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Vampire Survivors review – easy on the pineapple

Have we, as a culture, lost all respect for vampires? They used to be scary, ghoulish chaps roaming around the foggy streets of London in elegant clothing, looking for blood, and now? They’ve gone from shiny sparkling emo dudes to all-around protagonists of erotic fanfictions. And they’re even letting themselves be beaten by a bunch of Italian farmers! Grab that wooden stake and get ready for the smash hit of the year, finally time to cut your (pointy) teeth on our Vampire Survivors review.

The Belpaese family is out for revenge. After a clan of vampires has ravaged their quiet little town, they’ve decided to arm themselves with tasty Italian sausages and juicy Bolognese sauce and they’re out to hunt those Transylvanian devils. Ok, I’ll come clean: I have no clue if that is the actual story, but really, “sticazzi” as we say in Rome. Vampire Survivors works because of its immediacy and how it can be the perfect game for both hardcore gamers and casual ones.

Being originally developed to be a quick pastime for Italian developer Luca Galante (Poncle), while working on it, something happened. He devised a devilish deviant balance between automation and manual control. Since our only interaction will be moving the character around, attacks are performed automatically. That’s it, this is an Action RPG where the action is 50% automatic and the rest is just about eating that tiramisù.

But, by killing enemies and picking up XP gems, we choose how our character evolves. That’s when Vampire Survivors shifts gears and starts to bubble that spicy sauce. With an endless amount of weapons, items and character modifications, you can be sure there are innumerable ways to conduct a run, just like pizza and pasta toppings. Survive long enough and the whole game transforms into a real bullet hell, with no space to manoeuvre and nothing else to do than swallow that pizza whole, without chewing. But don’t touch that pineapple – DON’T YOU DARE.

Item pickups introduce variants as well, like a spicy salami from Calabria (nduja) which gives you a flaming attack or a magnetic orb to attract all XP gems in the level. And secrets? Oh well, there’s a deranged abundance of unlockables, with more hidden and obscure references you can shake your tailfeather at. For example, the clearly Castlevania-inspired holy water that douses the flames of hell of your enemies sending them back to their maker is called “La Borra”. That is a reference to an incident on Italian television where a contestant on a Tv Show was supposed to say “beer” and instead kept saying “borra”, which in Italian sounds very much like the word for sperm. So y’know, that’s how you douse those flames of hell, it’s canon.

Furthermore, there’s the possibility of unlocking levels, characters, weapons and spending money for permanent stats upgrades. Even more, there’s the possibility of accessing tarot cards which further modify your experiences, for example negating all pickups or modifying enemies. There are chests which, sometimes, go crazy and give you all sorts of bonuses which can easily transform a tired run into a wired one. There’s a boss rush mode, there are practice levels and, now in the final 1.0 version, there is even an ending! The pot has been slowly boiling in early access for a full year, and the sauce is now thick, spicy and complex, with so much content to taste and burn out your tongue with.

While the overall Castlevania inspiration is still very much present and the developer’s love letter to the Konami franchise is there the start, Vampire Survivors takes the best lessons from mobile games of the past and applies them into a feature-heavy package, at a very accessible price. Sure, the pixel art is nothing to write home about and I do tend to swap out the music for something else (like a death metal cover of Al Bano and Romina or a techno remix of O Sole Mio), but in the end, those two factors don’t change the end result very much.

Fueled by a hellish intoxicating Bolognese sauce concoction, Vampire Survivors is one of the best examples of how a game can be hardcore and addicting, while still also working perfectly for a quick run, just to relax and wind off after a long day. For less money than buying an actual pizza (no, sorry those frozen ones don’t count, put ’em back), you can enjoy a delectable slice of Italian goodness running down your chin burning with garlic, tomato sauce and ancient Transylvanian secrets. E andiamo cumpà!

Our Vampire Survivors review was created with a review key made available by the developer. Vampire Survivors is available on Steam.

Vampire Survivors: Vampire Survivors, with its perfect balance of automation and player's input, provides an ultra-addicting bloody taste of gameplay that will keep you occupied for hours. Damiano Gerli

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Damiano Gerli

Damiano Gerli was born with a faithful Commodore 64 by his side. It taught him how to program basic adventure games and introduced him to new genres. Then, he fell in love with Sega -- while the Master System wasn't as powerful as the Genesis, it was where he played Sonic and Outrun. Years later, he got the idea that he was the most Sega-knowledgeable person in the world, so he opened a website in 1997, The Genesis Temple. Damiano is a gaming industry professional and historian, loves adventure and indie titles, but he never shies away from action and triple-A RPGs. Basically, Damiano is been writing about videogames for 20 years, with no plans to stop. Say hi to him on X at @damgentemp.