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Vampire Survivors – bullet hell survival done right

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Developer: Poncle
Price: Free
Size: 472 MB
Version: 1.1.105
Platform: iPhone & iPad

Vampire Survivors

Vampire Survivors is much more than just another PC-to-mobile roguelite port. For one thing, its highly automated gameplay and simplistic graphics make it perfectly suited to playing on a small iPhone screen.

For another thing, the game only launched on PC mid-way through 2022, and at the time of writing is making game-of-the-year lists across the board.

Hoover up blue vials to level up

You might struggle to believe that final point when you first boot Vampire Survivors up. This is one rough-looking game, with the kind of basic 2D sprite work and clunky menus that appear to have been lifted from a home computer circa 1991.

But all it takes is a single round – two at most – to understand its magic. You guide your pixellated warrior around a boundryless arena as swarms of demonic forces converge on your position. Attacks are issued automatically, in a direction and form dictated by your chosen character and loadout.

Alamo-like events often play out

As enemies die, some will leave behind little blue vials that must be scooped up for experience. Once you have enough you’ll level up, which is where the fun really begins.

In time-honored roguelite fashion, you’ll be offered a choice from three random power-ups. These will typically add another automated weapon to your arsenal, or else a new defensive measure or stat boost. Maybe you’ll select the same power-up again in order to level it up.

Kill glowing monsters for major loot drops

In this way your humble warrior steadily grows to become a veritable walking tank, spewing out a 360-degree field of death.

For a brief moment, you might find yourself ‘beating’ the game, suddenly able to cut a swathe through the hordes rather than simply fighting on the back foot. It’s an intoxicating feeling, but it doesn’t tend to last for long.

The range of weapons you can accumulate is impressive

Vampire Survivors is hard, and each run (at least early on) is simply an exercise in delaying the inevitable. New, meaner enemies appear with your raising level, while existing enemies do their own levelling up.

Still, death brings its own opportunities, with the currency earned in each run persisting. You can spend this on unlocking new characters with distinctive attack patterns, and on permanently bolstering your starting stats.

Each character has their own starting weapon

The sense of steady, hard-fought progress in Vampire Survivors is delicious, and it rapidly puts any concerns over its rudimentary graphics to bed. It helps that it’s a completely free experience, with optional ads placed as an incentive to continue a run or earn more gold.

Game of the year? Vampire Survivors is definitely up there.