Review – Vaccine
Just like the premise of most horror movies featuring zombies and mutated creatures, Vaccine is an interesting idea gone so poorly executed it was turned into a monstrosity. This is sadly one of the worst games available for the Nintendo Switch right now, even though it is quite an original concept made by just one brave person.
The game features a very interesting concept, being a mix between a 90s survival horror (just like Alone in the Dark and Resident Evil) and a roguelike. You have a thirty minute time limit to venture through a randomly generated mansion in order to look for a vaccine to cure a friend of yours who’s suffering from a mysterious illness. So far, so good, right? How did the game manage to perform so poorly, then?
Oh boy, where to even begin.
Vaccine definitely nails the 1996 survival horror aesthetic, with blocky and unpolished 32-bit graphics and tank controls a-la Resident Evil. While being incredibly loyal to its source material, those elements didn’t age well at all. Resident Evil‘s graphics weren’t blocky and ugly because of artistic choices, they were the best you could do with the available hardware in 1996: it was ugly then, and it’s still ugly nowadays. The same can be said about the tank controls, they were awful back in the day, and they are still painful in 2017. There is a reason why the remastered versions of Resident Evil Remake and Resident Evil 0 have ditched the tank controls: they are terrible. And Vaccine‘s controls manage to be even worse than the tank controls from 1996 by being too sensitive and by making you spin around in circles due to the constant change in camera angles. Even the easiest and most mundane actions, such as picking up a knife, are incredibly frustrating due to the terrible controls. You can also use the d-pad in order to move your character if you prefer, but if you really know what’s best for you, you won’t buy this game anyway.
There’s one little positive aspect in this game, however: its soundtrack and sound effects aren’t awful, doing a respectable attempt at making an eerie atmosphere. They aren’t perfect by any means, but given the overall lack of quality in Vaccine, the sound department is definitely a standout.
The other main issue with Vaccine is its roguelike nature. Each round of Vaccine will put you in a completely different mansion, with randomly generated rooms, enemy placements, traps and item distribution. That wouldn’t be much of a problem if the actual allocation wasn’t so terribly unbalanced: there are rounds in which the amount of enemies is astonishing, and the amount of items available for you is nearly nonexistent. Given how clunky the combat is, even the stupidest of enemies, a freaking rat, can kill you with ease. Your success in Vaccine basically depends on luck, with pretty much no skill involved.
Due to the terrible controls, attacking enemies is just difficult and frustrating. Trying to knife zombies or the licker ripoffs is way more complicated than it should be, so the best strategy available is to run away from danger until you reach a dead end, your stamina runs out and the zombies catch up, or the despicable camera makes you run like an idiot right into the cozy arms of a friendly and flesh-hungry zombie.
Once you find the cure and you deliver it to your buddy in time, the game will reset and reallocate you in another randomly generated mansion with a little biss less time than the previous round. You need to complete the game nine times in order to wtiness the true ending. Even though each round is set in a completely new mansion, I cannot stress how quickly the gameplay started to feel repetitive. The maps might be different, but there are still just three types of enemies, a very scarce amount of items and an ever-present camera hell-bent on making your life as complicated as possible.
Vaccine is proof that you’re not able to make a good game just by having a good idea, and that knowing how to execute said idea is as important, if not more important. It plays terribly, it’s a complete eyesore, and its randomly generated maps and item placements make it completely impossible for a player to beat a round by counting on his/her skill, making them entirely reliant on a generous allocation of items and enemies in order to proceed. You probably own more than just a Nintendo Switch, so buy the Resident Evil remake’s remaster on PSN/XBL/Steam instead, and relive the actual great memories of the genre.
Finally, a friendly reminder for you, mister developer: Nobody like tank controls!
Reviewed on Switch.
Also available on: PS4, Xbox One, PC, Wii U