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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.
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. There’s an element of social satire here, with the major characters’ vampirism serving as a metaphor for their self-enriching corporate mismanagement, but it’s played with levity. There’s 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 author’s 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 it’s 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. It’s a light, well-built, unpretentious comedy that kept me entertained without trying to knock my socks off.
(I beta tested this game)
It’s an iron law of comedy that nothing’s as funny the second time around (leaving aside things like the Simpsons rake gag where repetition is the point). It’s 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 it’s your first time seeing it, but robbed of the surprise, it’s 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 I’m sure it’s my sieve-like brain – it has been a couple months since the testing – and there are definitely a few new gags since then, but mostly it’s that the writing has bite.
Pleasantly, this isn’t 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, let’s get the setup out of the way.
We’re in a revenge-cum-corporate-espionage caper, with the vampire main character hell-bent on getting back at their former mentor, who’s 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 (“Just because of a handful of failed startups and lawsuits and bankruptcies?”, he asks himself incredulously, and looking at the state of American politics at least it’s hard to fault him), and so decides to infiltrate his rival’s 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 that’s 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 – acing your interview for a customer-service job, gaining access to all corners of the corporate campus, guessing an idiot’s computer password – it teaches you about the weaknesses vampires have in this setting. They’re almost but not exactly the same as what’s in traditional vampire law, but it’s 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 you’ve brought along as a snack in the first scene, where you’re amidst the crowd watching a press conference – after you write BITE BAG, the game spits out “(first turning discreetly away from the audience)” before describing your nosh. That’s an awesome bit of attention to detail, plus gains additional kudos for using the word “discreetly” 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 doesn’t rest on that perhaps too-easy premise and goes the extra mile with sharp, specific jokes. The entire job interview is a highlight – turns out answering that “what’s your greatest weakness?” question is more complex if you’re a vampire! – 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 “you don’t like being outnumbered by labour.” The janitor on anti-vampire strike was another highlight, explaining her protest this way:
“It’s against vampires. Especially our guy in charge. It’s against vampiric systems. It’s against the exploitation of labour on long hours and low pay. It’s for changes at the highest level for Lunarcel and every other company which lines its own pockets at the expense of workers. It’s for radical new ways of being which aren’t built on blood and toil.” (You don’t 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 writing’s got snap. I mean, here’s the villain of the piece crowing about his great invention: “Oh, some of the staff carped at me about inefficiency, and how hard it is to safely contain a nuclear explosion, and how it shouldn’t have a window.”
All in all, Vampire Ltd has it where it counts – ulp, I’ve just been informed I’ve 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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"The Hartman Gallery extends their invitation to an exhibition of Anatoly Domokov's "American Paintings." Who draws the line between art and life? HTML enhanced." [--blurb from Competition '99]