It seems like these days, if something has vampires or zombies in it, it’s a guaranteed best seller. So what would happen if you combined the two instant money makers? Alawar Games attempts to answer the question with a cartoony indie strategy title called Vampires vs. Zombies. Strategy-wise, it isn’t a complex game. It’s a game that is simple to learn and seems difficult to master. Though it may not be the most serious competition to games like Dead Island or Left 4 Dead, it definitely…has zombies!
No Risk, No Reward
In a game pitting vampires and zombies against each other, you would expect to be able to choose your side…but no, you’re on team vampire. An African dictator has used a television broadcast to turn its viewers into mindless zombies and take over the world. The vampires, being the TRUE ultimate evil, take issue with this ridiculous plan for zombies to destroy humanity and so they go to war with the zombies. As soon as this cut scene ends, you can start the first level and find…a vampire lady, walking around planting pumpkins. You’re told that the idiot zombies mistake pumpkins for real human heads once carved into jack-o-lanterns. So your mission is to prepare as many jack-o-lanterns as possible. Then your vampire Q tells you he has discovered a way to turn the jack-o-lanterns into bombs – by sticking dynamite in them. Genius! Over time he’ll tell you about many different things you can convert to prepare for the war. Rock into golems, garlic into garlic gas, and that with a spider, you will produce spider thread. Then, finally, you learn to turn a lot of thread and a lot of lumber into a catapult and…the end! There is no war. You only get to prepare for it. 75 levels of preparation to be exact. There are also a few minigame levels where you get to control a catapult to kill zombies approaching from the top of the screen, which are as close to real combat as you get.
That isn’t to say you don’t get to fight any zombies during the game. The whole time, zombies will swarm you and kill your minions while vultures swoop in and steal your valuable goods. To defeat them, you can either buy vampire soldiers (which are limited to two) or click enemies to hit them with a hammer. It becomes immediately clear that this is not a game meant for adults. I didn’t deduct this from the cartoon style of the game (though that was somewhat of a hint) or even the hammer used to kill the zombies, but from the fact that it is impossible to lose at this game. Your only goal is to have workers produce an item, convert that item into a new item, and possibly convert it once or twice more. You only have to kill zombies for the dust that they drop and to defend your workers – but even if you let them kill your workers, the game doesn’t end. You just have to buy new workers. When zombies spawn, there is often a green smoke cloud around them. If you try and attack them while this smoke remains, they will duplicate. As far as I found, from some intensive experimenting, that there was no limit to how many duplicates can be created and when there are too many, it covers the screen and makes it impossible to play due to click through issues. Your vampires can also hurt themselves by walking into a…cactus which summons sunlight. Besides the already preposterous idea, the vampires seem to knowingly walk into the cactus. Just to spite you. The only real challenge in this game is beating each level in a reasonable amount of time.
Each level has a gold and silver time which will net you an additional number of stars, the game’s upgrade currency. The silver time usually requires some simple planning that is nearly impossible to avoid if you have a basic knowledge of the units and buildings. The gold times, however, are achievable for the first few levels, but by the end you might as well try choking a zombie to death. On a level where my goal was to build a catapult, the clock started ticking (marking five seconds left until you miss a medal time) when I had maybe 20% of my materials. You are given a couple consumable items and a few abilities to help your workers be more efficient: a drink that makes one vampire produce double items for one gather and some sort of oil which makes buildings accept one more item to convert at a time are the two items. The three abilities make your workers all produce one item, your buildings production to finish instantly, or for the timer to stop for 30 seconds. To get all the gold times, you have to master use of all three. Some otherworldly powers might help too.
Copy + Paste + ??? = Profit?
Unlike other games that Vampires vs. Zombies is reminiscent of, there is very little variety in both the enemies and your units. There are five or six enemies and just as many workers. Every model is boring and generic: for example, the enemies include…the zombie, the football player zombie, and the female zombie, just to name a few. Your workers are restricted to the three types of resources you can gather and there is only one combat unit who can be customized to either wear a helmet or use a bayonet. The art style and music are not very interesting; if there is more than one song in the entire game, I didn’t notice. Items on the ground can often become very cluttered, especially at higher levels and when you buy resources in bulk, the game will have trouble catching up with you when you try and pick them all up.
Swear At Your Monitor To Unlock Doors
In addition to the countless gameplay flaws, the game is also very buggy. There are a few doors that open special areas you can open up with keys found at the ends of levels. For some reason, when I clicked the key while in the room full of doors, the key would not pick up. No matter how hard I tried, I could not open the door. Using another bug, I later found a way to open the door: by starting in the awards room and leaving while moving the mouse to an award, the description of the award would be stuck on the screen. Then I had to navigate to the door room and after trying to leave and failing, the key would finally pick up. Aside from that, there were many smaller bugs. I would often click through objects, for example, trying to pick up an item but instead attacking a zombie. Items would often disappear from the screen, flash back on the screen and disappear again. Of those times, there were a couple where I could still pick the item up and a couple where I could not.
Before the game even starts, there are already some major issues. When you try to install the game, there was no way to pick an install path, so it defaulted to C:\Program Files, which is especially annoying when you have a separate drive or partition for games. The installer also tries to make you install an ask.com toolbar. After the game installs properly, there is no .exe file which takes you directly to the game, only a launcher which is full of ads for other Alawar games and serves no other purpose but to try and sell you more products. The launcher even stopped me from launching the game on my first install, it would crash on launch repeatedly until I decided to reinstall it.
Is It Worth Your Money?
Vampires vs. Zombies is not a great game, and in my opinion, not a good one either. It has minor appeal to those who obsess over the Plants vs. Zombies clone subgenre, but this deviates from the formula and heads in the wrong direction. The game lasted me about six hours, but even that time felt wasted; it was all the same. The game costs $9.95 which is low enough if you play the trial and still think you want more. You can buy the game from the trial client, which is downloadable from the Alawar site.
Vampires vs. Zombies Technical Summary:
Time Played – 6 hours
Widescreen Support – Yes (Limited)
5.1 Audio – No
Bugs – Several gameplay bugs, would not launch on first install
DRM – Alawar Launcher
Control Scheme – Mouse
Game Acquisition Method – Review Copy
Availability – Alawar
Demo – Yes (1 Hour Limit)
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