Escape a fetid, demon-infested swamp.
PC Release: August 2, 2013
By Ian Coppock
It has long been my belief that the nexus of creativity in gaming lies not with the sagging Triple-A development process, but with the indie teams who also bring us the most terrifying media in the world. It is in celebration of these beliefs, and a general desire to soil my trousers, that I present Short Horror Week II. Over the next week I will be playing and reviewing seven indie-made horror games that are both terrifying and relatively quick to finish. Most of these are free and all of them are easy to obtain for yourself. I will include all of this information in each review.
For now, let’s get started with Vapour, the first entry of Short Horror Week II!
Vapour has you assume the role of some sort of wizard or warlock, who has landed in a fetid, foggy swamp. Though not explicitly stated, the goal of the game is to use scattered magical items to escape the swamp and its monstrous inhabitants.
I say your character is a wizard because you actually have a means of self-defense. You can shoot green energy beams at monsters to keep yourself alive in this disorienting, disturbing environment. After landing, the only landmarks you can use to get around without getting lost are distant bonfires, which indicate the items and tools you need to get out of Vapour.
Along the way, you’ll get attacked by some pretty disturbing enemies. The most common type of foe is a floating, disembodied spine that will stab at you like a scorpion’s tale. You’ll get attacked by other bloody body parts but those ones were my personal least favorite.
The objective of Vapour is to collect various items, mostly body parts, and bring them back to a central bonfire to burn. The problem is that this goal is stated nowhere. There are a few cryptic messages written in blood but they leave a lot to be inferred, like “Combust” written on the ground.
Not exactly a clear way to tell me that I need to venture into the fog, find items, bring them back to this specific fire, and burn them. So that was a bit confusing.
The true terror of Vapour comes not from the destructible body part enemies or even the screechy, invincible wraith-thing that starts chasing after you, but from the hallucinations your character suffers as you progress.
Finding the items you need to escape carries with it your screen being hijacked by some of the most horrifying cutscenes I’ve ever seen. These pre-rendered cinematics feature disturbing creatures screaming at you, scenes of torture and sacrifice, and disorienting flashes of light and sound.
Compounding the terror from these scenes is that they can play at any time, guaranteeing no end of jumps. Certain wraiths and monsters will also trigger them if they get too close to you.
Unlike many horror games, the true terror in Vapour comes not from the fear of what the monsters will do to you physically, but when the environment itself unleashes upon your mind.
Vapour‘s visuals cannot hope to match triple-A graphical power, but the simplified graphics unintentionally create a scarier environment. The relatively barren, sparse swamp is made spookier because of its simplicity. The sound design is spot-on; random noises echo from the fog, and the hallucinations’ screams chilled my spine in a way that doesn’t often happen. Not since my first Amnesia playthrough.
Again, this game’s biggest flaw is the lack of instruction. I spent a good chunk of time wandering around wondering what I was supposed to do. I figured it out after about a half-hour of gameplay, which was annoying, but this was a single dent in an otherwise solid core.
You can buy Vapour here.
Thank you for reading! My next review will be posted in a few days. You can follow Art as Games on Twitter @IanLayneCoppock, or friend me at username Art as Games on Steam. Feel free to leave a comment or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with a game that you’d like to see reviewed, though bear in mind that I only review PC games.