Some time ago I’ve been contacted by developers of Avatarico that wanted me to review their game “Dracula: Vampires vs. Zombies”. I’ve been intrigued by the description that their creative director gave me of the game:
‘Dracula’ is a parody game. It brings together such cliches as zombies, vampires, 80s, wave shooters and grinds it all in an insane mix. The protagonist is a typical b-movie hero, named Chuck Steelballz.
Well, seems cool. Why not giving it a try? So I downloaded the game on Steam using the provided key and launched it.
The game surprised me since the beginning. I was like in a caravan, that was running through a snowy forest. In my hand I had a remote… what was I supposed to do with that? I looked around and seen various stuff, but then I’ve been attracted by the mirror at my left. Wow, I could see my full body reflecting my poses! Of course, using just a standard Oculus setup, the game made its best to emulate my full pose using inverse kinematics but was cool nonetheless. This mirror has really surprised me.
After having played a bit with my mirrored self, I decided to go on with the game. I understood that the remote I was holding in my hand was the remote control of the projector that was projecting an 8-bit game on the wall. With the control, I was able to navigate into the game menu… which, guess what, was actually the menu of this game. In this intro room I’ve been really delighted by the developers: at first the mirror and then this genius menu idea. I loved this menu because it is immersive, that is, it is part of the gaming experience (it is on the wall and you command it using the remote you have in your hand) as I’ve already seen in various games (Sneaky Bears VR, Face Your Fears, VRobot). But the thing that astonished me the most about it is the fact that it is an immersive 2D menu! All others immersive menus I’ve seen are in 3D, while this one is a 2D one but it fits perfectly into the intro environment. Kudos to Avatarico devs for this idea!
When I launched the first level of the game, I’ve been teleported inside the game. I found myself in an elevated platform inside a deserted city. In front of me, there was a zombie, that didn’t move. I started noticing the graphical quality of the game: it was good and neat, but not the best one I’ve seen in a VR game. I think that it may be a choice. The game tries to be a parody of a B-movie and in a B-movie, graphics surely are not perfect. Because yes, in this game you are a B-movie hero called Chuck Steelballz (ahahahh a very funny name) that finds himself inside the zombies/vampires/monsters apocalypse and has to save his city and its inhabitants from the invasion. Seems legit.
At my left, I saw a bow, so I picked it up with my left controller and an arrow appeared on my right hand. Being the cool hero Chuck Steelballz, I immediately knew what to do: shoot that damn zombie into his head! Bam! Headshot, 200 points!
The first kill has been the trigger that launched the first wave of enemies (and also served as a mini-tutorial). The first wave started, and zombies began appearing all around me, emerging from the ground. I tried shooting them with the arrows, but aiming with the provided bow is really hard, so I found the best tactic was letting the zombies come closer, climb on the platform, arrive next to me and then shoot them in the head. Sometimes I also used the arrow and the bow as a melée weapon and killed zombies this way. Sometimes some little graphical hints suggested me what to do (for instance I learned that the bow could be used as a melée weapon thanks to a suggestion of the game).
During the game sometimes I could hear an external voice saying stupid things or giving me advice: I think it is the narrator of the B-movie. It is funny. Talking about sounds in general… they’re very well conceived: through sound you can understand if an enemy has been generated, the kind of enemy generated, if someone is going to attack you and a lot of other stuff. I loved sound design in this game.
The bow is not only a weapon, it is also the HUD of your game: onto it, I could see my health (thanks to a colored bar), my current score and wave number. This is another example of a natural interface and of the effort the devs put to make this game the most immersive possible.
I started killing a lot of zombies and soon the platform became full of corpses: to make things more splatter, as in B-movies, corpses never vanished and so very soon the city became full of dead zombies (that technically were already dead before I killed them…).
Anyway, soon the game began boring. You know, there are thousands of zombie wave shooters out there with the same identical gameplay. Furthermore, the game was monotonous and I understood how to kill zombies easily (waiting for them and shooting them). I was about stopping playing and writing a negative review. Don’t know why I continued playing (maybe because I was too lazy to quit), but I never regretted this decision.
The game started changing. Innocent inhabitants started to appear and I had to save their lives while continuing saving mine, too. This made the game harder since I had to aim at distant enemies to save survivors while they were running and this was far from easy. Furthermore, while I tried saving residents’ lives on one side, zombies were attacking me on the other side. Then dwellers starting taking power-ups with them: some of them carried health, while others special weapons. Suddenly I found myself with a Molotov and used it to kill a big zombie wave.
After some time, a new enemy appeared: Dracula. Dracula appeared on a building and started throwing fireballs at me. It was distant, so I had to aim at it to kill it. After I had killed it, another one appeared, and I understood I was going to have a bad time. Killing him was hard and if I couldn’t kill it on time, I had to shoot its bullets or dodge them. Then a new wave appeared, with a mix of Draculas and Zombies. Distant enemies and near ones to shoot, it has been hard. In the meanwhile, Dracula was a sniper and killed almost all the survivors I had to save. Damn, I had no powerups in this level.
The game continued this way, with increasing difficulty, until a new enemy appeared: a creepy jumping little girl. The more I went on, the more the game added difficulty and variability: I had to decide who to shoot, who to save and in the meantime dodge attacks. I started sweating a bit. I’ve died a bazillion times, because the game at this point wasn’t easy. But I always hit the “Replay” button because I felt challenged. Ah, when I died, I could see an 8-bit graphic telling my position in the world hi-score chart and some buttons to replay the level or return to the main menu.
The game features also various power-ups. Apart from the molotov, good to make zombie barbecue, there is a special fluid that when drunk activates bullet time: everything becomes black and white and you can shoot a lot of enemies while they move slowly.
Then there is also a bait: an arm that you can throw so that zombies start following it. And there is also my favorite special weapon: a rocket that when fired explodes with a big firework in the sky that writes an enormous “Fu*k you” that makes all zombies and monsters hypnotized. Tell me that this is not the perfect weapon for a horror B-movie! The game gives you slowly these power-ups, so while you see that there 4 power-ups in the game, these are disclosed to you in different levels in campaign mode.
After more than one hour of playing, I decided to return to the main menu, to try the other game modes. Because using the main menu, there is the possibility to:
- Play the game in survivor mode: there are continuous waves of enemies that continue until you die. Notice that these waves are very different from the campaign mode ones. At startup, you find yourself already fighting with zombies, wolves and angry girls. Also power-ups are given you immediately. It is pretty difficult to be played;
- Choose a different environment. Apart from the city, you can also play in the snow forest.
As you can see, I liked this game. It is another zombie wave shooter, but it is a fun one. It is boring at the beginning; it is hard to aim with the bow; it is hard to be played with Oculus frontal setup. But apart from this and other little problems (like the fact that when you die, the game asks you to evaluate it… it’s annoying), I think this is a quality product. It is not something like Robo Recall, but it’s entertaining anyway.
If you’re interested, you can find it on Steam for €14.99! See you tomorrow with another review (this week will be full of game reviews!)
(Header image by Avatarico)