quirky enough to standout in a genre that’s inundated with more mediocrity than mega-hits. The game is carried by its darkly charming presentation, a refreshing story, and entertaining characters. While it’s not quite the cream of the crop, it should easily find its way to the top of the wish-list for many adventure game addicts.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.2 Graphics
A very detailed and interesting cartoonish style livens the game up substantially. 3.8 Control
The variety of options for object interaction is a nice touch, but it occasionally bogs down the gameplay. 4.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
There’s a liberal amount of quality voice work flowing throughout the game. 3.7 Play Value
There’s a reasonable level of challenge here, without clubbing players over the head with it. As with most adventure games, the replay value is pretty low. 3.9 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.