- Developer: Rainy Night Creations
- Platform: Nintendo Switch
- Price: $9.99/£8.99 (eShop)
Vaccine is a survival horror indie title inspired by games from the ’90s – most significantly, the early Resident Evil games. What it aims to do is recreate that same feeling of dread with limited resources, malevolent creatures of the night, and fixed camera angles. There’s even some evil sciency stuff going on in the background. It’s not Umbrella this time, of course. And there’s no Wesker.
So is it any good? Well, it achieves the aforementioned: Vaccine can be unsettling to play at night with your headphones on. Being down to your last shotgun shell while faced with a horde of impending zombies can also be thrilling. Rainy Night Creations, a one-man team, adds some great ideas to the mix too. A randomly generated mansion layout ensures that no single run is ever the same – items and enemy placement change every time you try. What’s more, the game tells you that you only have 30 minutes to find a vaccine (surely it’s an antidote?) to save your friend, which intensifies matters.
Another thing we really liked was the leveling up system. You acquire experience points as you put down the undead which can then be used to upgrade your health, determination, stamina, aiming and luck. The last one, and perhaps the most important, affects the randomization element of the game, meaning you will find better items, (hopefully a shotgun) to make your progress through the mansion a bit easier. It’s novel ideas such as this which show the best of Vaccine and its creativity.
Unfortunately, there are a number of problems which prevent the experience from becoming an essential one.
For starters, the balance of the game. Let’s say you’ve had an amazing run which is 23 minutes in, your character is levelled up and you’re feeling pretty good about things. Suddenly, a creature that very much resembles a Licker from the Resident Evil games, (without the long tongue) appears. This guy is tough, really tough. But it doesn’t matter, as you’re a powerhouse at this point, right? Wrong. Each claw attack of the pseudo Licker hits you so hard that it’s almost impossible to survive. On the rare occasion you do survive, and it does happen, you’re so utterly fatigued by the encounter that progressing any further becomes extremely challenging.
So that’s 23 minutes of your time pretty much gone. But at least your stats carry over to encourage you to keep going in the face of these type of scenarios, right? Nope. Everything gets reset. Now don’t get us wrong, we like a good challenge in our games (I’m about to platinum the Crash Bandicoot remaster myself, it’s damn hard to do), and at the core of a tense survival horror experience is a difficulty which keeps you very much on your toes, but here, we’re afraid to say, it’s just unfair.
Game balance aside, Vaccine is also let down by small issues that add up. For example, the menu to equip guns, use items and level up is cumbersome – which quickly becomes frustrating. We’ve also experienced the game completely freezing a few times in handheld mode during pivotal moments of battle, again, with everything being lost that we achieved. In terms of variety, there are only three weapons, a pistol, (a more powerful pistol if you get lucky) a shotgun, and a knife, and the enemy types seem lacking with just rats, crows, zombies, our favourite, the pseudo Licker, and a Tyrant-like enemy. The soundtrack also frequently repeats, even if it does provide a suitable menace to the whole thing.
It’s a shame because Vaccine features some really good ideas and we still had fun with it. The developer has also been brave enough to put out a ’90s inspired survival horror game in 2017 – which is commendable and enticing, certainly as they’re such a rarity now. That’s why we’re personally appealing for a sequel with a bit more polish, greater variety and better game balancing. If RNC did that, yet retained their innovative ideas, we’re confident that a future Vaccine would be a huge hit for the indie game world. That being said, if you’re craving an old school Resident Evil escapade, it’s probably worth the asking price.