Nothing like rabbit or duck season
When I wrote the preview of Vampire Season for iOS, I felt a good deal of excitement about the game’s pending arrival. I love horror, and the idea of taking control of character archetypes from the genre was a pretty exciting concept to me. The stakes were high (pun intended), and I’m happy to say the game delivered on most accounts. Pun also intended.
Vampire Season is not exactly bursting at the seams with story, but the basic premise is that the location of Dracula’s coffin has been revealed, and it’s up to the player to protect it. You have monsters like vampires, zombies, and wolfmen at your disposal, all of which cost a certain level of fear to purchase and place on the field. Worry not, as you earn fear at a steady rate over the course of matches.
As it turns out, the opposition consists of more than just vampire hunters and people looking to make a quick buck. Jocks, pirates, decorators and prince charmings, to name a few, also have it out for The Prince of Night. This strange assortment of enemies functions as a good microcosm of the game’s particular brand of humor. It’s a little out there, albeit in a good way. Not every joke or goofy bit of text (and there are lots) struck me as funny, but there were far more triumphs than duds.
The humor isn’t the only out-there aspect, though. Despite its footing in the well-treaded genres of tower defense and RTS, Vampire Season manages to stray off the beaten path in a few interesting ways. For starters, your ranking in a level is dependent on more than just performing well. After earning one star, you’ll have the option to either move on to the next level or risk it all and keep fighting for a second star. Once the second star is in your hand, you’ll be asked if you want to go for the third. It’s an all-or-nothing acquisition that’s hard to say no to, despite the obvious risk of having to play the level again.
Perhaps more interesting is the ability to combine monsters, resulting in off-the-wall combinations like the Zampire (part zombie, part vampire). It adds an extra layer of strategy to the game, which is something I’m always happy to see in a tower defense game. It’s also a ton of fun, which is usually a good thing when dealing with video games.
Speaking of fun, or the lack thereof, the game tended to slow down drastically while I was trying to navigate the menus or purchase upgrades and items from the shop. It’s almost like they don’t want my money! The joke’s on them, though, because I spent a dollar on beefing up the stats of my characters. I always get the last laugh.“
For the more intense battles, you can also purchase items like “Nucular Pumpkins” that decimate every enemy on the playing field. If things are going south quick, and all your wolfmen are on the verge of dying, there’s nothing quite like blowing the opposition to smithereens with a pumpkin.
The action takes place on thirty different levels, and you’ll unlock more characters (both allies and enemies) as you progress. They each possess a power all their own, so the difficulty of the game tends to rise with each new addition. For example, you may not want to unleash a bunch of vampires if a vampire hunter is coming. Speaking from experience, it doesn’t end well.
Thirty levels is a solid amount of gameplay for the price of free, but the inclusion of a survival mode means you’ll still have plenty to do once you finish the story. How does the prospect of protecting Dracula’s coffin from an infinite array of enemies sound? If you answered with “nerve-wracking,” you’re completely correct. On the bright side, you’ll immediately have access to all of the game’s characters, regardless of whether you’ve unlocked them in the story or not.
There’s a lot of depth to Vampire Season; more than you’d expect from a game that wheels and deals so heavily in comedy. It wouldn’t have been too surprising to see the developer rely solely on the novelty of the concept, and make no attempt to do anything interesting gameplay-wise. Fortunately for all of us, this isn’t the case. Vampire Season was a great reminder of what I like about the tower defense and RTS genres so much, and I have a feeling it will resonate with other people in much the same way.