Vaccine (Switch eShop) Review
I’ve always been slightly annoyed that both 8-bit and 16-bit visuals had been paid great homage by indie projects, but nothing in the 32 or 64-bit eras has enjoyed the same love and attention. Some projects have come close – you only need to look to games like the Japanese developed “Back In 1995” to see what I mean – but this arguably emulates Silent Hill more so than Resident Evil. Enter Vaccine. A game clearly borrowing inspiration from this era, Vaccine attempts to turn the older style of Resident Evil gameplay into a roguelike. Unfortunately, despite some spot-on attempts to recreate the visuals, Vaccine is a largely unsuccessful experiment.
In Vaccine, you play the role of one of two agents who must make their way through a mansion filled with zombies to save the life of someone who is also infected. The story is incredibly minimalistic, with most of the major details being laid out to you in optional files. There is an attempt to serve an arthouse feel of sorts here, not unlike films like Donnie Darko, but it’s done with the desperation of a high school English student rather than something truly meaningful (for the record, I didn’t care much for Donnie Darko either).
Something that’ll make most gamers roll their eyes in unison is that Vaccine’s mansion is randomly generated – which completely misses the point of what Vaccine is trying to imitate. Games like Resident Evil, Silent Hill and the lesser known imitations succeeded so well as they were meticulously designed to be explored, dashed through or a bit of both. Vaccine’s choice to randomise its level design seems like an incredibly tone-deaf design choice given its obvious inspirations.
This randomly generated locale is at odds with the game’s design at times too. There will be times where you find guns but no ammo. You’ll find ammo for guns that you’ll never find in your initial playthrough. Once again showing why a proper, designed experience is probably a better option for a game like this, it just feels completely broken. It means each time you play Vaccine, you must pray that you don’t draw a metaphorical short straw. Some procedurally generated games combat this by having rules in place to make sure the player gets a similar or fair experience yet still feels randomised. Vaccine doesn’t.
The structure of the game is borderline maniacal as well. Your friend is sick and you have a set amount of time to save them, running through the mansion. You’ll repeat this several times, with the game telling you “oh shucks your friend got sick again!” at the end of each run. Each subsequent wave refreshes the items and the mansion layout to keep things fresh – though it’s all so repetitious that it gets boring incredibly quickly.
There were times where I thought Vaccine perfectly emulated the feeling of tension that the older Resident Evil games so eloquently perfected as time went by. Instead, as I got deeper and deeper into the mansion, I realised that this wasn’t fear or tension but rather frustration. The story isn’t interesting, the characters have the personality of a brick wall and there’s just little to no reason to want to keep playing. There is a skill system in place too, which seemingly gives the developers artistic license to shovel unnecessary numbers onto the screen during combat, but the skills just further muddle the differences between the two starting characters.
As you’d expect for a game emulating the classic 32-bit games of the mid-90s, the visuals in Vaccine are average looking – though that’s entirely the point. Despite this, the art design is very generic and the characters completely lack personality. The way the mansion is presented, with fixed camera angles (although sometimes they do pan), feels very nostalgic. Despite this, Vaccine just feels generic. It’s missing something; a spark, a charm that manages to shine through to give itself its own sense of identity.
I don’t like using this word much, but Vaccine seems like a cynical cash grab. A game that is designed to cash in on the nostalgia of games like Resident Evil and Silent Hill, while mixing together elements from today’s school of game design with disappointing results. The presentation feels okay, but the art and style of the game feel awfully run-of-the-mill and generic. Vaccine is tone-deaf to the games it’s trying to emulate and misses the mark in almost every department.
Rating: 1 / 5