A Vampyre Story is a point-and-click adventure from first-time developer Autumn Moon Entertainment. In the game, you play as a vampire named Mona de Lafitte. Mona was an up-and-coming opera star before she became a vampire, but now she’s stuck in a gloomy castle in even gloomier Draxsylvania, and she doesn’t have much to do, other than entertain the vampire who turned her, Baron Shrowdy von Kiefer. However, one night Shrowdy encounters some vampire hunters, and the meeting doesn’t go well for him, and Mona senses her chance to escape and return to Paris.
The best part of A Vampyre Story is the humor. Just about every line contains a joke. The castle’s decorations are “fang shui.” A gargoyle complains that Shrowdy takes him “for granite.” The rats (featuring Sammy, Frankie, and Dean) sing “Bats Amore.” Mona also travels with a sidekick, a bat named Froderick, and the two of them maintain a lively banter throughout the game, including when they discuss whether Mona is really a vampire or merely cursed. Mona prefers the latter explanation, and this leads to funny conversations about her bed versus her coffin, and the special red wine that she drinks every night.
The interface also works pretty well. A Vampyre Story is played using a third-person perspective, where you left-click to do just about everything. If you click on the ground then Mona moves there; if you click on an object then a menu pops up giving you four things you can do: talk to the object, examine the object, use the object, or fly to the object. Most objects don’t actually have four things you can do with them, but the actions are just excuses for the game to toss out puns and one-liners. For example, when you encounter a giant demon statue with “demonic snot” coming out of its nose, you can probably imagine what Mona might say when you try to use the mouth icon on it.
The overall production vales for A Vampyre Story are great. The game looks good, the dialogue is well-written, and the voice actors are terrific (although Mona has one of those voices that starts a grate a bit the more you hear it). The problem with the game is that all the effort went into the production values, and not enough went into thinking up clever puzzles and making sure that everything worked properly.
Let me start with the puzzles. Most of the puzzles involve simple inventory shenanigans. For example, when a raven tells you that he’s feeling isolated from the rest of the world, you find a newspaper and you give it to him, and that causes him to give you a clothespin, which you can use to solve another puzzle, and so forth. Most of the puzzles are fairly obvious about what goes where, and the interface even includes a key to show the hotspots on the screen, and so there isn’t anything really complicated going on.
Now, a funny adventure with mediocre puzzles can still be enjoyable -- but not if it’s sloppily put together, like A Vampyre Story is. Consider the puzzle with the raven and the newspaper. If you talk to the raven before finding the newspaper, then you won’t be able to give him the newspaper. You’ll have to talk to him again, and hear the exact same conversation again, before the transaction will work. Or consider the “dull butter knife” that you find in the castle’s kitchen. The one thing such a knife can’t do is cut stuff, but that’s exactly what you have to use it for not once but twice in puzzles. Or consider the perfume bottle in Mona’s bedroom. If you empty it and then fill it at the “wrong” time, the game will break and you won’t be able to continue -- and, better yet, the game will probably break very early on but you won’t discover the problem until you’re halfway through, and so you’ll have to waste a lot of time if you want to continue. Autumn Moon Entertainment actually created a patch for A Vampyre Story (which is good news and bad news -- most adventures don’t get patches, but that’s because most adventures don’t need patches), but it didn’t do anything for me, and I couldn’t tell if the Adventure Company’s release of the game included the patch already or not.
I encountered the problem with the perfume bottle when I played A Vampyre Story, and so this review is based on the first half of the game. I enjoyed the witty conversations between Mona and Froderick, and I liked the graphical style of the characters and the environments, but I didn’t have any desire to start my game over and then repeat six hours of work just to get back to where I was, especially when I didn’t have any confidence that the remaining part of the game would work any better.
And so my guess is, if you play A Vampyre Story exactly the way the developer intended, and if you don’t encounter any bugs or sloppiness, then you’ll have a lot of fun. But if you keep having problems, and if you keep struggling with puzzles, not because you can’t figure them out, but because the engine isn’t working properly, then each bug / mistake / badly designed puzzle will drain a little bit of fun from the game, until, perhaps, there isn’t any left. It’s just a question of whether you want to take the risk or not.