Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Vampire Lemmings - An Indie Game Review

Vampires! is a (wait for it....) vampire-themed puzzle game by CBE Software, the developer behind the recent sci-fi adventure/puzzle game J.U.L.I.A. and Ghost in the Sheet. Vampires! plays loosely like the classic Lemmings game (except with vampires) -- it's almost dawn, and the vampires have to get back to their crypts before the sun comes up. The problem is that they seem to roam through hallways almost aimlessly, so it's up to you to help them avoid traps and make it back to the crypt safely, before sunrise. 

The game is played from an overhead perspective with small, self-contained map scenarios. Using the mouse, you click on tiles to alter the environment while the vampires drone ever onward through the hallways and intersections. Your primary interaction is rotating tiles so that you can shape the path you want the vampires to take, even rotating a tile while a vampire is currently in the tile. At first, all you have to worry about is patches of sunlight, which kill the vampires instantly if they walk into it, but things quickly become more complicated.

In later levels, you encounter other hazards that can threaten the life of your vampires. Certain levels have guns aimed down hallways, firing slow-moving bullets at regular intervals, so you have to time your vampires' movements to avoid being hit by the bullets. Similarly, some levels have rotating mirrors that reflect a beam of light down a hallway at regular intervals, as well as wooden spike wheels that roll through the hallways. In order to navigate these traps, you have a couple of tools at your disposal; spider webs that slow down your vampire's movement speed, garlic that blocks a path and causes a vampire to turn the other way, and vampire queens who can take out traps if navigated to them.

Besides all of that, you have different types of vampires to manage as well. When blue vampires come to an intersection, they only make right turns; red vampires only make left turns; and black vampires will pick a direction randomly. These same rules apply to queen vampires. There are 65 different levels in the game, with more traps and tools being layered on top of each other as you progress through the game. Things start out simply with you only having to navigate a single vampire down a simple corridor with minimal traps, but eventually you're trying to micromanage three or more vampires on opposite sides of a large map with multiple hazards.

So there are ton of levels to play just by themselves, but each level also comes with three different difficulty challenges. Just achieving the minimum requirements is enough to advance to the next stage, but if you're feeling up to a challenge, you can try to get a silver or gold completion rate for beating the level within a certain amount of time and with only a limited number of mouse clicks. Therefore, there's quite a bit of content to experience in Vampires! and plenty of replay value, too.

Unfortunately, about a third of the way through the game I kind of lost interest. After a certain point, the levels become almost excessively complex with so many variables happening at once. It was difficult for me to keep track of what was going on at all places on the board at all times, and certain levels ultimately devolved to rote trial-and-error as I tried to work through possible solutions. Some levels seem incredibly difficult, which can be a very good thing at times, but I reached a point after a while where I was no longer getting satisfaction out of the challenge.

What I really wish is that the game could give you more freedom with your assets and resources. You sometimes get different tools to help navigate your vampires, but they're always restricted to particular levels and might not show up in the next one. Most of the time the challenge lies in finding the solution within your limited confines -- finding the exact, intended solution -- and you don't always get the feeling of creatively coming up with a solution yourself. It would be nice if you had more tools and resources and could use them more freely.

This game will be particularly appealing if you're into puzzle games, or if you're looking for a more casual gaming experience that can be played in shorter bursts. It can be fairly addicting at first, advancing through levels and trying to complete the gold challenges -- I started playing and before I knew it I had completed 20 levels. It's a decent way to pass the time, but not a terribly fulfilling experience unless you're really into puzzle games.

Vampires can be purchased in CBE's store for $4.99, or as part of Kyttaro Games' Cerebral Bundle in a Box for a minimum cost of $1.99.


  1. On my Chrome browser your "FOLLOW BY EMAIL" and "SUBSCRIBE (RSS)" vibrate quite rapidly.

    It is both strange and distracting.

    1. It seems to begin after your Followers are loaded, and after that everything below them vibrates.

      And when I click "More >>" it fixes it, but if I go back it is back to vibrating.

    2. Weird, I haven't seen anything strange on my end. I've removed everything below and including the followers, we'll see if that helps.

    3. I guess I did not subscribe to this post. That fixed it for me at least. But when I click the follower maximizer, the window I get vibrates at the bottom. I wonder if it is one of your followers.

      Not that it matter, at least now that you need to actively seek it out.