Of all the different types of games that I expected to play in my life, one about a graffiti artist tagging buildings across the decades was never on that list. This isn’t to say that Cosmografik’s Vandals isn’t fun to play; its turn-based, stealth gameplay is novel, but the execution of its ideas leaves something to be desired.
In its most basic form, Vandals is a maze game where each level sees your character move from the beginning, through a specific point, and out the other end while avoiding obstacles. The wallpaper of these mazes is the story of a graffiti artist tagging their name on buildings across different locations and decades while avoiding police officers guarding the premises. If an officer is looking at you within one space of distance, you are caught and must restart the level.
While the formula may sound simple, there are two additions that affect the gameplay both positively and negatively. Distractions and shortcuts allow you to distract the cops in the area and skirt around them to reach the marked graffiti spots, bonus points, and exits in each level. These require skill and careful planning to be used effectively and can help encourage new strategies with which to replay completed levels.
You are likely to repeat levels, as each one awards up to three stars for completion within a certain amount of movements, collection of bonus points, and being unseen by security. These stars unlock bonus levels, meaning they are worth acquiring if you want to experience everything Vandals has to offer.
The art style and UI are visually appealing and work well with the settings and subject matter of the game they’re attached to. There is a sort of minimalist punk rock vibe to the look of this title and the font looks like it’s spray-painted on the screen, tying into the graffiti you create during gameplay.
The only glaring flaw I saw in the time I’ve spent with the game is a bit of unresponsiveness. Because movement is essentially turn-based, there is time between each movement that your character makes, but even after the enemies have moved there appears to be some difficulty making the character move. This could easily have been rectified if movement involved selecting a direction and pressing a button, but only the former directional input is used to move, which doesn’t give an accurate sense of when the player regains the ability to move. While this is only a minor annoyance, that feeling never goes away and did mildly sour my experience of the overall game.
Vandals is an overall fun game with a unique style and fun—if a bit simple—gameplay. While a few annoyances hold it back from being a game I’d fully recommend, it has some entertainment for those who will take the time to try it. Just make sure you don’t take your tags too seriously, as trying to make them great works of art only takes extra time with no real reward.
What do you think of Vandals? Let me know in the comments below.
DEVELOPER: ARTE Experience
ESRB: E for Everyone
OBTAINED: Code provided by developer/publisher for press purposes