Thursday Appdate: Le Vamp

Thu, Jul 25, 2013

Android, Arcade, Casual, iPad, iPhone, Mobile

When is it good to be bad? There’s a lot of pretty fantastic games out there that do pretty well for themselves by allowing the player the chance to thrive as the ‘bad guy’ – Evilot, Don’t Touch My Gems, and Vampire Season to name just a few. In some cases, these games work because beating up the goody-two-shoes heroes is so satisfying, as in Tiny Heroes. Sometimes, though, a character that’s traditionally cast as ‘bad’ is just imbued with so much charm that you can’t help but love them. That’s the case with Le Vamp, the featured app of the week on the App Store — and it just gets better from there.

Le Vamp is made from the blood and sweat of High Voltage Software, the folks behind titles like Evasive Space, back during their time as TriplePoint clients. Newly released Le Vamp returns to a few of their evasive roots as an endless runner, where players must help the titular vampire dodge an array of hazards to stay one step ahead of an angry mob. You see, Le Vamp is not a full-grown Nosferatu yet; he is merely an adorable undead tyke who has spent the night getting into a wide array of mischief. Unfortunately, the sun is now rising, and the villagers are none too pleased with their devastated livestock and disturbed sleep, and it’s up to Le Vamp’s ghostly caretaker to ward off the torches and pitchforks for as long as possible. The more stuff you manage to knock out of the vampy’s way, the further he can run before mob justice is delivered.

It must be said that, despite his shenanigans, you will want to protect Le Vamp simply because he is adorable. He may have the deathly pallor of a vampire, but he’s also got the doe-eyed innocence and irrepressible enthusiasm of a toddler, even as he’s fleeing for his little life. Tie this together with a head-nodding soundtrack and a host of tongue-in-cheek writing, and Le Vamp oozes charm from every pale pore. The attractive graphics and animation need to be as eye-catching as possible, mind you, because there is a lot going on during a run of Le Vamp.

As with many endless runners, things start out simple enough: the killer kid can only stay on the run so long as he has blood in his system, and you can keep this topped off by flinging blood-filled pigs directly into his mouth with a quick swipe. Aim and timing are important here, which means the faster things go, the trickier this becomes. Of course, blood is lost every time you fail to dodge an obstacle, and as new hazards appear, there become new ways of avoiding them. Need to cross a river? Slash down a tree. Killer potato lying in wait? Swipe up to pull it out of the soil. Sunbeam coming through the leaves? Hold a finger in its way. Staying (relatively) alive rapidly becomes a game of recognizing a threat, remembering how to counter it, and executing that move during thinner and thinner windows.

By itself, this would all look and play quite well, but High Voltage insists on tempting you with further risks and rewards at every turn. Even as you guide Le Vamp across the countryside in the foreground, a second layer is also scrolling past in the background — including more coins to grab, pigs to fling, and bonuses to poke. It’s very easy to get greedy and start interacting with all the stuff behind you, and then trip over the nasty problems right in front of your face. Thankfully, if you do manage to amass enough francs (amusingly rendered with juicy franks on each coin), you can spend them on powerups and upgrades, including the ability to hover over hazards as a bat, or slow down time in a wide-eyed caffeine rush.

Le Vamp may be an undead abomination with no place in this world, but he finds a great home at the intersection of charming presentation and addictive gameplay. You can pick him up for free on the App Store right here.

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