Late last year, the one man Spanish studio Rainy Night Creations released FreezeMe, a 3d platformer inspired by 90s classics. While charming, it lacked the polish of the games it borrowed inspiration from and I ultimately scored it a 6.5/10. The studio’s latest release is Vaccine, which again borrows ideas from an antiquated game genre. Vaccine tries to recapture the look and feel of the original survival horror game, Resident Evil. After spending hours with the game, it’s clear that any throwbacks to this genre both visually and fundamentally, are best left in the past.
The story in vaccine revolves around the two playable characters, Manuel G.P. and Rita O’Connor. There is a slight variation in stats between the two but for the most part they play the same. Whoever you didn’t choose has been infected with a virus and it’s up to your character to locate and return a vaccine before the 30 minute timer expires. Vaccine takes place in a large house with randomized rooms, locked doors and dead ends. The player must make their way through the house killing zombies, rats and other creepy crawlers before facing off with the tyrant and claiming the vaccine. The catch is that unless you “solve” the mystery of the house, your friend will relapse and you must reacquire the vaccine with your items and upgrades, but less time. This loop sadly continues until you die or run out of time.
There are a handful of weapons and items scattered about to aid you in your journey. Aside from the knife, which is always available in the first room, these are placed randomly as well. Before I learned of the nuances of Vaccine’s gameplay, I would always die quickly because I had plenty of bullets but no gun. Some items like the med-kits and repellant spray, are invaluable. While others like chewing gum (which improves aiming) and energy bar (provides a brief speed boost), just took up precious inventory space. Other items include silver and gold keys and proximity mines. There are three types of guns: handgun, shotgun and a more powerful handgun you earn when you defeat the tyrant.
Your character earns experience points by defeating enemies which are used to upgrade a variety of different abilities. Endurance, health and aiming are self-explanatory attributes; while the other options of luck and determination left me scratching my head. I was happy to feel a real difference in the strength of my character once I became fully upgraded. I withstood more damage and the enemies took far fewer bullets to die. As I mentioned above, if you find the vaccine and return it, the game starts over but you get to keep your items and upgrades. The mystery of the house is solved by completing the game three times in a row without dying and completing a laser beam puzzle in each of the three playthroughs. Doing so will unlock a door in the vaccine room that will finally give closure to the story.
When it comes to controls, Vaccine plays much like the “tank” style Resident Evil series. It took me quite a while to really feel comfortable with these controls, but after things clicked they only felt occasionally annoying. The graphics aren’t going to impress anyone today, but this more modern retro art style is one I don’t see very often, which was refreshing…as was the return of fixed camera angles. The sound and music are forgettable, but occasionally did aid what little tension there is in Vaccine.
Most people who play Vaccine will die early and often. Knife attacks take finesse to avoid damage, you might encounter many crawlers while having no gun or repellant and usually it doesn’t take long until you succumb to the house residents. I found myself playing and retrying constantly just to prove that I was good enough to find the vaccine at least once. When I finally got the vaccine, defeated the tyrant and returned it to my friend, I felt very satisfied. My second playthrough with weapons and upgrades went surprisingly well that I found the vaccine again and successfully returned it. Sadly, during my third run I found the vaccine but got lost backtracking as time expired. This leads me to one of my biggest complaints in Vaccine, the lack of a house map. There are so many dead ends and branching paths that finding my way back by memory wasted so much time. I would also gladly trade in some of the less valuable items for one that added minutes to the countdown timer.
Vaccine makes an admirable attempt to recapture the original survival horror style game, both looking and playing the part. Unfortunately, the advancements that developers have made in the past 20 years have made games like Vaccine obsolete. It isn’t scary and it’s likely to frustrate most of those who play it; younger gamers especially won’t have any emotional ties to similar classic games. I’m more intrigued by the challenge of “solving” the mystery, which I have not yet done, and seeing how many times I can return the vaccine without dying. Aside from that and the meta-challenge of achievements, I don’t see myself getting re-infected much more.