Vaporum: Lockdown is a first person dungeon crawler in the vein of so many old school PC classics of yesteryear. I’ve been gaming since I could grip a controller and I can remember seeing games like Vaporum: Lockdowm for PC and being jealous that I couldn’t play them on my MegaDrive. By the time I was old enough (and in possession of a PC) classic dungeon crawlers had faded away to be replaced by FPS games (AvP2 swallowed many an hour of my youth).
So when the folks at FatBot games offered us here at GameHype the chance review Vaporum: Lockdown I was immediately hit with an odd nostalgia, a nostalgic FoMo if you will, I’d missed out as a kid and I would not be denied now.
Did Vaporum: Lockdown live up to my nostalgic hype, we the short answer is yes, but it wasn’t all plain sailing and elements were exactly what you may expect from a game of this genre.
Exactly what you’d expect if you’re expecting frustration, at least as far as combat is concerned. In this regard Vaporun:Lockdown can feel frustratingly dated as opposed to nostalgic. While it’s combat isn’t bad for the genre, in fact is exemplary of the genre it does perhaps highlight why we don’t see a whole lot of these types of games nowadays.
I can be frustratingly clunky especially when the pressure is on as foes swarm around you, boxing you in and giving you a good old fashioned kicking. While I didn’t enjoy the combat I can’t be all that mad about it, as I knew what kinda of game I was in for, and complaining the gameplay is exactly what you’d expect seems a tad nonsensical to me.
Besides, can be frustrating isn’t always frustrating, there are times when your positioning and movement are just as if not more important than the weapon you’re swinging. As you “dance” (well as much as one can dance with grid based movement) around foes and dodging hits while funnelling hordes into bottlenecks like it’s Ancient Greece can feel immensely rewarding as you play the game the way it’s intended and triumph.
Combat aside the puzzles in the game are great and for many timing is crucial, be it hitting a switch and simply trying to run grid to grid before a door slams shut to or positioning yourself to intercept lock triggers. I wouldn’t call the games puzzles taxing but they do offer a nice pause between when I’ve decided to call “square dance combat”, they also help immerse you in the labyrinth that is the Arx Vaporum.
As you explore the Arx, the world will come to life (sometimes literally) and you’ll find notes and dialogue recordings that bring Bioshock to mind. These help you flush out the world in which you are trapped and honestly, they do a fantastic job. Weather it’s seeing the change in a characters diary from wondrous awe at the Arx Vaporum to a jaded cynicism of the organisation in charge as they begin the resent the tower they once found so inspiring.
One particular voice note is from a disgruntled researcher who despises the by the book brown nosing attitude of a fellow employee, despite this character coming across as overly entitled I did like him, in fact I would often spend time looking for hidden areas just to see if I could find evidence that he’d managed to survive.
Speaking of survival as you progress through the game you’ll find equipment that will let you develop down a certain path, do you want to be a nimble light footed combatant or a tech savvy badass that keeps foes at a distance. All of your equipment falls into a different play style and while there’s nothing stopping you from switching it up you’ll definitely feel as if you’ve picked a role, something modern RPGs lack letting you be a Jack of all trades (looking at you Skyrim). Your first major choice is that of which Rig to wear, you can’t change this once you’ve decided so for new players i recommend putting some serious thought into the choice. I opted for “Rig with the most health”, not dying as often seemed like the best choice, although you are free to save the game as often as you’d like, meaning that there’s no real punishment for dying other than the odd bit of frustration.
The only down side to Vaporum: Lockdown is its visuals, it’s may feel like an old PC game but boy does it look like one to. The graphics look like something out of the early 2000s and while it’s not a massive problem given that the gameplay is so tight there were a few occasions where a particularly wall would be so hideous rendered that my immersion would be interrupted, although only briefly.
Vaporum: Lockdown is ideal for those who miss games of the genre or for those curious to explore a genre that has been all but ignored for the past few decades. It’s not going to be everyone’s favourite flavour of ice cream but that’s why butter pecan exists, right?