Real Estate for the Undead
There are few things in life that are more stressful than trying to find the house or castle of your dreams. Lamp and Vamp is a strategy-based game where the player assumes control of a vampire who is on the hunt for the most deadly of preys… real estate. Our undead protagonist has found the castle of his nightmares, but needs our help avoiding priests and stake-wielding guards as he makes his way to his new pad. Lamp and Vamp was created for Procedural Death Jam a challenge to game developers to create a “rogue-like” game within a seven day period. Vamp walked away with both “Best Game” and “Best Art” of the competition, deservedly so; this is not only a seriously adorable game, but also a challenging one that teaches us lowly mortals just how hard it is to be a vampire.
Played over randomized levels of varying degrees of difficulty, the player controls our home-hungry Nosferatu as he attempts to conclude his weary journey. Weary being an understatement. One must skitter in the darkness, moving slowly from one adjacent tile to the next. Enemies carry a torch to light the path, thus setting your head on fire and making this game incredibly annoying. Luckily being a vampire has its perks, and our man has the gift of bat-flight, ghost phasing, and when the mood strikes him, murder. It should be noted that moves like flight are incredibly useful, but also drain your vampire of health incredibly fast. This goes for becoming a ghost as well. Amazingly, killing yourself after some exhilarating late-night flying isn’t your only cause of death. Impeding what should be an easy trek is a bevy of priests, slayers, and werewolves (of course werewolves). Each enemy comes with their own set of frustrating moves, including throwing holy water from unfathomable distances and moving multiple steps in a single turn. The easiest victims being the poor hipster lumberjacks who become easy prey when stumbling to close to the shadows; the exhilaration of draining them after the multiple deaths I experienced at their hands is one I cannot describe with human words alone.
The folks at Globz do not make it easy for the player at all. Once you’re out of health you evaporate into a puff of dust and regret. Enemy AI can be fairly unpredictable and seem intent on pursuing you from the first step. The first stage almost lures the player into a false set of hope, an almost pleasant stroll to your first coffin, perhaps after killing a few of the hunters. But like Sisyphus my bloated hubris is also my downfall. The game mocked my sometimes immediate failure and I pressed on, in vengeance of time and life, to get my vampire to his home. Once the priests and other enemies make their place on the board I know my time is almost up. Priests shine a further light and come with the extra annoyance of holy water which completely removes your special abilities for a short time. Or as I like to call it, instant death.
The game is not only an addicting challenge as you pit man against monster, but completely and irresistibly adorable. The pixelated and vibrant art style is magnificent and adds light to an otherwise dark game. If this wasn’t so well animated I don’t think it would be as much fun as the game ended up becoming to me. There isn’t much to it, despite the challenge and rogue-strategy element, and it could have easily become something to download and forget. But there’s something about a red-eyed fiend of the night throwing peace signs like Sailor Moon that makes this game just a little bit more special than those of the same genre. It definitely does not take itself seriously. Upgrades with names like “Satan Walk with Me”, animated with an adorable goat-skull pentacle, or even the little corpses of drained priests add a camp quality to the overall gameplay.
Lamp and Vamp is a game you’ll be frustratingly playing for a long time. Shirking responsibilities to escape into the eternal moonlight to sing with the children of the night. There isn’t much that is wrong with this game. Too hard? Oh yeah. But it doesn’t deter one from throwing presumably hours away into this worthy quest. The game is definitely worth a buy, especially if you’re a sucker for supernatural and home responsibility.