Explore the mysterious Arx Vaporum tower and discover your dark past. Here’s our Vaporum Switch review.
Vaporum is an interesting combination of heavy narrative-based story-telling combined with the old-fashioned ‘square dancing’ grid-based, dungeon crawler genre akin to Wizardry or The Legend of Grimrock. The game leans heavily on its inspiration from the Bioshock series, with the story told through recorded takes your amnesiac character finds.
Despite the similarities, Vaporum tells a horror story that is worth discovering. Thankfully, the developers realized there’s a hardcore delineation between people who enjoy drawing their own maps and those who don’t.
- Game: Vaporum
- Genre: Grid-Based Dungeon Crawler, Puzzle RPG
- Price: $19.99
- Developer: Fatbot Games
- Publisher: Merge Games
I unashamedly played this one on casual mode, making it an enjoyable narrative experience. One that made me want to play the prequel released as a sequel, Vaporum: Lockdown. Be sure to check out our review of that game, too.
If you’re a fan of the Etrian Odyssey series on the Nintendo 3DS, you’ll probably find a lot to like about Vaporum. The grid-based dungeon crawling aspect of the game is full of puzzles to solve and an interesting environment to explore. Those playing in hardcore mode will need to draw their maps (just like Etrian Odyssey), while more casual players can focus on the puzzles rather than what the dungeon looks like on paper.
The game takes place entirely inside the Arx Vaporum tower, which is filled with steampunk-inspired enemies. Early on, players are given the choice of an exo-skeleton that somewhat defines how the play will go.
You can choose a beefy, melee-focused suit with plenty of health upgrades. There’s also a lighter, stealthier suit that focuses on firearms and other ranged damage. Finally, there’s an exo-suit that focuses on tech upgrades – suit upgrades that give you new skills. Traversing the tower’s lower levels is a light introduction to the square dancing combat of these live-action dungeon crawlers.
Defeating enemies like mechanical spiders awards Fumium, which serves as the game’s experience points to upgrade the suit. There’s lots of customization in how to approach the game in weapon variety and tech upgrades to find. But for the most part, you should focus on the type of gameplay your exo-suit is tailored to receive.
Combat is heavily based on timing your dodging and strikes, doing a dance to avoid damage as you swoop in with an aimed shot or a well-placed crowbar. If you don’t like the real-time combat, you can turn on a strategy-based combat system instead. It makes it so time is only active when you’re moving, giving you plenty of time to plan your next attack.
Puzzles are pretty straightforward to figure out if you’ve played any grid-based dungeon crawler before. Push blocks around, find the hidden button, run through the door in time are all classic puzzles that are definitely present in Vaporum. What really draws the player in are the audio logs you can find left behind by scientists experimenting with the mysterious Fumium.
Graphics & Audio
The soundtrack for Vaporum really fits the world of a mysterious steampunk tower littered with mechanical enemies. But the voice acting is also quite capable, too. That’s important because 100% of the game’s story is told to you through audio logs and written notes you’ll find littered throughout the world.
The game looks a little muddy on the Switch, compared to its PC and PS4 counterparts. But it is completely serviceable and the interface translates pretty well for a mouse-based game. The design of the monsters and bosses is somewhat generic, but what really pulls you into Vaporum are the audio logs. Each one kept me engaged enough to ask myself, why? which is important when you’re playing a puzzle exploration game.
Vaporum Switch Review – Issues
Vaporum runs fine on the Switch in both handheld and docked mode. There’s a clear difference between the two, environments look a little more clear while docked. The text in Vaporum is also on the small side when in handheld mode, but scales well in docked mode. It’s unfortunate that there’s not a text slider in the game to help alleviate this issue.
It took me about 12 hours to finish the game and find most of the hidden secrets throughout the tower. In that time, I experienced no crashes or loading problems while playing in both handheld and docked mode. The framerate can occasionally dip when heavy elemental attacks are on screen, but it’s nothing too serious.
Conclusion – Vaporum Switch Review
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Anyone who loves puzzles should check out this clever mix of narrative story-telling and classic first-person dungeon crawling. The game is accommodating to both beginners and hardcore dungeon delvers alike.
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