Point-and-click puzzle games are surely the PC’s greatest gift to gaming, taking the more adventurous player into a world beyond the confined walls of the console. It’s no surprise then that such titles have somewhat of a legacy amongst gamers, no doubt originating in such brain-em-ups as Maniac Mansion and Monkey Island. And it’s from the ashes of those classics (former LucasArts developers) that A Vampyre Story is derived.
You play Mona De Lafitte, a stunning Parisian opera singer, who has been locked up (Rapunzel style) in a castle and converted into a vampire by her slightly-disturbed captor, Shrowdy von Kieffer (not-so-Rapunzel style). Despite a year in captivity in her Draxsylvania “home”, Mona hasn’t given up on her dreams of starring in the Paris opera and this perseverance is somewhat rewarded when Shrowdy meets an unfortunate end, biting off more than he can chew one evening. Together with her comical sidekick, Frederick the Bat, Mona seizes her chance to escape Shrowdy’s fort, which is where you come in.
Graphically, we would expect no less than the stunning visuals on display here. Advancing into a Resident-Evil style “3D” environment, Autumn Moon has created a meticulously detailed and gorgeous setting for you to muse around in. All characters in the game are extensively scripted and you will soon find a series of cheeky pop culture references as you wander around the castle, meeting everyone from the unhelpful key guardian, Rufus the gargoyle to the talking fountain. No expense has been spared creating a wonderfully quirky and enjoyable environment.
Again, as you may have anticipated, you will need an out-of-the-box thinking cap and to leave all your preconceptions firmly outside in order to succeed here. Your bat friend, Frederick will of course offer help in the form of sarcastic comments, though don’t expect too much out of Mona – whilst she may have the “looks”, the accent and the “figure”, she’s not too bright upstairs. Play is conducted predominantly in the 3D world, where you will need to locate “useful” objects to either stash or keep for later (Mona will go or send Frederick to retrieve some “in-mind” items that will appear in your inventory), in order to escape Shrowdy’s family labyrinth. Occasionally you will get the chance to enter “interrogation mode” as you find interactive characters, in which you have a seemingly-exhaustive pre-determined list of questions in order to progress.
Controls here are pretty simple, though there are several Monkey-Island shortcuts which are worth knowing to avoid repetition (Mona is tediously slow in walking through rooms, for example) such as right-click to skip to the off-screen part of the next environment and spacebar to avoid cut-scenes. Left clicking on an item will give you either fly to, talk to, examine or take an item, though the fiddly inventory can certainly be more frustration than it’s worth (right click is not employed well). All things considered, the simplified control system is probably for the best, as you would be more than a touch bamboozled if there were more options.
Should you manage to figure out what you need to do (a walkthrough is always tempting), the game progresses nicely at a pace that most fans of the genre will appreciate. The story-line is pretty well thought out, though not overly spectacular – this is more Monkey Island than Broken Sword, and it shows. There isn’t a great deal of depth to the plot and the game very much inhabits its childish, cartoony visual world, rather than a more-challenged adult way of thinking. What should be said as well is that many of the solutions (i.e. what you had to do to achieve something) verge more on the ridiculous, as opposed to the amusing of such titles like Discworld. Still, that won’t discourage genre fans and the young alike, and it is no surprise how well the game has been received. That said, this is not an easy game by any means and the puzzles will have you scratching your head as much as you had hoped.
After two chapters, the game does come to a rather abrupt end (don’t worry, there will be a sequel), but there is certainly enough visual delight, audio hilarity (to a point) and tricky puzzles to maintain interest. One can’t even gripe about the game engine, which also stands up to a great deal of screen flicking (if you succumb to the walkthrough) and general PC disruption, with not even a blemish of slowdown. In short, if you like this sort of thing and don’t mind a somewhat childish view on matters, then this will suit. If however, you like a bit of humanity (literally) to your point-and-clicks, you may not enjoy it quite as so. It is however, a very decent effort on the whole.