It’s been a while since a game has changed my opinion from minute one to hour one. When I started Vaporum: Lockdown I found it to be dull, slow, and confusing. However, sticking with it I began to become enamoured with it’s odd pace and systems, so much so that I soon found myself losing a chunk of time to it.
Vaporum: Lockdown plays in a very old school fashion. While the environments are 3D in nature and viewed in a first person perspective, our movement is restricted to a grid based system. This means that movement can feel a little off to start with, especially so for those of us accustomed to more freedom. This goes doubly so when we get into combat or when trying to solve time sensitive puzzles. Also, much like the original FPS titles we’re unable to look around freely and are restricted to pivoting left and right or strafe moving. This can make trying to fully grasp the surroundings awkward at times, though handily anything of note to interact with is auto focused on by the camera or interaction icon.
The inventory harks back to PC-centric adventures too in a way that is hard to get to grips with on a controller. Navigating it is not the easiest or most intuitive thing in the world thanks in large part to the item descriptions being hidden by default. The layout of information can be confusing, and trying to parse whether a +2 tech or +2 blunt bonus is actually worth it for our character build. Upgrades to our stats are few and far between and again make things difficult to really know what to pick, while various powers and abilities are doled out by beating enemies with little fanfare.
Take the time to invest in the systems, begin to understand to benefits of the grid movement, and really dig into the nitty gritty of the menus and there’s something really rather enjoyable here. Harking back to the ways of old provides a somewhat refreshing take on an adventure, forcing players to slow down and plan rather than just barrel around the rooms relying on objective markers and glowing key items. About the only real concession here is a very generous quick and auto save system; the former can be used at any point while the latter kicks in before big moments that mostly end up in death for those unprepared (read: me).
This can be tricky is played over a couple of nights, but the levels aren’t so big that a quick refresher tour takes too long, while carefully examining items in the inventory will often lead us to the next way to progress, be it a new key to unlock a door or another item towards our ultimate goal of escaping the facility we’re in.
Combat falls into a sort of dance-like rhythm with the enemies also restricted to the grid movement. We need to plan a few moves ahead so we don’t get cornered or accidently back into a death pit or trap. Different foes can hit us from different ranges – the same goes for our arsenal – so smart movement can almost lock them in an inescapable pattern so we can attack without worry, but later foes move too fast and in numbers in order to counter this. We can have two loadouts on the go switchable at a button press, and setting items smartly is key to survival. Attacks are mostly based on a cooldown, even our guns, and so moving constantly as well as using our various abilities is also vital. It’s not the most exciting combat in the world, and is quite understated in presentation, but as with the exploration and puzzle solving if we let ourselves get invested in the style of the game it works well.
Speaking of puzzles, these mostly take the form of find item, take item elsewhere, use item, but there are a few sliding block puzzles or the like as well as hidden rooms behind destructible elements to find. Again, some require players to pay attention to notes or hints left about without any explicit help or explanation. As with the rest of Vaporum: Lockdown it can take some getting used to, however there’s a good amount of satisfaction when piecing it all together without any help.
A lot of lore is thrown at us and while the voice acting is decent and there’s definitely enough here to capture some players attention, personally I found myself skipping diary logs and voice recordings after a little while and just focusing on the exploration. That’s more to do with the kind of player I am I suspect, but there was not much here to really get me invested in what I was doing and why. Part of that could also have been due ot the presentation. It’s an older playing game, and the visuals – while still decent at times – exhibit an old school mentality too. Animation is basic and clunky, destructible elements fall apart and fade out in a manner similar to early 360 titles, and there is a just an air of ‘good enough’ to them presentation as a whole.
While the slow, awkward pace and systems might put off some early on, Vaporum: Lockdown is worth sticking with and investing the time to get to grips with. The grid based gameplay is somewhat refreshing in this day and age, and the sense of satisfaction in solving puzzles off our own back is good. UI and presentation wise things could have been better implemented for sure, but get lost in the world and there’s a lot to enjoy here.Become a Patron!
This game was reviewed based on Xbox One review code, using an Xbox Series S|X console. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by publisher.