Developed By: Fatbot Games
Published By: Fatbot Games
Category: Adventure, Action, Puzzle, Role-Playing
Release Date: 03.22.21
Composers: Karel Antonín
Vaporum: Lockdown is the prequel to indie dungeon-crawler hit Vaporum, which originally released in 2017. It hit the Switch about two years later, and we were pretty impressed with it. The sequel doesn’t do anything to besmirch that legacy, but I did have one minor gameplay quibble and the game does suffer from one personal pet peeve.
Ellie Says Tell ‘Er Story
Ellie Teller is a researcher for the Supreme Bureau’s science team at the Arx Vaporum, the source of a miraculous substance called fumium. One day, after testing some new equipment, Ellie loses contact with the rest of the station after a series of explosions and a seeming revolt by the station’s fumium-powered drones. Players take on the role of Ellie as she makes her way through the tower in a desperate attempt to secure the resources necessary to escape the Arx Vaporum while unraveling the mystery of exactly what went wrong. It’s an engaging and suspenseful story of survival, obsession, and forbidden knowledge that satisfies from start to finish.
Vaporum: Throw Down
Combat is not exactly turn-based, but because of the tile-based movement system it kind of feels that way. The game also has a turn-based feels because attacks have a cooldown period when used, and vary depending on what weapons or items you have equipped. There are melee weapons that can only attack one square in front of you, and ranged weapons that can fire across multiple tiles straight in front of you. Equipped items can give you the ability to make attacks on all tiles adjacent to you, such as an electric shock that does some damage as well as stunning all enemies it strikes. You can also adjust your combat readiness by equipping different armors and using skill points gained via levelling up that will strengthen your offensive or defensive capabilities.
Because of the deliberate nature of movement in the game, combat becomes a fairly intricate, timing-based chess match. The best way to fight is to move out of an enemy’s line of attack, wait for them to move, attack them during their movement animation, and then move before they’re in position to attack. In fights against multiple enemies, strategically deploying items that can deal area damage, deal status effects, or distract enemies becomes essential. It’s a fascinating and tactically demanding combat system that produces a great sense of satisfaction and accomplishment when you’ve fought your way through a tough mob of enemies.
Test Your Wits While Testing Your Patience
Generally, the puzzles in Vaporum: Lockdown provide a good level of challenge without veering into more frustrating territory. Many puzzles revolve around moving objects like crates to fill chasms and create new paths. Some task players with using switches to alternate opening and closing doors to create the proper path through a challenge. Some puzzles can only be solved by finding and destroying hidden switches or walls, and many combine all of these mechanics.
Unfortunately, many of the puzzles depend on precision timing, and these can become more tedious. As I mentioned before, movement isn’t especially fluid; there is a short pause after every step you take. When you only have a very short window to get to a certain spot, that precious fraction of a second you’re pausing before another step seems to take forever. This led to me tracing the same path many times in a row only to just barely miss my window, resulting in doors slamming in my face or switches losing power before I can get to them. It’s not a fun feeling when you’re just one tile-movement pause too late to hit your mark fifty times. During multiple-step puzzles with tight timing elements I often had to start the whole puzzle over from step one if I couldn’t hit the timing mark, meaning even the all-powerful save-scumming technique couldn’t ameliorate the issue.
Now, certainly, not every puzzle relies on timing – far less than half do. When it does come up, however, it can bring the whole game to a standstill. All sense of momentum in the game’s action and story evaporates. In contrast to the game’s more difficult combat segments, finally nailing a tough timing-based puzzle generates only an annoyed feeling of relief that it’s finally over instead of a sense of accomplishment. I guess what I’m saying is that you need to be ready for this game to occasionally test your patience far more than your puzzle-solving abilities.
A Switch Port With Downgraded Graphics? I’m SHOCKED
Like a lot of games ported to the Switch, Vaporum: Lockdown doesn’t look anywhere near as good on the Switch as it does on other platforms. That isn’t to say it looks bad – it looks like a mid-tier PS3 game. It’s just a bit of a disappointment to, yet again, experience a Switch port with downgraded graphics. I love the game’s overall art direction; it looks like a more intricate BioShock with a more original approach to its robotic enemies. The music is good, but sparse – the game passes largely with only ambient noises, which sound great. The game’s voice acting is top-notch, infusing the game’s story with life and energy – a feat made all the more impressive when you realize the majority of the voice acting is just reading expository journal entries.
It Would Be Massively Inaccurate For Me To Make A Vaporware Joke, But I Still Kind Of Want To
Vaporum: Lockdown is a game made especially for the hardest-of-hardcore dungeon crawling fans. The combat is intricate, tactical, and satisfying. The puzzles are often even more intricate and precise, sometimes to the point of frustration. But every battle won and puzzle solved rewards players with another layer of the game’s compelling storyline revealed. The graphics and sound design are very good, although the game looks far better on PC. There’s plenty here to satisfy gamers of all stripes, just be sure to be prepared to be patient – some of the game’s challenges will take a lot of tries.
Digital – $21.99
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The Switch Effect was graciously supplied a code for review purposes.