Unlike the zombie, vampires haven’t really had a ton of exposure in the App Store. As a result, I get a bit excited every time a new vampire game comes out, and when Chillingo is the publisher my eyes tend to get even bigger. A while back they released the game Vampire Origins, which was supposedly a hybrid action / adventure game rendered in a 3rd person perspective. I’m finally getting the chance to sink my teeth into the game, and while there’s certainly a lot of promise to what was intended to be the first of a trilogy (I believe), after playing more recent endeavors like Resident Evil and Zombie Infection I’m not overly impressed. I’ll grant you that those are zombie games, but they have the same sort of feel to them, and are much more worthy of your efforts in terms of time and overall enjoyment.
You play the hero Vincent, who has been brought back from the dead to help restore some order by destroying an out of control vampire population. Of course, you think you’re just trying to avenge the death of your loved one, but that’s taken care of in the first part of the game. Anyway, the background is revealed to you through a combination of pages from a book on vampire lore and comic book style cut scenes between you and the various main nasties in the game. In between all this exposition is a whole lot of creature killing, some key finding, and just a bit of puzzle solving, though not really enough to call it even a hybrid adventure game in my opinion. I would have liked to have seen a bit more adventuring, but I guess I can get that fix by playing the Path Of The Dragon series.
There are three main ways to interact with critters in the game. The first is with your guns, which basically becomes a glorified shooting gallery. You can either tap directly on the creature to shoot it, or you can aim towards the creature with the virtual joystick and then use the fire button to shoot. I prefer the direct tap method, because the auto targeting seems a bit flaky. You basically get three ranged weapons, so don’t expect a whole array of cool toys like in iDracula. The second method of interaction is sword “fighting”. I use this term loosely, because basically you’re watching a movie, and every once in a while you trace a line of blood to cause Vincent to attack correctly. Honestly this is a really weak mechanic, as it makes the boss battles way too easy. The third thing you’ll do is run. There are several sequences where you have to outrun something, which is a big pain regardless of whether you use the virtual joystick or the “tap to move” method of control. Overall the interaction with the bad guys could have used a bit of tweaking.
The main story mode is divided into 3 “chapters”, with a boss at the end of each chapter. There is also a survival mode, but I didn’t find that particularly interesting, so I’ll leave that up to you to check out in the lite version of Vampire Origins if you so desire. Both story and survival modes have easy and nightmare difficulty settings, and I’d say it took me roughly 3-4 hours to complete the story mode on easy. Someone with any amount of action game savvy could probably complete the game in a couple of hours. The biggest obstacle to any of this is the controls, but if you master that the game is not all that difficult. There are achievements to be earned through Crystal if you’re a subscriber to that social network. I’m not sure how many there are, because Crystal isn’t cooperating with me at the moment, but the main page says I’ve only completed 3% of them, so there must be quite a few.
The graphics are pretty nice, though the fact that they are pre-rendered makes some of the backdrops feel a bit “fake”. The color palette also leaves a bit to be desired. I’m sure they were going for dreary because of the somber mood of the game, but dreary often turns into muddled instead. The characters themselves are nicely rendered, and there actually aren’t too many issues with clipping and such things that are usually present in 3D games on handheld devices. Sometimes everything gets just a bit sluggish, but I would probably attribute that to the fact that I’m still running a second generation iPod Touch.
The sound effects are decent enough, though the noise the little axe wielding freak makes is kind of annoying. It would have been cool to have some voices to go along with the main characters during the cut scenes, but it doesn’t really hamper anything with them not being there. Given the survival horror nature of the game it seems like there should be creepy background music playing throughout your journey. There is some good music that plays, but sadly it’s only during the menu and fight scenes. I really think it would have helped the ambience to have something playing throughout the game.
Normally I try not to read other people’s “reviews” of a game that I’m working on reviewing myself, but in this case I ended up reading several comments in a thread while looking for the answer to a question I had. There seemed to be a lot of negative vibes towards this game. It certainly wasn’t the best, especially when weighed against the likes of Resident Evil and other such survival horror games. On the other hand, it wasn’t nearly as bad as many were making it out to be. The controls could use a bit of tweaking and some more adventure type stuff would be nice, but what’s there is an interesting start. I will say that I had enough fun with this that I wouldn’t mind seeing the next part to the saga, assuming the developers are still planning on releasing it at some point.