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(based on 22 ratings)
About the Story
Nero Brashov, vampire and failed businessman, has revenge on his mind. He'll pose as a human, infiltrate his arch-enemy's corporation, and sabotage it from the inside. Just as soon as he's invited in, that is. Contains swearing from the start, so may not be suitable for playing with children. Download version comes with the Inform 7 source code.
Language: English (en)
First Publication Date: October 1, 2020
Current Version: 4
Development System: Inform 7
Forgiveness Rating: Polite
13th Place - 26th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2020)
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Number of Reviews: 7
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Vampire Ltd has the quintessence of a solid parser game. In many ways, it feels like an exercise in moderation. The humor is neither too dry nor too outrageous. Thereís an element of social satire here, with the major charactersí vampirism serving as a metaphor for their self-enriching corporate mismanagement, but itís played with levity. Thereís an element of mild mystery with some clues to uncover, but all is soon revealed without a whole lot of head-scratching.
I had an exceptionally smooth time playing the game. Part of this is thanks to the authorís success in presenting a polished experience, with plenty of synonyms, plenty of interesting non-default failure responses, and plenty of useful context presented through dialogue or descriptions to keep the player on the right path. But itís also partially thanks to the modest scope of the game, with straightforward challenges and a paucity of objects. I see this as both a strength and a weakness: while there were few opportunities for sticking points, the world also felt a little more spartan than I would have preferred.
Overall, I feel that Vampire Ltd succeeds in what it sets out to do. Itís a light, well-built, unpretentious comedy that kept me entertained without trying to knock my socks off.
(I beta tested this game)
Itís an iron law of comedy that nothingís as funny the second time around (leaving aside things like the Simpsons rake gag where repetition is the point). Itís still fun to see the punch lines form up and get ready to arrive, and a solid joke is a solid joke no matter whether itís your first time seeing it, but robbed of the surprise, itís just never going to land the same way. Why, then, did I find myself giggling when I just replayed Vampire Ltd, despite having run through it two or three times while testing it? Partially Iím sure itís my sieve-like brain Ė it has been a couple months since the testing Ė and there are definitely a few new gags since then, but mostly itís that the writing has bite.
Pleasantly, this isnít a matter of individual jokey bits coming at the expense of a consistent, well-realized world, nor is it a case of funny writing making up for wonky design or buggy implementation. The humor comes straight out of the premise and characters, so before I get to the fun part of highlighting some of the bits that made me laugh the hardest, letís get the setup out of the way.
Weíre in a revenge-cum-corporate-espionage caper, with the vampire main character hell-bent on getting back at their former mentor, whoís now running a green-energy company. Vampires, as it turns out, have set their sights higher than just sucking the blood out of humanity one at a time, and now scale the loftiest heights of capitalism (and in the game!) The player character, however, is a bit of a failure (ďJust because of a handful of failed startups and lawsuits and bankruptcies?Ē, he asks himself incredulously, and looking at the state of American politics at least itís hard to fault him), and so decides to infiltrate his rivalís corporate campus looking to wreck and/or steal the new energy breakthrough (it is not exactly a well-laid plan).
This kicks off a series of gentle puzzles, all of which are well-clued, with one great gag thatís also completely logical thrown in there (Spoiler - click to show)(the bit with the grapes). A particularly clever touch is that as you go about the early stages of the game Ė acing your interview for a customer-service job, gaining access to all corners of the corporate campus, guessing an idiotís computer password Ė it teaches you about the weaknesses vampires have in this setting. Theyíre almost but not exactly the same as whatís in traditional vampire law, but itís especially handy to have all of these reminders before the inevitable confrontation with your rival. And implementation is rock-solid throughout, with nary an unimplemented bit of scenery or overlooked synonym. My favorite example is what happens if you try to drink the blood-bag youíve brought along as a snack in the first scene, where youíre amidst the crowd watching a press conference Ė after you write BITE BAG, the game spits out ď(first turning discreetly away from the audience)Ē before describing your nosh. Thatís an awesome bit of attention to detail, plus gains additional kudos for using the word ďdiscreetlyĒ correctly, which basically never happens in video games!
All this means that the writing is given the support it needs to shine. The humor is really all about how much capitalism, er, sucks, but it doesnít rest on that perhaps too-easy premise and goes the extra mile with sharp, specific jokes. The entire job interview is a highlight Ė turns out answering that ďwhatís your greatest weakness?Ē question is more complex if youíre a vampire! Ė but even the throwaway gags are great. There are a set of construction workers early on, and if you try to talk to them, the main character rebuffs you, saying ďyou donít like being outnumbered by labour.Ē The janitor on anti-vampire strike was another highlight, explaining her protest this way:
ďItís against vampires. Especially our guy in charge. Itís against vampiric systems. Itís against the exploitation of labour on long hours and low pay. Itís for changes at the highest level for Lunarcel and every other company which lines its own pockets at the expense of workers. Itís for radical new ways of being which arenít built on blood and toil.Ē (You donít like this woman.)
There are maybe one or two places where the prose could be pared down a little (the job interview scene is great, but the responses to the joke answers are maybe 20% longer than they need to be). But in general the writingís got snap. I mean, hereís the villain of the piece crowing about his great invention: ďOh, some of the staff carped at me about inefficiency, and how hard it is to safely contain a nuclear explosion, and how it shouldnít have a window.Ē
All in all, Vampire Ltd has it where it counts Ė ulp, Iíve just been informed Iíve exceeded my vampire-joke quota and this review is now over. Sorry folks!
According to IFDB as best as I can tell this is the author's first game, and it definitely feels like the game you'd write based off of half an idea just to see if you can make a functional game. That said, it is a pretty good first effort, lacking depth and in need of polish, but showing potential.
You play as a vampire businessman, bent on getting revenge on your chief rival, another vampire businessman. You have to infiltrate his headquarters and destroy the latest project he is working on to ruin his reputation and his company. The parser was pretty well implemented and I only had to fight it a little, but there were a few hiccups that threw me off. The game bills itself as a comedy, but I think the hardest I laughed was reading the introductory blurb. That line was genuinely funny, but much of the rest of the game is only barely grin-worthy. The puzzles are lacking too, feeling either nonsensical, or telegraphed (again, like this game is a test run). However, I did enjoy the climatic scene and thought the solution to that, once I figured it out, was very clever.
The map is mercifully small and depending on how much time you spend reading the extra content (i.e. all the possible dialogue choices) can easily be completed in under an hour. A good first effort and I hope to see more from the author in the future.
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