Around two years ago I took a look at Vaporum. While I hadn’t played a lot of games in the grid-based dungeon crawler RPG genre, I really enjoyed the game. I think one of the main reasons that the game succeeded was because it did a good job taking an older video game genre and adapting it to current times as well as adding in a cool steampunk theme. With the success of the original game, a prequel called Vaporum: Lockdown was released on PC last September. Last week the game made its way to Nintendo Switch giving me a good opportunity to check it out. While Vaporum: Lockdown sticks pretty close to the original game, it does a good job maintaining the same great gameplay and atmosphere.
Vaporum: Lockdown follows the story of Ellie Teller. Ellie is recruited to a mysterious scientific project in the middle of the ocean researching a new energy source. During routine tests something goes wrong as drones and other threats start attacking the researchers. Can Ellie survive long enough to find a way out of the tower?
For the most part Vaporum: Lockdown is what you would expect from a sequel/prequel. Those who played the first game should already have a very good idea of what to expect from the game. This is mostly due to the gameplay remaining mostly the same outside of some minor changes. The main difference between the two games is just that the prequel has a greater emphasis on puzzles than the first game. Towards the end of the game there are quite a few puzzles, and some of these can be kind of hard to solve. Otherwise the combat and other gameplay is mostly the same. Therefore your opinion of the original game will likely translate to Vaporum: Lockdown. If you liked the original game, I see no reason why you wouldn’t like the prequel as well. If you didn’t really like the original though, I don’t think Vaporum: Lockdown will change your mind.
With that out of the way, lets talk about the game for those who never played the original game. Vaporum: Lockdown is best described as a grid-based dungeon crawler RPG. Basically the entire world is built around a grid. When moving you and enemies will move between grid spaces. Positioning is important as you can face any of the four sides of your current space. When attacking you will attack the neighboring space that you are facing if you are using a melee weapon, or a space in a direct line a couple of spaces away if you are using a ranged weapon. All attacks have a cooldown period so you can’t spam the attack button to defeat enemies. Throughout the game you will also acquire gadgets that give you special abilities that use up energy. To defeat an enemy you need to deplete their health before they do the same to you.
What is interesting about the combat in Vaporum: Lockdown is that positioning is really important. You can just sit next to an enemy and trade blow for blow until you finally defeat it. You likely will last longer than the enemy, but you will likely lose a lot of health in the process. The more prudent way of approaching the combat is to move around the enemies. Hit them before they can attack and then move to a location that is safe. In a way the combat kind of feels like a dance as you move around to position yourself for an attack and then slide away before the enemy can retaliate. When there are multiple enemies attacking you at the same time though, this becomes considerably more difficult. The game allows you to enter slow motion though where enemies only move when you take an action. This turns the combat into more of a turn based system.
Just like the original game, I really liked the combat in Vaporum: Lockdown. Instead of quick reactions or mashing buttons, the gameplay relies more on being smart about your positioning as well as giving yourself options for movement to avoid attacks. The worst thing that can happen in combat is that you get backed into a corner. In these cases you just need to hope that you can dispatch of the enemies quickly so you don’t lose too much health. The combat is pretty straightforward, but the game gives you a lot of options. Good use of the mechanics will allow you to defeat enemies without losing too much health. I liked the combat, but I know that it won’t be for everyone. If you are looking for a button masher or a game that rewards quick reaction time, it likely won’t be for you.
Other than the combat, Vaporum: Lockdown also relies on quite a few puzzles. In fact the prequel seems to have quite a few more puzzles than the first game. A lot of these puzzles are built around slide puzzles where you need to move boxes/crates around the grid to block things or fill in a gap in the ground. There are also some timing puzzles, finding hidden switches, and a few other puzzle types. As a fan of puzzle games, I liked the puzzles in Vaporum: Lockdown. They aren’t going to be for everyone though. I would say that most of the puzzles are moderately difficult, but there are some that are quite difficult as well. You may occasionally need to consult a guide if you get stuck. If you liked the puzzles from the first game you should also enjoy them in the prequel. If you aren’t the biggest fan of these type of puzzles, this element of the game may not be for you.
While I really liked the gameplay, I think the game deserves credit for its atmosphere as well. Like the original game, the game takes place in an underwater tower that reminds me a lot of the Bioshock universe. Things aren’t exactly the same, but there are clear similarities between the two games. The game uses a steampunk style mixed with some sci-fi elements that I think work really well for the game. The visuals are pretty nice, and the world in general has its own unique look.
As for the story, Vaporum: Lockdown acts as a prequel to the original game. The game references things from the original game, but the overall story stands on its own as well. Playing the original game will allow you to get more out of the story, but I wouldn’t say that it is necessary to understand what is going on. For the most part I would say that the story is comparable to the original with most of it being told through audio logs and documents you find throughout the tower. The story isn’t perfect, but I found it compelling enough that I wanted to see how it would end.
The length of Vaporum: Lockdown will somewhat depend on the type of player that you are. The game has a number of hidden and optional locations to visit including a whole floor made up of puzzles which are entirely optional. If you only do what is required to beat the game, it will obviously take less time than if you completed everything the game has to offer. The game’s length will also depend on how fast you can solve the puzzles and how quickly you are willing to look for help if you get stuck. I would estimate that to just do what is necessary to beat the game, it will take most players 10-12 hours. 100% completing the game will likely take fifteen or more hours.
Vaporum: Lockdown is for the most part what you would expect out of a prequel. The gameplay and atmosphere are very similar to the original game. This isn’t meant to be taken as an insult because I really enjoyed the original game. The gameplay can basically be summed up as a grid-based dungeon crawler RPG. You move between grid spaces to explore and fight the enemies that you encounter. Much of the combat revolves around moving around enemies, dealing damage, and moving before they can strike back. The combat reminds me a lot of turn based games and I enjoyed it quite a bit. In addition to the combat the game includes quite a few more puzzles than the original game which mostly consist of sliding puzzles. The puzzles won’t be for everyone as some of them can be quite difficult, but I enjoyed them. Topping off the gameplay is the game’s atmosphere which I thought was quite good like the original.
Ultimately your enjoyment of Vaporum: Lockdown will likely depend on your opinion of the original game or grid-based dungeon crawling RPGs in general. If you didn’t care for the original game, or don’t generally like these type of games, I don’t see it being for you. Those who enjoyed the original game or these type of games in general should enjoy it though as it is a worthy prequel in my opinion. For these people I would recommend that they pick up Vaporum: Lockdown.
We at Geeky Hobbies would like to thank Fatbot Games, s. r. o. for the review copy of Vaporum: Lockdown used for this review. Other than receiving a free copy of the game to review, we at Geeky Hobbies received no other compensation for this review. Receiving the review copy for free had no impact on the content of this review or the final score.