Back in September of 2017 our own Mitchell Gassner reviewed the steampunk dungeon crawler, Vaporum, on PC and gave it a glowing review. Now nearly one and a half years later Vaporum makes it’s ported debut on the Nintendo Switch console. Does this dungeon crawler still hold up to the test of some time and more importantly is it a good fit with the Nintendo Switch? This is our Nintendo Switch review of Vaporum from Merge Games and Fatbot Games.
If you’re new to Vaporum, and perhaps didn’t read our PC review, then plainly stated Vaporum is a grid-based, single-player dungeon crawler game set in a steampunk setting. The game is inspired by old-school games like Dungeon Master, the Eye Of The Beholder series and the more recent Legend Of Grimrock series.
Vaporum plays out in first-person, you awake washed ashore a small island/rock and see a steel towering fortress in the distance, which of course you proceed to investigate. Movement inside the fortress is grid-based; one square left, right, forward or back. After a tutorial of sorts, you get to pick a “rig” to wear, think Iron Man suit… sort of. The choice of rigs has different attribute advantages. Your choice will most likely be based on your personal gameplay style, e.g. one offers more “tank” stats versus glass cannon “dps” stats.
Dialogue is fully voiced and done well. As you move room-to-room in this fortress you’ll be presented with challenges, e.g. I need to find a key to unlock this door, that need to be solved to advance. The whole dungeon crawling experience has a certain “puzzle” feel to it as switches need to be triggered, doors need to be opened, blocks need to be moved, etc. There are also “secrets” to be found that reveal rooms with treasure trunks that award upgraded weapons and such.
Combat in the game is either by ranged and/or melee as you’re allowed to equip two sets of weapons and switch between them. Guns, e.g., also require ammo that needs to be found. The RPG elements are here as well as experience (known in-game as “fumium”) awards skill points that can be applied to strengthen your ranged skills, melee skills, tank skills, etc. Enemies have a different set of strengths and weaknesses but for the most part weren’t overly challenging as long as you monitor your bullets, health and energy while moving to and fro.
All of it plays out in a nostalgic and fun way, you’ll truly get lost in this game for hours. But life in Vaporum is not all “fumium” and rose-coloured glasses.
First, some of the controls are a bit awkward, e.g. like placing items onto pressure plates or using keys to unlock doors. We’ve grown accustomed to just unlocking a door if we have the key in our inventory. In Vaporum you need to open up your inventory and “use” said key. Not a showstopper just awkward. The same feeling for placing items, open your inventory select with “A”, close the inventory hold ZR, move the item to one of three circles on screen, release.
Secondly, is a minor quibble when playing the game in an undocked mode which, for the most part, the game plays well in. The showstopper for going mobile more often with Vaporum might be the tiny size of the text in undocked mode. Without a zoom or some other feature, it was a strain to read item descriptions, looted manuscripts, which help move the story along, skills, etc..