A Vampyre Story



Genre:   Adventure

Developer:    Autumn Moon Entertainment

Publisher:    Crimson Cow, The Adventure Company

Released:  December 2008

PC Requirements:   Windows XP, 2.0 GHz Processor,  256MB (512MB recommended) RAM, 128 MB 3D-accelerated video card Video card, DirectX 9, DVD-ROM


Additional Screenshots





by nickie


Snowflakes spill down upon the spiky turrets of the gloomy Castle Warg in Draxsylvania, as banshee shaped clouds dance across a full moon in the year 1895. Inside is Mona de Lafitte, a statuesque wasp-waisted wannabe opera singer, who has been captured and made a vampire by the villainous Baron Shrowdy. Despite the gentle reminders given her by her only friend, a wisecracking bat named Froderick, she is still in denial about being a vampire. Even the Baron doesn’t quite have the courage to tell her the truth and goes along with her delusion, agreeing that he’s providing her wine for her sustenance. He journeys out in search of the perfect O positive or negative vintage, and finds himself at the wrong end of an encounter with a stake-wielding vampire hunter. Mona is now free to journey back to Paris to pursue her singing aspirations, but she first must find a way out of the enchanted castle.

After this rather lengthy animated prologue, the gamer has control of Mona in this third person perspective adventure game. It’s entirely mouse controlled, although there are some keyboard actions to make the game easier if you choose. It’s clear our initial objective is to obtain the key to the warded door from the angry looking gargoyle on the castle bridge, but naturally this is not as easy as it sounds.

Movement through the game, however, is simple and enjoyable. Clicking with the left mouse button moves Mona to most any point on the screen. If you click on an object or character, holding down the left mouse button calls up a menu with four available actions – examine, use, talk or fly to the object. The “use” option may change according to the object with which you are interacting, such as touching, taking, or pushing the object. The “fly to the object” involves Mona changing into a bat and flying to the object for a closer view, handy when the object is in a high place or otherwise inaccessible by ordinary walking. It’s worthwhile to try the “talk” icon, as many strange things can talk in this magical world.

Talking to characters and doing many actions will result in an animated scene. Outside of this, the game can be saved at any point by using the escape key, and the save slots are ample. Saving the game is effortless with a click from the main menu, and the newest save is placed at the beginning of the save slots. When you look at your saves, they appear in black and white, but when you put your cursor over them they spring to life in full color. When the game is loading, blood rises to the top of a vial in a demon’s mouth. I really like these little touches in a game.

If the cursor changes to an arrow, this indicates that there is an exit to another area or a different part of the same area to be seen. If you left click on the arrow, Mona will sashay through the entire scene, and you can’t double click, for Mona won’t run. However, to move quickly for playing purposes you can right click on the arrow, which makes the screen fade and then resume in the new area.

According to the game manual, “ Mona is as much a lady as she is an upcoming opera star, so you will hardly be able to make her run across the screen like a record athlete, and usually, she prefers to let people speak full sentences before answering or asking new questions. So, if you ever feel like you want to travel to a certain point faster or skip a dialog or a certain animation, try pressing the space bar…with the space bar, you can skip almost everything, except maybe your next class.”

Kudos to the publisher and developer for making an excellent paper manual that accompanies the game. From how the controls work to a short biography of the main characters, from hints and tips to a walkthrough of the first few scenes of the game to get you started, the manual is useful, colorful and adds that extra touch to make the game special. And special is what we’ve come to expect from Bill Tiller and other former LucasArts employees who have banded together to make this whimsical game. The game development experience of each of these people is staggering, and would take pages to credit.

Gamers who long to have lots of objects with which to interact in a game will be in bliss with the cornucopia of visual abundance. Designed in a cartoon style, the game is a feast for those who like to take their time in a game, touching, talking and enjoying the ambience. There are many objects not necessary for game play but that will still elicit a quip or two when clicked upon. The extra visual touches are very appealing, from the spiteful expression on the stone gargoyle to a little face on a tree in the forest. I found so much enjoyable to look at that I was rather surprised that Froderick is not as endearing in appearance as I would like. When Mona changes into a bat, she is as cute as a button.

The items that will actually be needed go into the inventory (Mona’s coffin), and are accessible with a right click. Answering the old lament of how the character can carry all the unwieldy items, some items that Mona comes across she doesn’t pick up – rather she thinks about needing them later, and that thought goes into her inventory. Regarding the latter, when she finds a use for one of these objects, you left click on it and click where it should interact, the same as you would with a solid inventory item. At that point Mona will transform into a bat, and you have an animated sequence where she flies to the object, and brings it to your current location. In addition, Mona’s pal Froderick the bat is also an inventory item. On occasion an item can be combined in inventory with him, and he can be used to accomplish the desired action.

The puzzles are inventory based, and most (but probably not all) will be easily figured out by the seasoned adventure player. I enjoyed putting together the necessary formulas in the secret laboratory, even if one of the ingredients was the rather icky demon snot. Easy or not, it feels all in good fun, and is never a hair pulling experience. After escaping the castle, Mona will have to learn to come to terms with being a vampire, and learn to use her newfound abilities to continue on her way towards Paris.

A tip from the manual: “Sometimes you will get so enchanted by the magical sights and sounds of Draxsylvania, that you might miss some of the hotspots you can interact with…Pressing TAB shows all the hotspots you can interact with in the current scene.”

Along the way you’ll meet interesting characters. There’s Barb, who is not only a torture device but also the chatty torture chamber stenographer. There’s the rat pack, made up of rats that go by the names of Frankie, Sammy, Joey and Dean. There’s Ozzy, a rather confused fountain gargoyle. References to cultural icons abound in the game.

The characters are all well voiced and consistent with the cartoony atmosphere.

As pretty as the graphics are, the accompanying musical score is just as lovely. Eerie or carnival jolly as the scene requires, it heightens the mood. The opening score, featuring a soprano singer, is especially good. Likewise, the ambient sound is immersing, from the roaring wind to water lapping on rocks lining the shore.

Odds and Ends:

The game’s main menu has the usual selections, with the addition that you can opt to use anti-aliasing at middle or high strength or not at all, and choose lower or higher quality lighting for more powerful video cards. Subtitles are an option.

There are no mazes, sliders, or actiony bits in the game. There are no “game over” standstills. There are no puzzles where color shade differentiation or hearing tones to solve a puzzle come into play.

Although it appears you’ve stepped into a Saturday morning cartoon, there is occasional salty language along with some suggestive themes. Except for the language, I would think the humor is geared toward the younger set. At least, I can say I found the humor curiously flat. I see no humor in loosening up the bowels of a constipated bird, nor does using someone’s ashes as fertilizer strike me as humorous. But maybe it’s just me, and you will have a knee slapping good time. I played through the game finding it a pleasant experience for the most part -- but wondering why, time and again, that it wasn’t funny.

The last concern that I want to mention is a big one. There is no ending, and you are left on the road with Mona and Froderick, not knowing if they make it to Paris or not. You discover that this is episode one of a trilogy. Although I am told that interviews on the internet disclosed that this game was merely a chapter, there is nothing on the box to indicate it as such, although it is quite possible that the developers had no input on the box art and the blame lies with the publisher. There is always the fear that the second chapter in a game will not surface, although recent episodic games like Sam and Max have laid some fears to rest. I’ve waited since 2005 for this game, and I’m hoping that reports that the developers are well into production on the second episode are accurate, and that it won’t be another four year wait.

Grade: B+

January, 2009

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