"In an effort to reduce the Nightwalker population, the AIB has targeted a city located on the West Coast. It's an urban maze where the streets reek with the cloyingly sweet aroma of Nightwalker infestation." Sounds like my kind of game, right? One filled with B-movie goodness and vampire-killing madness? Wrong.
No doubt if you’ve heard of Vampire Rain, then you’ve heard that it’s too difficult. You’ve probably also heard how universally reviled it is. Yeah, there’s a lot of hate for this game. It’s like Atari's E.T. for a new generation. I usually don’t mention this in reviews, but it’s a rarity even among bad games to get labeled as an “abomination.” I can’t defend the game’s many faults, but I can dispel the misperception that Nightwalkers are invincible. Whether you'll want to actually play long enough to kill them is another matter.
The premise of this over-written tale of vampire domination is intriguing. Instead of dealing with human opponents, American Information Bureau Anti-Nightwalker Team Member John Lloyd has to wrangle with the undead -- and not the classic Bela Lugosi kind. These guys move like they’re sporting jetpacks and will send you to the grave with only a couple of bites.
For the first handful of stages, Vampire Rain is pure, uncompromising stealth. I died more than a few times thinking there must be some way to kill Nightwalkers with the pistol or machine gun. There isn’t. I’d like to think that developer Artoon has a sense of humor and tempted us with worthless weapons to see how we’d react. I guess that backfired. Early on, Vampire Rain compels you not to intercept and punishes you heartily for doing so. Later, it will force you to engage the Nightwalkers with a UV knife, rifle, shotgun, and other weapons.
Gameplay is a text-book example of trial and error. Shimmy, climb, crawl, fight, and die your way to the next checkpoint. Repeat this method a few times each stage and you'll be through the game in no time. Besides normal stages, there are trials that teach you various aspects of the game, such as using Necrovision, a way to tell humans from Nightwalkers. Invisible borders keep John from straying too far outside the stage’s goal area. It’s just you, a few dumb humans drawn to the city by pheromones (don’t ask), and those pesky Nightwalkers.
I tolerated sneaking around the rain-drenched city, disarming bombs, shutting off communication towers, and looking for survivors of an earlier anti-Nightwalker squad. I even enjoyed the freedom of finding my own path -- that is until I realized how linear and repetitive the levels were. The entire time I was playing Vampire Rain, it felt like an incomplete build. You’re a rat trapped in a big box with the same endless rain, stage after stage -- though sometimes you get to dry off in equally drab indoor settings.