Vigil: Blood Bitterness, from French developer Freegamer, is an odd adventure. I played it, but I didn’t really understand it. The graphics make it look like you’re walking through somebody’s black-and-white sketch pad. The audio sounds like it’s coming straight from Jabba the Hut. And while there are puzzles, there aren’t any inventory objects, and you can’t press any buttons or pull any levers. All you get to do in the game is open up doors and pray. Yes, you read that correctly: pray. As a game reviewer, “unusual” usually equates to “good,” but in this case Vigil is just so bizarre and unfriendly that it seems more like a psychology experiment rather than a game.
Let me start by taking a stab at the premise. You play some sort of god-like creature named Dehon. You have three brothers and a father, and you live in a palace in the void. You conquer galaxies or something, and you probably enjoy taking long walks on the beach and drinking pina coladas, but it’s hard to say. As the game opens up, your family is dead, killed by you, and Evil is trying to get inside your palace. It’s not clear what Evil is up to, or even if Evil is truly evil, or just evil to you -- and who are you to judge, anyway, since you murdered your family and left their bodies dangling all over the place? -- but your goal is to stop Evil, or kill Evil, or something like that.
The game is divided into four acts. Each act gives you some specific goal, usually unstated, and you have to wander around the dozen or so rooms in your palace to figure out what it is. As an example, in the first act you have to gain access to an elevator. This is achieved by praying in the right spot, talking to your father’s spirit, and then opening a door. Later acts are more complicated and require tracking down clues and looking for secret doors -- and, oh yeah, eating the bodies of your family -- but none of them are very long, and you can probably finish the entire game in under five hours.
In some ways, Vigil is an intriguing game. It has a unique look and feel, and the black-and-white template is sort of cool because then when there are colors, such as when you see splatters of red blood, they really stand out. And the premise is nice, too, just because it is so strange that you have no idea what’s going on or what’s going to happen next, and that helps to drive the game along.
But -- and you knew there was a “but” coming, right? -- Vigil is short, uncomplicated, and unfriendly, and it’s not a lot of fun to play. You left click to move, and you right click to pray and open doors, and that’s it. Vigil feels like it’s still in the alpha stage of its development, where enough of it has been completed that Freegamer can show it off, but it still has a long way to go. How else can you explain the fact that you’re not allowed to save during the acts, and if you die (which can happen all too frequently), you have to return to the beginning of the act and start over? Oh, right, repeating stuff over and over again is fun.
And so Vigil: Blood Bitterness isn’t a game that I’d recommend. I hate to pound on a game that at least tries to be different, but Vigil needs a bunch more polish and a bunch more content before I’d even consider it to be a full game, let alone something worth buying, and so you should be wary of it, even at the $10 bargain price it has now.