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Vampire Survivors is perfect for anyone who wants to experience a 30-minute joy ride, going from slapping evil bats with a leather whip to wiping out legions of demons with single devastating strikes from God’s Own Bastard Sword and the Devil’s Sex Whip – all in less time than the least ambitious pizza delivery places.

Slaughter, hot and fresh

Sounds like a trip, right? And it doesn’t end there. On booting the game you’re shown a glorious retro splash page of a grimacing vampire, stoic tough guy, and improbably contorted woman. It makes me yearn for simpler times – sitting in my parent’s basement as a kid, no school tomorrow, eating a family-sized bag of Doritos with one hand and unpausing the family NES with the other, playing until the sun appears over the neighbour’s house in my idyllic American suburb. And I’ve never owned a NES. Nor a basement. And I didn’t set foot in America until my late 20s. Such is the raw power of that image.

Pass me the Power Glove, I’m going in raw

Humble beginnings

After navigating through the minimalist menus, selecting your stalwart corpse-to-be, and booting into the game, you’ll be transported even more into the past by the incredibly underwhelming start of the game.

Oh, my dude just did a little whip thing. Did I press something? No, he just did it himself. Can I move him? Yeah, okay. Is that a bat? I guess I’ll move next to the bat so when my guy decides to do another little whippy it’ll kill it. That worked. Oooh, a shiny gem. Guess I’ll do it again?

… Is this it?

More like ‘Angry Bat Protection League Survivors’

Vampire Survivors cares not at all for your modern contrivances, like attacking when you please. Or a tutorial. Or the controls. Or what to do. It’s called Vampire Survivors, you just survive the vampires you bloody idiot.

You’ll work it out. Or die. Vampire Survivors doesn’t care which. I mean, you’ll be dying anyway, because this game does not coddle you for long. You’ll start out committing crimes against wildlife with a knock-off Indiana Jones prop, but those shiny gems dropping from the battered bats (which you’ll be compulsively collecting like the sticky-fingered goblin you are) are actually experience. And the gems start piling up.

Every level, you’ll be given a choice of making your crappy starting weapon a little less crappy, or taking a whole new crappy weapon. Which you’ll use at the same time as your current weapon somehow. Don’t question it, it’s the magic of 80’s nostalgia (and possibly Medieval inbreeding). In 5 levels time you could have 5 more weapons if you’re not a wimp who chose support items, each whipping, stabbing, hurling, casting, and… bibling… all at the same time. That’s six slots for weapons, and six for not-weapons (if you’ve already picked and upgraded all the weapons or if your mother raised a coward).

Call me Vishnu the Destroyer

And you’ll be bloody glad of your multi-limbed son of a sister-mother mutant, because the enemy waves are ramping up faster than the fall of western politics. Every ounce of damage is appreciated when fighting back the squishy hordes from your marginally less squishy body.

At this point you realise why there’s no attack button. It would be as useless as sash windows on a spaceship. There’s no conceivable point in time where you would not be hammering that button like it was a roach in a hardware store, except for the first 30 seconds where you’re pretending to be some kind of crack shot master vampire hunter.

Loving the scythe and zombie mods for Farming Simulator

And as you slaughter enemies in their thousands the gems keep coming, and your level keeps rising like the average temperature at the Greenland ice sheets. And those crappy weapons are suddenly less crappy. Decent, even. Devastating, you might say. And as you’re dodging and weaving like a drunken Kung Fu master through the angry monsters, you’ll enter The Flow.

What if Frogger but undead Bullet Hell?

No longer will you see individuals. You’ll see only the Horde, as your eyes gently unfocus like you’ve just taken a shot of rubbing alcohol. You’ll flow into the weaker spaces left by the recently departed, and ebb away from the rock-hard bosses in the stream of foes.

Or you’ll die. Again, Vampire Survivors doesn’t care.

Spoils of war

Occasionally your trance will be broken by another shiny trinket in the DeBiers blood diamond mine of gems, and you’ll be compelled to touch it like a moth on the 11th step of the Lamps Anonymous programme.

There’s a variety of random detritus to take advantage of. Meat will heal you, crosses will kill everything on screen, amulets will freeeeeeeze the enemies, and orbs will summon every last XP gem to your character like Bob Dylan fans to the last festival brownie. Coins will drop into your wallet… which we’ll talk about in a bit. Basically, while everything is chaos, these items make that chaos a little less chaotic.

