Grid-based dungeon crawlers did ever so briefly resurface from the dark, damp dungeons of videogame history when Legend of Grimrock was released five years ago. Subsequent attempts at first-person dungeon crawling have merely been iterating on this established formula, to little success.
Along comes Vaporum, which doesn’t really bring anything new to the table in terms of game mechanics, but it has a shiny new coat of paint… or rather a flaky rust-colored coat of paint.
You see, Vaporum thrusts you in a hostile steampunk world as an unknown hero. Stranded in the middle of the ocean, in front of a gigantic tower, you have to find out where you are, what happened, and, ultimately, who you are. If this sounds vaguely Bioshock-y to you – it certainly feels that way, sans the nasty objectivism.
However, this mostly serves as a backdrop for you exploring the place and solving puzzles that mostly involve doors, levers, and pressure plates. Oh, and hitting enemies with a wrench, of course.
Instead of your character getting stronger, you mainly pick up better equipment, and a relatively simple skill tree lets you specialize in certain weapon groups. It’s straightforward and fun, and the real-time combat works well whenever you have ample room to evade enemy attacks (which is not always, mind, but that’s a general problem that the genre faces).
I did find the game to be somewhat unbalanced at times. I quickly ran into some serious trouble on normal difficulty, while playing on easy felt too much like a walk in the park.
Other than that, Vaporum hit the right spot for me. Its steampunk veneer feels fresh in this type of game, and the labyrinthine level design kept things interesting. Considering that good grid-based dungeon crawlers are a rare breed, you really shouldn’t hesitate to pick this one up if you like the genre.
You can purchase Vaporum from GOG or Steam for $19.99. For more information, visit the game’s website or follow developer Fatbot Games on Facebook or Twitter.