Vampire Season Review

Master, master! We have a problem! The peasants are attacking, but we can’t get the creatures of the night to defend the castle! They’re too busy playing Vampire Season! Who knew a tower defense game could cause so much trouble?

Vampire Season puts you to work as a minion of Dracula, charged to keep him safe while he sleeps in his coffin. That’s usually an easy job, but somebody has posted his address on the internet. Now everybody wants a piece of the world’s most infamous vampire.

Bounty hunters, pirates, wizards, and even Prince Charming are all coming to pay their respects, and you have to put your fellow minions in their way. If your vampires, zombies and warlocks don’t stop them, perhaps a Headless Horseman hopped-up on Powah Cola will.

Stay frosty, troops.

There are lots of different monsters and power-ups, but you only use a few in each battle. The limited selection keeps the drag-and-drop interface manageable while giving you interesting strategic choices. There are enough variations in speed, strength, and abilities that it really does matter which monsters you choose.

You also have to consider how your choices interact with each other. Some creatures have complementary abilities, and some of them can be combined to create stronger monsters. Dragging zombies over vampires to get zampires adds a charming touch of mad scientist to the game.

That said, the level design makes creature selection more of a puzzle than a playground. There may be different ways to beat each level, but there is usually one monster that is the keystone of your defense. If you don’t figure which creature to use, Dracula supplies a helpful hint. This is a user-friendly touch, but it left us feeling we were being trained to do what the game wanted instead of learning how to make the game do what we wanted.

You can’t afford to ignore the hints, though. After the first ten levels, the difficulty ramps up quickly. You’ll need to deploy the right monsters quickly if you want to win and move on.

A face only a mother could love.

The task is made even harder by the close-up camera angle, which is great for admiring the monsters but not so good for playing the game. The top-down view is easier to use, but still leaves out parts of the battlefield. A little zoom in and out would help a lot.

You’ll also need to spend in-game currency on upgrades for your monsters. The shop has improved abilities and power-ups, but they’re expensive. Early versions of the game gave out too little gold; a recent update has helped the situation, but the awards are still small. Naturally, you can buy lots of gold via in-app purchase.

The difficulty can be frustrating, but Vampire Season has other things going for it. A survival mode with several difficulties keeps you busy after you finish the campaign. The cut-scenes and explanatory text are full of witty references to other games and pop culture. The music is charming, though it’s odd hearing a gothed-up instrumental of ‘Castle on a Cloud’ from Les Miserables.

The three-star success system also gets an interesting twist. When you survive long enough to earn a star in a level, you can end the level with a win or continue it to earn a second or third star. Continuing is a gamble, since you can lose the level while you try to get that next star.

Clever ideas like that are a big part of this game’s appeal. Vampire Season may have too much grinding for some players, but it’s a game even a hunchback named Igor can love.

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