I hit numerous brick walls in my playthrough of Vaporum, not in terms of progress but my character was often hitting the walls which surrounded him. If anyone was watching my character, they’d assume he’d drank too much and was trying to get home.
Vaporum is titled as a ‘Steampunk Dungeon Crawler’, influenced by similar games such as Legend of Grimrock. You play as someone who wakes up with a mild case of amnesia, not knowing who they are or why they are stood near a huge structure that looks quite menacing. Drawn to said structure you try to find out exactly what is going on. Exploring this place you’ll uncover it’s secrets from Phonodiaries and letters that you pick up along the way. I know what you are thinking…is this Bioshock? The setup and the way the levels look are very reminiscent of Bioshock, but that is where the similarities end. You probably won’t be remembering Vaporum for its story.
Your movement is restricted to a grid system, which took me most of the game to get to grips with. Left stick moves you one block at a time, whilst the right stick moves your head in either a left or right direction. There’s not a lot of freedom to check every nook and cranny for secrets, but the game does make it easy to select points of interest such as; switches, lockers and items you come across. The areas you are actually wandering through are your classical steampunk aesthetics from big heavy machinery too dimly lit metallic hallways, all wrapped together with the clunky steam operated enemies scattered about to stop you in your tracks.
Each level is filled with puzzles, and at first, I was lulled into believing they were too easy. As I progressed I learnt the hard way that this wasn’t the case, from pushing blocks to puzzles which will span multiple areas makes exploring the levels rewarding and slightly challenging at times. Although I did run into issues where I had trapped myself into a room with no escape, and other puzzles just didn’t want to work making me restart. So make sure you save regularly, as not to lose tons of progress.
Combat in Vaporum is lacklustre, it’s in real time as opposed to turn-based as seen in Legend of Grimlock. You find a variety of weapons such as blades, rifles and a crowbar which I think was meant to go to Gordon Freeman. All of which have stats and upgrades to be more effective. Good weapons won’t stop you from been cornered and torn apart due to movement issues though, which led to some stupid deaths surrounded by three enemies and only able to use a weapon after a cooldown (can be shortened by items/upgrades) and only on one enemy. Jumping is banned or so it seems anyway.
The actual RPG systems involved makes Vaporum stand out a bit, towards the beginning you have a choice of Rigs such as the Combat Rig, the Heavy Rig, or the Trauma Rig. Each rig will have different stats and bonuses. You only have one choice and that will stay with your character throughout the game. Items found within the world will give your stats a boast and finding new weapons will give you an upper hand in combat. It’s all familiar but the blend with Dungeon crawler makes it interesting. It’s the standard RPG affair really.
While it may not blow anyone away with what it does, I found my time with Vaporum engaging and fun. It’s not often you see these sorts of games come out in the market, it’d be interesting to see if anyone else tries to do something similar. Maybe a Dungeon Crawler in space? or under the sea?
*Code kindly provided by the publisher for review*