Speaking of chaos, did I mention the bosses? Every few minutes the game will throw a chewy crouton into your slaughter soup, something that requires a little more attention than the background butchery – a glowy bat, a big ol’ bug boy, or the subject of my latest wet dream. And if you’ve been a good little murderhobo, your reward for chomping through them is a treasure chest.

Cracking open the chest is like biting into a landmine baguette – an explosion of light and noise that settles into the familiar concept of better weapons and mo’cash which I will talk about in a second stop being so impatient.

Evil AF, but fashion game on point

While you don’t choose what you get, you’re guaranteed to get an upgrade for something you already have. No junk clogging up your precious slots. Worst case you’ll get a slightly better thing you were forced to choose when levelling up… but best case…

The harder it is to see your character, the better equipped you are

Gearing up

I’m going to tell you a secret. Not a well-kept secret, it’s half-spoilt in the achievements, but I guess skip the next section if you want to protect the integrity of a two quid game.

The chests will give you evolved weapons. Certain pain dealers combine with other less-interesting options to make mega powerful Weapons of Mass Destruction. A few of these in your arsenal will lead to you dishing out the Dark Age equivalent of ten Hiroshima’s every picosecond.

Which sounds OP. And it is. But so’s the enemy. Before you get to the end, if you get to the end, you’ll need all of that and more before the sweet embrace of Death suplexes you face-first into the gravel.

The madness suspended for now, until they clean the medusa guts out of the grouting, you’ll see a summary of the war crimes you committed. And if you were serious about your serial killing, you’ll unlock some extra goodies to make your murder more efficient next time – or at least more varied.

Shut up and take my blood money

And now we come to the cash. Taking your filthy lucre to the Power Up section lets you buy permanent upgrades to your sessions. More damage, more health, more projectiles, more money, just more more more… and the one delightfully modern concession Vampire Survivors makes to our weak modern demand for convenience – you can refund all your cash if you change your mind like the flaky cinnamon roll you are.

Or spend it on more characters. Other than the very important distinction of shirt on or shirt off, you’ll have a different starting weapon and a unique ability to help you dish out alternative servings of horror to your pain-intolerant enemies.

Bloody inflation, I remember when Greed only cost you one soul…

And, inevitably, you’ll load another game. After all, you only played for, like, 10 minutes. And in some form of alchemy the leaden start of the game has been turned to gold. It’s no longer weaksauce babytown frolics. It’s now the palate cleanser. The shot of limoncello before the main course. The tender kiss before the leather hood goes on. You know what’s coming next, and the quiet anticipation before the rain of blood is delicious.

Talking about stab wounds…

Everything about Vampire Survivors is as replayable as that classic mix tape stuck in the cassette player of your first car. The beepy retro soundtrack, the MS Paint graphics from that overly-edgy but talented kid in your class, the gameplay loop of zero to heroic corpse… each playthrough is like a single Pringle, or multiple stab wounds. You can’t have just one…

Cheap thrills

I want to criticise this game. It cost £2 on Steam, badness should be at its core like the heart of a Tory MP.

If I’m trying to be a bastard, then enemy variety could be better. They mostly just walk at you like lemmings who decided that cliffs were passe, and scythes were how all the cool rodents were dying nowadays… but things zig-zag around the screen enough to keep you guessing while not upsetting the frenetic pace of the game.

The entire story of the game is contained in the title… but I never questioned the motivation for Oily McBigPecs fighting. He’s trying to survive vampires. End of chapter.

Desperately grabbing at the last coin of criticism in the sea of experience gems… Sometimes you’re forced to pick an item or weapon you don’t want, because there’s no other option. Would be great to have another option. But… this run will be over in less time than your average executive bathroom movement.

Want to survive vampires with a Fire Wand, or some Garlic? The answer isn’t as simple as you might think…

For two British pounds (and whatever the equivalent is in America funbucks or your superior currency of choice). The only better return on entertainment for your hard-earned money would be paying twenty pre-schoolers 10 pence each to have a playground Battle Royale – and this way I won’t be banned from being closer than 200 feet from yet another school.

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