Even though I was kinda disappointed with the fact that there’s not much of a gameplay after the city section (and I’ve already been through the cemetery scene in the demo), I wouldn’t say it spoiled much of the overall experience.
IMO the best thing about the game, even though it’s a bit on the short side, is that it maintains the same level of quality from the beginning to end, with a two distinctly different parts. One being inside the castle, which is less “open”, but still nicely designed and oozing with Gothic/romantic atmosphere, and the second one in the city with some calm outdoor scenes, where you have more freedom and which is reminiscent of Monkey Island series and such.
And there’s no question the highlight of the game is the duo of protagonists - Mona/Froderick, and I think that’s exactly the reason why the game succeeds in keeping with the nice pace throughout - I agree the writing doesn’t hit the jackpot each time, but the constant banter/remarks is exactly what’s keeping you on the edge of your seat. Even when it’s not funny, it’s still in keeping with the spirit of the game, relaxed… with some interesting pop-references, and makes you focused on the gameworld. That’s why the fact that even though A Vampyre Story might not be as “funny” as some other comedy titles, it doesn’t hurt the game at all - because it has style, which is evident from the first screen, and which is maintained over the entire course of the game.
Froderick is IMO one of the best sidekicks I’ve seen - it’s interesting that in the last 5 years we’ve got two very strong contenders in that department with Froderick and Spot from The Whispered World, and they’re totally different - Spot is sweet and doesn’t talk, while Froderick is the direct opposite - he’s chatty, sleazy, perverted , but in a likeable sort of way. The genre has a long history of strong sidekicks, and I think AVS really places itself high in continuing with that tradition, and that’s also one of the reason why this franchise shouldn’t be left unfinished. Not to mention that the actor who did Froderick could have easily got the role in any Pixar/Disney film, resembling Woody Allen, or a typical New Yorker, and reminiscent of some other sidekicks, like Arhtur from Journeyman Project, Dalboz from The Grand Inquisitor and Flux from Toonstruck, even though he still posses a style of its own.
I guess, the best thing about it, even though he might be considered the “wisecracking” sidekick, I couldn’t imagine exploring every new scene, every new object, or a character, without Froderick having to say something about it, no matter if that would make me laugh out loud, or not. That’s quite similar to my experience with narrator in Al Emmo, for example, with designers really nailing the reach interaction with the gameworld.
Mona is not without her merits either - and I wasn’t bothered by the high-pitched voice at all. Also, I suspect there was a women (Bill’s wife?) heavily involved in bringing the character to life, because one can sense feminine sensibility
The story and puzzles are sort of a mixed bag, but still on the “good” side. I’ve found the story actually to be better conveyed in the first part, because the second part is one big “trial” for “ingredients” and stretches a bit. That’s not to say the story is bad, or that it completely loses the pace, but it hangs a bit, and then suddenly rushes to the cliffhanger. As for puzzles, they’re pretty solid throughout, and gradually increase in difficulty in the second part (like getting the cloth). The “fly” option is also cleverly used. I needed hint on several occasions in the second part, but realized that not a single puzzle is unfair once I learned the solution.
Final verdict: 4/5
I agree the game falls somewhere in the 3.5-4 stars range, with the well-known ending “problem”, or rather - lack of some more gameplay in the finale, along with the fact that there could be perhaps some more puzzle variety and more side characters, but I’d still give it a straight 4, especially because of a distinct atmosphere and interaction not seen that often.
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Time Played: 10-20 hours