Point and click adventure fans are waiting for A Vampyre Story since 2004 when the game was first announced as the resurrection of the adventure genre. Of course, since then, many other games followed the same headline but barely managed to cope with the 3D universe or the pressure – so it would be pretty fair to say that it’s up for A Vampyre Story to revive the genre or let it rest in peace. Can a vampire game do that much good?
Developed by Autumn Moon Entertainment with Bill Tiller at the helm (creative mind behind Lucas Arts hits like The Curse of Monkey Island and The Dig), the game definitely stands out from the crowd and that can be instantly seen in the intro movie (which is, unfortunately, rather long).
However, we are presented with the main character, French opera singer Mona DeLafitte who’s held captive in Draxsilvanya by Baron Shrowdy, a short legged stupid vampire that instantly gets killed by some vampire hunters. With that main “problem” gone and with the help of Froderick the bat, Mona must escape the Baron’s castle and return to Paris and resume her career as an opera singer. But there’s a problem: she’s a vampire and people tend to have something against vampires… But with your help, she will succeed. Or…?
From a technical point of view, there are just a few things to criticize in A Vampyre Story. The main character moves naturally but you can also “skip” the movement and sequences by pressing space (and this is a MUST HAVE for any adventure title – however, many developers simply forget about it) the interface is simple and easy to use yet very effective and you don’t have to keep your eyes glued to the screen in order to find that needle that keeps you from advancing or solving a quest.
The inventory adds a really interesting bit to the gameplay, even though it doesn’t really make sense. Huge or heavy objects won’t be carried around by Mona, but instead their “shadow” will be placed in the inventory and, whenever you have to use it, you press the button and Mona goes get the object and uses it. This is clearly a more realistic approach to the adventure genre and the entire “carry everything around” concept – but that’s the exact same reason it does not really make sense in A Vampyre Story, which is a humorous, twisted tale with vampires where “realistic” stuff is resumed to the fact that characters wear clothes! It’s a comedy/parody and nothing in it is for real, so I don’t see why the inventory had to change things around…
Also, there is another problem related to the inventory screen – you can only “close” it by right clicking and that’s the same button that makes Mona move to a different location which means that if you’re not paying attention to the spot you right click on, you might find yourself in a new room. And that gets annoying every know and then.
The puzzles in A Vampyre Story might also provide some issues. Especially for newer players. First of all, because there is no “diary” or log of your quests and if you happen to skip an important dialogue sequence, you’ll be in trouble, not knowing what you have to do (I have learned that the hard way myself early on, after talking to the gargoyle and not paying attention to the fact that there’s a crow somewhere around). Second, just like in the “good ol’ days” a few of the puzzle solutions don’t seem to have any logic. Veteran adventure players will probably enjoy such puzzles and get all nostalgic, but for younger or new players to the genre this will definitely be a pain.
One of the strongest points of interest in A Vampyre Story is the humor – that is what turned classic titles like the Monkey Island series, like Sam and Max or Grim Fandango into true adventure icons. And that’s exactly what A Vampyre Story bets most money on and it kind of fails. Don’t get me wrong – the game is filled with humorous dialogs, names, situations, characters – everything is funny in the game and I actually doubt there’s actually a moment during the gameplay when no jokes are said. But it’s too much and the script writers tried too hard and you can feel that. You can feel that some things are exaggerated and nonsensical just because they had to be funny. But, just like silicon implants, you see they’re fake, but still enjoy them a lot.
Thankfully, the humor in A Vampyre Story keeps it old school and does not go for the gross, mindless humor of modern comedies (American Pie comes to my mind now), but it doesn’t fall in the opposite category of extremely sophisticated humor either – it keeps it simple, funny and generally well done, so we can say that it’s mission accomplished by Autumn Moon on that matter.