“Despite all your efforts, your friend got infected again.” That’s the message you’re greeted with when you boot up Vaccine. This is a game recently for the Nintendo Switch that doesn’t hide the fact it was heavily inspired by classic horror games like Resident Evil. From tank controls to static cameras to heavily pixelated 3D graphics everything about this game screams old school. Does it really stand up to the test of time however, or is it a relic of a bygone age?
The premise of the game is that you, a heavily protected person stuck in a creepy mansion filled with zombie like creatures, and four legged fiends straight out of nightmares, have just 30 minutes to find a vaccine for the infection that has attacked your friend. If you can somehow manage to navigate through the halls of the ever changing mansion, avoid the numerous creatures that simply want to eat you and find said vaccine you’ll save your friend’s life. That not going to be that easy, however.
Games like the original Resident Evil are so well remembered and people have been clamoring for a game that brought those memories back. Vaccine does just that. You play as one of two people, either a male or a female character that have slightly different starting stats, but otherwise play pretty identically to each other. The tank controls that people said made those early really tense are back. You can control your character with the analog sticks, but you’ll find yourself constantly swaying when trying to walk straight or just not going where you think you should. I actually found that if I played the game with the d-pad it worked much better and I was able to understand the tank controls better. In this you have to move based on the way your character is facing so if you want to turn left you have to push left on the d-pad. It’s slightly confusing if you’ve never used tank style controls before, but pretty easy to understand after just a few minutes of play.
Equipment and inventory are going to be managed and managed effectively. You have very limited resources in this game and because the layouts of the mansion change every time you start the game you’re never sure what you’re going to get. It’s procedurally generated and so every time you die the layout will switch. The only item you’re ever guaranteed to get is a knife in the starting room. After that it’s up to you to find equipment as you explore. Sometimes you’ll find ammunition for guns, but your path will never cross an actual gun. You may find lots of healing supplies in one run and the next time not come across any. That’s where part of the difficulty in the game comes in. Your knife will help you some, but if you get surrounded it won’t save your life. You’ll have to run and hope you can escape into the next room and close the door behind you. Then pray there was nothing waiting for you in there either. Every action in the game will reward you with experience which you can use to better your aiming, your speed or your health. These will reset every time, however, so if you die you’ll be back to square one.
Visually and audibly it’s a throwback to the PS1 era. Sounds are eerily digitized and the visual looks like they were pulled straight from the PS1 or the Nintendo 64. It all adds to the feel of the game. The monsters, especially the ones low to the ground crawling around on all fours are scary. The music is little more than ambient noise and the sound of footsteps echoes, especially if you’re wearing headphones. It’s not a pretty game, but it doesn’t have to be. It’s not trying to be. It’s purposefully designed to give that old school feel and in that respect it works, and works well. The story is told through a series of letters that you find scattered throughout the mansion. The text is done well, but you can tell the developer’s first language isn’t English some of the phrashing is very strange and there are some humerous typos to be found. I could knock that, but I found them to be charming in a way and laughed to myself when I found them.
Vaccine is a game that I think many people might look at in the eShop and just dismiss and that would be a tragedy. I didn’t really play any of the early Resident Evil or Silent Hill games so I don’t have the nostaglic feeling of those series playing this. However, Vaccine is a really solid game that takes an early survival horror game, plops it onto a modern console and expects people to re-live some of the early days of 3D horror. It’s a really good game that shouldn’t be overlooked.
Review copy of the game provided by Rainy Frog
Played through the full game.
Total Play Time; 5 hours