I enjoy getting wrapped up in a good puzzle adventure. While I prefer a more challenging approach to the genre, some gamers may just want a casual experience with a non-intrusive narrative. I believe that’s where Doomsday Vault from developer Flightless lands. However, the game’s mobile roots don’t ultimately translate to the experiences some gamers might expect.
Doomsday Vault was initially released on Apple Arcade, yet it has now found its way to Switch and PC. Its mobile roots show up in its large button UI and meager level design, but the experience does well on the Switch. The narrative of Doomsday Vault is almost non-existent. You’re a robot tasked with retrieving plants from various areas and adding them for farming. The gameplay loop of choosing a stage, progressing to the end to collect the seed, and returning it to your vault repeats until the end of the segment. There are other items to collect to 100% of the stage, but the seeds are most important if you’re only trying to unlock the next level.
Puzzle intuition and navigation come naturally as a set camera angle provides an isometric playing experience. I’ll admit that it didn’t always feel right when exploring, and I’d go up when I wanted to go right, but I adjusted to these angles over time. The puzzles revolve around opening paths, moving objects, and interacting with the environment. Furthermore, several upgrades are acquired from performing these tasks. The cycle of progression doesn’t become much more complicated than that, though. You may feel inconvenienced to double back and pick up a box, but you’ll never feel stuck. A more casual experience is catered for players as they’re consistently completing tasks.
The levels change in theme, but they all generally follow the same pattern. They each have a specific gimmick they follow tied to the ability of the area, such as an explosion or electrical skill. However, these upgrades are so surface level, and it’s confusing how they are staggered across the areas, given that there’s no reason to take the upgrades to previous levels.
This design choice mainly introduces new ways of traversal, but I assure you that you’ll never feel stuck. In fact, finding the optional bio-items scattered around the game is probably the hardest aspect to complete within the main campaign. Some are hidden well, but taking your time will typically result in fully completing the level.
I suppose you’re wondering why you’d want to collect everything. Well, it’s just for suit customization options. Yeah, it’s not that exciting, but you’re able to customize various areas of your suit. Sady, that’s about it in terms of the mainline game. It’s a short and sweet experience that comes and goes with little pushback.
The limited challenge was definitely different for someone like me who comes in ready for a fight, but before I knew it, the game was over. Honestly, given that the whole idea of this title is to save plant life, it doesn’t go much deeper than that. The opening explains that the Earth’s ecosystem has collapsed, but that’s it. Why did that happen? How can we prevent it? Where is everyone else at? You go through stages with no direction, only to find seeds. This could have worked as an educational experience, but we don’t even get that fulfillment.
Don’t fret, though; there are challenge missions with more to be added over time. This is where all your skills will be pushed and timed as you race to get on the leaderboards. There are multiple game modes available, but I think I enjoyed the races the most.
Through practice, they become more manageable. Routing and timing are what play integral roles in your score, though. Further, many of these stages have difficult hazards that can impede you before you reach the end. Honestly, I enjoyed these levels more than the main game, but you should at least unlock some new suits, so you look cool during the challenges.
The game’s graphics are tied to its mobile release, which doesn’t change for this particular release. I found the levels diverse, with clearly marked hazards to lead you in the right direction. I never wandered around, not knowing where to go, which was good because I probably wouldn’t have returned to the game if I stayed away for too long. The music of the adventure because droning quickly, but I enjoyed the sounds the player character makes when walking or interacting with objects.
Doomsday Vault isn’t going to overwhelm you with narrative or challenging puzzles. Instead, you’re in for a casual adventure of collecting seeds and customizing a suit. Those who enjoy the gameplay elements can spend time in the additional one-off stages for a spot on the leader board. Unfortunately, though, that ends up being the entirety of the experience. It’s cute and works as a Switch game, but don’t expect to leave with any knowledge outside of properly navigating an isometric experience.
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