Vaccine (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Albert Lichi 11.07.2017

Review for Vaccine on Nintendo Switch

Retro style throwback games easily bank off our nostalgia. Why not? It's easy to do since there is so much to work with, like the 8-bit, 16-bit and 32-bit eras. It is a wealth of ideas that spawned all kinds of creative ideas that didn't always make it past their respective generations. It has gotten to a point that today, indie devs are willing to re-explore abandoned genres, and in the case of Vaccine, it is the PS1 style survival horror. Of course, in the true indie game cliché, this is not only a retro throwback, but it also incorporates endless "roguelike" elements. Its influences are obvious, and it is dedicated to the early PS1 aesthetic, but is Vaccine a cure for what ails horror-hungry Switch players?

Outside of the recent Resident Evil and Resident Evil 0 HD remasters, there really has not been any representation of the ye olde tank control survival horror genre. It would seem that only Capcom was the one keeping it around due to fan demand, and even then, the last time anyone saw a horror game like this with fixed angles and tank controls of any kind was probably in 2003's Silent Hill 3. Developers just sort of stopped making these kinds of games that were mostly popular in the first PlayStation generation. At its core, horror games like these are in actuality adventure games. These games were held together thanks to the navigation of labyrinthine levels, searching for keys, solving puzzles and making crucial choices that affect the ending. Vaccine is devoid of these adventure game trappings, and focuses mostly on the one aspect that most people today disliked about those older PS1 horror games: the combat.

Screenshot for Vaccine on Nintendo Switch

The premise to this could not be simpler: playing as either Rita or Manuel (both of which are shoddy Hunk cosplayers), they must find the vaccine to cure their friend whose body lies convulsing on a bed. Go find the cure within the highly repetitive house and bring it back to where Rita/Manuel begins. First run grants 30 minutes, second run is 20 minutes, and with every run time gets further reduced. This is the core of Vaccine and that is it. This feels like a bonus mode that gets unlocked in Resident Evil 2 and in no way has enough substance to it to feel like a full game.

Rita and Manuel have no character at all. The only bit of insight into their character that can be discerned is from the flavour text when examining objects in the environment. They never have anything of interest to say, and at best they are amusing for expressing how much they dislike the furniture. Even the person who they must save with a cure has no character and wasn't even given a name, simply just being referred to as "the friend." The narrative has very little effort put into the overall experience that it is almost baffling by how little there is going on. Without reading notes strewn about, nobody would ever know that this story has anything to do with space distortion. The story is presented in a two to three-sentence intro with white text on a black background. The endings are just text on a black screen... Yes, endings. Somehow, Vaccine has more than one ending, and the method to unlock the alternate ending is shockingly obtuse for a game like this.

Screenshot for Vaccine on Nintendo Switch

Since almost every indie game has to have endless roguelike gameplay elements, Vaccine forgoes interesting level design and is made up of pre-set square rooms and hallways. Typically, these areas have some items lying around, maybe a couple of enemies, and sometimes a useless door, which is supposed to be a dead end. Control-wise, Vaccine is reasonably competent and movement is just as responsive as the likes of Dino Crisis 2. The tank controls presented here are fairly smooth, and characters move at a brisk pace, although while sprinting there is a big, fat stamina bar above their head, which frequently will obstruct the view ahead, and potentially means running into one of two main monsters.

Other than the zombies and the not-lickers, there are some fleeting encounters with rats and bats... Not much of a collection of threats. There is also a big guy who guards the cure who looks more like a rip-off of an enemy from Quake than Resident Evil, and is embarrassingly easy to kill since he can be stun locked. What is supposed to be basically a guardian of the most important item in the game is a sad pushover that the basic enemies can be more dangerous than, since the stamina bar is likely to cause players to run into basic goons.

Screenshot for Vaccine on Nintendo Switch

A major cornerstone of roguelikes is stat building, and Vaccine is no exception. Levelling up the stats is kind of confusing thanks to an incompetently designed UI that for some reason is more difficult to use than anything else in the entire game. Hitting enemies and opening doors nets experience points, which can be allocated to each stat. Trying to understand how stats are increased is anyone's guess, but it really doesn't matter since this game is extremely easy to max out all stats by the time the third run comes around. This is when the game's challenge is completely obliterated, and even when there is only like seven minutes to get the cure, it's still easy to waltz right through the mansion so long as the game's RNG doesn't cheat by misleading with countless dead ends. Stats max out at level 10, and since luck is the stat that determines item placement in the level, a maxed luck stat can easily overpower anyone with basically anything they need, and enemies never get powerful, nor does the game ever introduce new enemy types.

Vaccine's only charm is its PlayStation 90s horror presentation. The surprisingly eerie music can also ramp up to a pulse-pounding chase style piece of music. Apparently, the music was all stock and prefabricated, and the developers struck gold when they acquired it since it is one of the creepier aspects. There really isn't anything appealing in Vaccine to anybody. Fans of survival horror are better off replaying the classics they love, and the initial challenge barrier and unappealing aesthetics will only aggravate the average Joe gamer.

Screenshot for Vaccine on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 2 out of 10

Very Bad

The idea of implementing roguelike elements and endless game design in old-school survival horror has potential, but Vaccine fails to capitalise on it. Aspects where the developers could have improved on were perks that could allow a 180-degree turn, a map system, or even a combo system where it can be possible to earn back extra time like Resident Evil's The Mercenaries mode. With much more variety in level design and more enemies, Vaccine could have been an interesting guilty pleasure. In its current state, this seems more like pre-alpha build with many of the features not yet implemented.


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C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  2/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   


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