‘Vaccine’ is a new third person survival horror game, from developer and publisher ‘Rainy Night Creations’ (or RNC for short), featuring a fixed camera, and classic ‘Resident Evil’ style tank controls. The player is faced with finding a cure for their infected friend in under 30 minutes, fighting through a procedurally generated map, facing zombies and other creatures along the way. The game late February 2017 for the Xbox, PC and PS4.
At first glance, it seemed as though ‘Vaccine’ didn’t have much of a story, if any at all, with it just centring around finding a cure for the player’s sick friend in time. However, there was more beneath the surface than it first seemed, with small snippets being revealed to the player via paper notes, which chance and reveal more upon each death of the player. I won’t delve into spoiler territory here, but I was pleasantly surprised that developer RNC had included an interesting tale, and delivered it in a way that eases some of the frustrations that come with dying and having to start over. The story also goes some way to explaining the procedurally generated mansion, and some of the repeated rooms that can occasionally occur. It was a clever twist, but I worry that people may lose patience before getting enough of the letters to piece things together.
The player has a choice of 2 characters to play as, both with slightly different statistics. The decision made by the player will put the other character in the role of the ‘sick friend’ that requires the cure. At this stage the player is given a procedurally generated layout, to work their way through, searching for the cure. Along the way, the player will face threats such as zombies, crows, rats, and ‘crawlers’ which were a crawling, clawed zombie creature. Each room has a classic fixed camera angle, and the tank controls add to an uneasy feeling following every corner turn.
All of this sounds great in theory, and it does do well at mimicking similar games from the 1990’s, however, there are a few elements that let the game down quite severely. For one the weapon and item placements are scarce, and I often found myself with just a knife for very long durations of time. Another is the enemies within the game, in particular, the crawlers.
The other enemies take off between 2-8 damage, however, the crawlers take off a whopping 22 health points, out of the players 100 total, per attack. They also relentlessly pursue the player, even if they have a repellent spray active, essentially ensuring a quick death. I think the game was well-balanced, and enemies were manageable, until any encounter with those creatures. This could occasionally work well with a new layout being produced each turn, but I found it mostly worked against the player, or in my experience, it did anyway. On one attempt the first room I entered had 3 of these creatures and so I was sent right back to the start before even getting a chance to progress.
Graphically the game resembles a PS1 era game, with blocky highly pixellated characters and environments. I think this was to further harper back to it’s ‘Resident Evil’ inspirations and draw in fans of similar, classic games. This works in the game’s favour, for the most part, creating some heavy nostalgic tones. However, it can become troublesome when important items were more or less invisible, as they blend entirely with the background at times. I found some would glimmer or shine, whilst others I ended up finding entirely by accident, as I didn’t actually see the item.
The audio was sadly a little lacking in quality also, with a distinct lack of variation. There was one long track playing throughout the game, and a minimal amount of sound effects, one for footsteps, zombies, gun shots etc. It was never overly annoying, and definitely resembled the noises of a 90s action game, I just found myself wanting a little more variety.
In all, I can appreciate what Vaccine tried to do, and I applaud the bravery of RNC for daring to create a blocky, 90s style action game when there aren’t really any others on the market just now. Also for being made by one man, I think it is a great individual accomplishment. Sadly though some frustrating balancing issues, and the repetitive gameplay become tedious quickly, and the great ideas behind the game, aren’t quite executed well enough to counter this. The story elements were a nice touch, and the procedural generation meant I never played through the same layout twice, which was definitely interesting. Unfortunately there just wasn’t enough story or content to keep me hooked, and the monster placement became an issue I no longer wanted to face. I think with a little more time, Vaccine could have been a genuinely interesting game, and a lovely nod to its 90s roots, as it is, though, I would recommend going back to ‘Resident Evil’ instead.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Microsoft Xbox One code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to email@example.com.
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