Review by Braben
An enchanting story with little blood but a lot of heart, brains and personality.
After a troubled production and a long gestating period (six years apparently) former Lucas Arts members have finally delivered a graphic adventure that`s full of something almost every recent game in the genre lacks, heart and personality. But that is merely the beginning, there`s also an original and very funny plot, characters that you actually care about, a great atmosphere and a very old school gameplay. The result?, one of the best graphic adventures in a long time.
Many moons ago Shrowdy (Count Dracula) kidnapped Mona, a beautiful if rather naive opera singer and turned her into a vampire. But one fine day Shrowdy suddenly gets ambushed and killed while he was looking for some fresh blood and now Mona finally can fulfill her dream of going to Paris to test her singing skills with a real audience.
It`s a very humorous and creative story with numerous pop culture references that never overstay its welcome and even include several references to beloved Lucas Arts classics such as Sam & Max, Monkey Island and even Day of The Tentacle among others, and I don`t know you but any game that pays homage to Day of The Tentacle is automatically worth playing in my book.
The humor isn`t devoid of jokes and puns of questionable comic appeal and the dialogue can be surprisingly crass at times for such a seemingly family friendly endeavor (not that I`m complaining, but I was caught off-guard), but the gags hit much, much more than they miss and the characters are so likable it is easy to forgive even the silliest comments. Mona is a delightful protagonist, sweet and very charming and Froderick really works as the wisecracking, smart-ass sidekick. The rest of surreal and highly unorthodox characters are very fun to interact with as well, so much that it is a pity that you only have to talk to most of them once. Add a good amount of loud out loud funny situations and you`ve got yourself an engaging and enormously entertaining story you`ll want to play till the end.
And speaking of the ending, yes it`s very disappointing, but this is the first game in a planned trilogy (and possibly quadrilogy), so maybe the excessively open-ended finale wasn`t such a bad idea after all. Either way the story is lovely.
The visual style combines hand drawn backgrounds with 3D characters. The scenarios are utterly wonderful, the art design is absolutely fantastic and highly reminiscent of The Curse of Monkey Island except with lovely Tim Burton-esque characters in not so perfect but still perfectly serviceable 3D. It is a real pity that they didn`t decide to include animated sprites instead of 3D models, that would have made the visual aspect even prettier. Also, for some reason during the video sequences there is a loss of color, nothing tragic but it`s kind of odd.
Each area has its own piece of music (well, almost) and they are all excellent to say the least, each and every composition (heavily influenced by the Monkey Island series and the Harry Potter movies) is simply wonderful from any possible angle. The voice acting is equally brilliant, no, it`s even better, in fact, this game has some of best voice acting I`ve ever heard in my entire gaming life. The amount of accents and dialects is a joy and all of the actors do an incredible job with their characters.
The graphics and music are not the only things that prove that the team behind this game worked for Lucas Arts in the past. This is a classic point and click third person adventure from beginning to end, when you want to interact with something you have to hold the left mouse button and choose between four options, three of them fairly obvious and a fourth one which allows you to turn into a vampire and reach higher places and all that vampiric stuff. Even the conversations evoke past games with its branching dialogue system.
It is also fairly non-linear in the vein of the Monkey Island series, you don`t have to solve every situation in order to keep going. The difficulty is slightly unbalanced though, things aren`t always evident and due to the nature of the game most of the puzzles are very off the wall and outlandish, sometimes you have no idea why you are doing wha you are doing, but none of them are hard to pull off. Also, the game is divided in two chapters and the first one is substantially harder than the second one, so maybe it would have been a better idea to maket hings the other way around. In short, it is not a walk through the park but it won`t get on your nerves either, in fact this is one of the few graphic adventure that I have managed to complete without cheating, not even once, which made me specially happy because I am definitely no an expert puzzle-solver despite my predilection for graphic adventures and, as far as I can remember and with the exception of Broken Sword 3 and Amerzone, this is the first time in my entire life that I beat one of them without looking at the solution at all.
I guess it is a relief to say that the biggest flaw is the save system. You can`t overwrite your saved slots so you have no choice but to create a new one every single time you want to save your progress. This is particularly problematic if you are not the only person playing the game, which was my case this time around. Oh and don`t forget to download a patch to solve a couple of nasty bugs that can prevent you from completing the game.
I absolutely loved this game, it`s got everything that makes a graphic adventure worth playing: a crazy story with a very amusing script, a cast of zany but lovable and endearing characters, great art design and a perfectly accessible gameplay with non-linear puzzles that require a hefty amount of exploration. If you miss old school graphic adventures (and who doesn`t) you simply cannot miss A Vampyre Story, hands down one of the best ones in eons and it`s great to know that a sequel (or two) is in the works.
Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Product Release: A Vampyre Story (US, 05/31/08)
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