Let’s face it, who doesn’t want to pretend to be a vampire these days? Kids have always dressed up as the blood sucking creatures, but now movies like Blade, Underworld and Twilight make it seem cool to be one of the undead. Besides, you’d save a lot of money on shades and suntan lotion. Ancient Vampire gives you the chance to play one of the ancient fang-bearers, albeit a self made one. Unfortunately what could be an entertaining game is marred with some technical issues that make it downright deadly to play at times.
The story is not very well presented in the game, but basically you turn yourself into a vampire in order to defeat hordes of other creatures of the night. I really wish they would have built the story up in the game some more. Where did the creatures come from? What are they attacking that you’re so eager to protect? Who are you? Every few levels they could have had a cut scene, even if it was only three or four still images with some text describing what’s going on. That aside, when you get into the game itself you find that what you have is a horror monster themed Zombieville USA type of game.
You can move left and right, and your goal is to get to the end of each level by pushing onwards towards the right. You can either have onscreen buttons or use the device’s tilt control to move your character, and both feel about the same in terms of responsiveness. To jump you use an onscreen button, and to shoot you can either have an onscreen button or you can choose to have your vampire shoot wherever you tap on the screen. Shooting is where the real problem comes in. I’ve tried both the button and the “tap where you want” method, and regardless of which route you go it seems like 2/3 of the way through a given level shooting becomes erratic and sometimes stops completely. I managed to struggle my way through the entire game, but in the latter levels with a lot of creatures on the screen it wasn’t very much fun at all. I’d spend more time just jumping over things than actually shooting them to get points.
There are things to collect along the way like potions, coffins and coins, but I’m not sure if any of them do anything or they are just there for points. There is also a power up you get about half way through each level that makes your shooting stronger, and while I’m not 100% sure, I think the power up goes away if you die. In the upper left corner of the screen there are two meters. One is for your health (I think) and the other determines how long you can stay in the air when you jump. The fact that you can somewhat control the length of your jump is kind of nice, though for most of the game it has no practical purpose. Whenever there’s a pit to jump over you’ll need the full jump to make it, and the game is quite linear with no platforms or anything.
There are a nice variety of creatures, including werewolves, mummies and witches. Each level has a giant end boss, which would be cool except that the end boss is nothing more than a giant version of one of the level’s creatures and doesn’t attack any differently than the smaller version of the creature does. The creatures seem to be a bit buggy (and no, I don’t mean that there is a bug creature). Sometimes creatures will appear out of nowhere in the middle of the screen, and other times a creature will appear to be stuck in the ground. The game also doesn’t perform very well when there are 5 or 6 creatures on screen at the same time.
The graphics have a cute, home-grown feel to them. It’s not quite Saturday morning cartoon level, but it’s not bad either. The characters and backgrounds actually have a decent amount of detail to them, and the creatures certainly have personality. One thing I will give them credit for is that there is a nice variety of different themed scenery. The sound effects are okay, though only a few things stick out like the howling wind and the cawing of the crows. The music is good, but is often hard to hear in the game.
I truly want to like this game. There’s a lot that needs to be cleaned up before it can compete with others like it, however. The game really needs a help file so you know what’s going on. The controls need improvement, most notably the shooting (the rest are probably good enough). All the flakiness with creatures appearing and half-appearing on the screen needs to go away, and the performance when several creatures are on screen at once needs to be a lot better. As a bonus, it would be nice if the music was more audible throughout the game, but I could survive if the other things were taken care of. When all those items are tweaked out Ancient Vampire will be a strong contender for this type of game, but until then it will probably get buried by the competition.