Vaporum Reviews

In our review of the recently released steampunk dungeon crawler Vaporum, we call it “a perfectly reasonable way to spend 20 hours of your life.” And if you're interested in a second opinion, so to speak, here are a few outside reviews that are the definition of mixed and range from highly positive to pretty negative:

Bonus Stage 9/10:

Vaporum is such a refreshing return to form that I completely didn’t know I wanted nor was expecting. By taking two different gameplay ideas – dungeon crawling and steampunk – and marrying them without too many ridiculous offshoot tactics, you get something that’s distilled to a truly solid concept. I can’t tell you how many “steampunk” ideas have been hokey, or how many Bioshock “inspired” games might as well be called “Not Rapture.” And, rather than just be a straight Grimrock variation, Vaporum adds a huge twist on the leveling and combat system without giving up completely on the formula. For a first game, this is an incredibly impressive endeavor, and I’ve invested hours, yet I’m certain I haven’t found everything. By all means, step into your own exo-rig and prepare for an incredible journey, Vaporum deserves your full attention.

GameSpace 8.5/10:

Overall, I enjoyed my time with Vaporum. The developers did a great job of updating a genre that has been buried by the sands of time. They took an old-school dungeon crawl, added a fresh coat of paint (no crappy 8-bit graphics here), dropped it into a fresh Steampunk setting, and added some modern mechanics while staying true to the genre. The story was well told, but it would have been better had it been as unique as the setting.

Invision Community 8/10:

While this game is a solid package, it will do nothing to draw you in if you do not like grid-based games. It’s understandable, they have disappeared out in favour of vast open world games and instant-gratification FPS action games. But the game knows its audience and targets accordingly. This even though at points it felt like the game was at juxtaposition to grid-based gameplay, as though it was a last minute change from a more open movement design.

Nonetheless, Vaporum is an interesting and good new addition to a thin market. The demographic, which you may be part of, will eat this game up. It ticks all the boxes and adds a few nice unique steampunk flavourings as well as options for the old-school players to sink their teeth into. Nothing is wrong with this game, and it earns a strong 8 for it, but this game is not going to turn you to the genre if you are apprehensive.

GeekNifty 7/10:

The elements work fine in their own respect, and even cross over to make for fun gameplay. Exploration meets combat when you frantically try and remember how much hallway is left behind you as you blindly back up. Puzzles meet combat as you frantically try and pull the right lever while dodging sledgehammers. Exploration and story go hand in hand to reward you for paying attention. Exploration is often the key to finding the solution to puzzles. Vaporum does a lot of stuff right in a genre that, as far as I can tell, has been largely untouched for years. Popular in the early days of computer gaming, the grid based RPG has only just started to make a resurgence. I like how Vaporum isn’t randomly generated. I like how they put in specific set pieces that are well timed and well done. I like how they modernize the movement controls and combat timing. I like how they experiment with abilities in the form of swappable modules. I like how they experiment with the engine to make clever puzzles that feel rewarding to solve.

Overall I would recommend Vaporum as the first person grid-based dungeon crawler to play if someone asked me about the genre. Now, my experience with the genre is a few hours of Legend of Grimrock I, but I like Vaporum better than Grimrock, and that managed to be popular enough to get a sequel, so maybe that says something.

The Overpowered Noobs 6/10:

Looking back, Vaporum is a good case against reviving games that play like Eye of the Beholder or the newer Legend of Grimrock. It felt repetitive at times, but not like it failed in achieving any of the goals it set out to conquer. Combat is fun and challenging, puzzles were varied and interesting, and the graphics did bring a nice, modern-day look to a forgotten genre. Looking at the same assets over and over for most of the game didn’t give me a lot of incentive to look forward to the next level, but I didn’t feel like quitting either. The game had an interesting story, which made me feel excited when I found new notes or recordings [EN: Sounds familiar again, for those keeping score at home], and finally finding out what happened to the main character was interesting [EN: I mean, you know what I’m gonna say]. Ultimately I think Vaporum deserves a sequel. A sequel that doesn’t need to fix anything as much as it needs to have a larger scope: the number of levels was enough, but I really would’ve appreciated maybe ten, or even eight, levels that felt more in-depth and detailed — as opposed to repetitive.

Hey Poor Player 2/5:

Which reminds me: the biggest disappointment with Vaporum comes in that for all its ambition in visuals, it fails to gel that with an interesting narrative. Yes, the amnesiac narrative is the correct approach: with the concept of a steampunk dungeon crawler being entirely new, having the protagonist share our awe provides a natural segue into the experience. But as voice diaries are uncovered and the protagonist’s memories return, it sadly devolves into a tired mess of horror cliches. This is difficult to describe without diving into spoiler territory, but while Vaporum‘s story does have the tools become interesting — we uncover mentions of a war and how the mysterious fumium substance has a life of its own — they either fail to make themselves relevant or have their buildup wasted in a limp climax (this particularly revolves around the antagonist, although I’ll leave for the audience to discover). It doesn’t help much of the voice acting is below-average, filled with flat delivery and rushed, unnatural dialogue that wouldn’t be out of place in a flawed localization (think of the hiccups in Zelda: Breath of the Wild).

There are other things I could harp on — I think of a certain book-collecting puzzle, which felt unprompted and unnecessarily complex — but really, all this leaves Vaporum feeling, well, just there. The concept is interesting, but that inspiration doesn’t apply to the gameplay, and so we’re left with something that can only be bogged down by its missteps. It’s hardly terrible, but it’s not much of anything outside its initial premise. Only the hardcore dungeon crawler need apply.