One fact that we all need to face is that fast-paced and frantic video games will never go out of style. Whether they’re classics being played on an arcade cabinet or new entries on a home console, intense action coupled with multiplayer mayhem can be downright addictive. Another fact that we all need to face is that romantic vampires, among other amorous undead creatures, are currently in style. Combine the two and you’ve got Vampire Crystals, a game that’s much better than any young adult novel would dare to suggest.
Vampire Crystals is a twin-stick shooter that is simple in terms of gameplay, but is also packed with content. The plot involves an evil dragon raising an army of zombies to take over Spookyland, and a couple of vampires who must intervene before things get out of hand. It’s silly and trivial, but this is definitely the type of game that concerns itself with gameplay over plot, and it does a fine job of making the action both fun and exciting.
Using a Wii Remote and Nunchuk combination, the Nunchuk’s analogue stick is used to move your character around as you use the Remote to aim at your screen and hold B to shoot. A crosshair appears on screen wherever your Wii Remote is pointed, letting you know exactly where your shots are going to be fired. If you prefer a more traditional twin-stick control scheme, then you can also use a Wii Classic Controller, using the left analogue stick to move and the right stick to bombard your enemies with bullets. Controlling your character is easy to master and feels natural after just a short while.
The main campaign consists of 15 levels with three boss fights distributed in between. To complete a level, you have to kill a certain amount of zombies while also collecting crystals that randomly generate on the ground. The amount of kills and crystals that you need to accumulate are shown on the left side of your screen along with your health. Once you reach your goal, the level ends and you automatically move on to the next one. If, however, the zombies overwhelm you, or if time runs out before you accumulate enough kills and crystals, then it’s game over and you’ll have to start the level again.
Scattered throughout each stage are various items, such as power ups and extra health. Most of the power ups change the type of ammunition that your gun will fire, while others create a weaponised shield that surrounds your character or cause your character to grow to an enormous size. Conversely, there are also items that hinder your performance by reducing your health or inverting your controls. Whether helpful or harmful, the effects of any of these items are only temporary, ensuring that each level, no matter how predictable gameplay may be, will keep you on your toes.
One of the biggest issues afflicting Vampire Crystals is the intense difficulty curve. Following less of a curve and more of a spike, certain levels tend to jump in difficulty so drastically that they’ll take any player several tries just to complete. Though the difficulty can be a bit on the punishing side, all of the levels can definitely be completed, and finally finishing off a level that’s giving you trouble just makes the whole experience more rewarding. If you’re still having difficulty completing the game, then there is also the option to play through the campaign co-operatively with local friends.
Beyond the local co-op, there are three other multiplayer options available including Deathmatch, Survival, and Time Attack modes, all of which can be played with up to four players. Deathmatch, as the name implies, pits you and your opponents against each other with no other distractions to get in your way. The power ups are still available, but you don’t have any pesky zombies running around the map as well. Survival is more team-based; you try to survive an endless horde of zombies and the player who lasts the longest is deemed the winner. Finally, Time Attack mode has you and your opponents collecting crystals and fighting off zombies all while trying to run down the clock. The player with the most crystals in the end wins, regardless of who died first or more often. Each of these multiplayer modes is simple, but they’re undeniably fun. Unfortunately there's no online play, so all of your matches and scores are kept local only.
While Vampire Crystals may look like a bright and colorful zombie romp, it’s clear that much care was put into the details of its presentation. All of the environments, while often looking quite similar, have a distinct direction to them that make them all stand out from one another. The layout and design of each level varies in a way that forces you to readjust to your environment with each passing stage. The characters and textures may not be the most meticulously crafted in gaming history, but they’re crisp and clear enough to easily be differentiated form one another, even when things get a bit hectic. On a related note, in later levels when enemy characters flood the screen, there is a little bit of frame rate slowdown, but it’s nothing game-breaking, and beyond that everything flows as smoothly as one could expect from a frantic game such as this.
Vampire Crystals isn’t going to win any awards for originality, but by no means does that make it a bad game. There are some issues with frame rate slowdown later on, but beyond that it’s a fun scramble worth playing through over and over again, both solo and with some friends. Boasting classic twin-stick shooter gameplay with a variety of different power ups and multiplayer modes, this is definitely a worthy addition to any gamer’s library, even if the difficulty curve might drive you a bit batty.