Despite its technical limitations, the Nintendo 3DS is home to some of the best looking games on the market. Bravely Default, Super Mario 3D Land, Luigi’s Mansion 2, Fire Emblem Awakening; these are all games that, despite the low resolution of the hardware and its modest processing power, are all genuinely gorgeous games that ride a wave of outstanding art design that arguably benefits from the limitations of the host hardware. Hi-res, 1080p graphics are all good and well, but at the end of the day, it is quality art design that ultimately stands the test of time with technical limitations often encouraging imaginative workarounds from the most skilled developers and artists.
Sadly, while technical limitations can bring out the best in developers, they can also bring out the worst in already poor video games. A poor game can be made playable by technical wizadry, but when you’ve already got a bad game (like, Van Helsing Sniper Zx100), the lower resolution and paucity of power inherent to the 3DS makes that already painfully average and diabolically ugly game that little bit harder to bear.
As Van Helsing, you are tasked with shooting down an array of extremely similar and rather bland looking vampires in a neon-lit vision of a future London that has all the hallmarks of a low budget, mid-90s arcade game. In fairness, the core mechanics are competent, but when a game asks little beyond pointing and shooting, that’s the least one could expect.
Sitting atop a fixed perch, you fire down on the vampires below in classic House of the Dead style using the 3DS’ inbuilt gyroscope to take aim upon your undead assailants. While never as accurate as the control stick, it certainly does the job and, despite causing the 3D to fall out of focus occasionally, makes a decent stab (no pun intended) of replicating a more realistic aiming mechanic.
There is a special attack and additional weapons that can be picked up along the way for limited use, but in the case of, Van Helsing Sniper Zx100, what you see is what you get, and beyond a whole lot of ugly, there isn’t much else to see. Sure, the zooming capabilities of your futuristic crossbow do add a hint of depth, but for the most part, this is all about aiming at ugly zombies running around the games’ even uglier environments.
Yes, it’s true that, in terms of gameplay, classic lightgun games such as the aforementioned, House of the Dead, offer almost the exact same experience, but that’s where the technical limitations and art design come into play. While the core gameplay is fundamentally solid, if undoubtedly uninspired, games created in this mould are more dependent upon its world and enemies than most. If you’re developing an on-rail / fixed point shooter, you better make sure that the world that you’re seeing is aesthetically pleasing and that the enemies that you’re shooting are, well, at the very least, fun to shoot. Neither is true of, EnjoyUp’s, Van Helsing Sniper Zx100.
While the inclusion of Van Helsing makes little sense, the utterly bizarre concept isn’t really the issue here, in fact, for games such as this, I submit to a ‘crazier the better’ philosophy, but despite a few neat audio cues that hark back to the cheesy effects found in the best arcade shooters of the 90s, this is, for lack of a better term, an ugly game and, for the most part, an ugly experience.
The visuals are low rent and the art design is garish and unappealing. I can see what they were going for with a kind of 80s style, Blood Dragon inspired vision of the future, but simply put, it doesn’t work. It doesn’t help of course that the levels are too long and that the gameplay never rises above the level of competently mundane. On a purely mechanical level, Van Helsing Sniper Zx100 does work and for those who enjoy arcade style shooters, there is a small amount of fun to be had here, but be warned; to take any enjoyment from ths ultimately forgettable experience, you will have to overlook some truly horrifying visuals and a cast of blocky, unappealing vampires that bring shame to their blood sucking brethren.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo 3DS code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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