Indie Review RPG

Vaporum Lockdown – Review | Puzzles and Dungeons

There is a lighthouse, it always starts with a lighthouse…..sorry wrong game. The immersive story-focused Vaporum was released the other year to great reviews. It is now being followed up by a prequel, Vaporum Lockdown. Grab your snorkel son, we are going swimming. 

Vaporum Lockdown was developed by Fatbot Games. As mentioned it’s a prequel to Vaporum which was released in 2017. While I knew of the first title, I have yet to play it. My sole exposure to this universe is within this prequel title. 

Vaporum Lockdown - Enemy


You’re put into the role of Ellie Teller, whose father was a great researcher who took on a job that saw him disappear. Years later, fate would happen that Ellie gets the opportunity to work on the mysterious Arx Vaporum with the new element Fumium. The same one that consumed her father’s working life.

Vaporum Lockdown being a game and of the dungeon crawler variety, it needs a little jolt. Just research would be boring, right? This happens in the form of Fumium riddled beasts navigating the halls and then all the robotics going haywire.

While on the surface the narrative for Vaporum Lockdown seems a little too similar to Bioshock for its own good, it still manages very quickly to draw you into its world and keep you there for the duration. I found myself compelled to read and listen to every log just to get the full scope of the story. The pacing of the main events were ideal too; It crafted an engaging and entertaining narrative experience in a genre that isn’t really known for it. 

Playing through the story of Vaporum Lockdown clocks in at around the 10-hour mark. Beyond that, there is an optional floor for thrill chasers who want to experience the game at its toughest.

Vaporum Lockdown - Hall


So as briefly touched upon prior, Vaporum Lockdown is a first-person dungeon crawler. While this comes with a huge focus on exploration and combat, there are also a lot of puzzles here to tackle.

Controls are very simple. The game runs on a tile system and involves you swapping out weapons to get better effects and inventory management. Some enemies are weak to blunt items, others sharp, some are much easier to handle with ranged; You get the idea, I’m sure.

After a brief tutorial section, you get to equip one of several suits. This is the way you decide your build. I went for a tank run which mainly saw me bash into just about every foe within swinging distance. 

When you level up you get node points for your suit to further customize your build. Fortunately, throughout your adventure, there is enough loot to be found for any build. Something I loved was the ability to have two weapon load-outs at the press of a button; This meant I could swing for the hills, then switch over to a ranged assault fluidly.

One aspect of the game that will split gamers is that due to it being very focused on the narrative and pushing you in a certain direction, nothing is random. There’s no random loot or procedurally generated floors; This means one playthrough sees you through everything the game has to offer.

Vaporum Lockdown - Enemy at the of hall

Puzzles and Hidden Rooms

A keen eye awards players rewards; There are hidden rooms and puzzles you can tackle to find even more swag and special items to further ease the adventure. While some of these are quite easy to spot, others involve either pure luck. Even a guide might be recommended – it’s as hard as spotting an off pixel on a wall at times.

The puzzles range from hitting switches from afar, to pressure puzzles and even timed sections which really caught me off guard considering the slower pace of the genre. There were several box pushing puzzles of course. It’s the staple of any game to tout puzzles as a feature! Fortunately, nothing really killed the pace but I did have to stop and think about what I could do at times.

The puzzles within the game are quite sneaky, mainly in their pacing. You can easily go an hour or two with pure exploring and fighting only to end up stumped with a puzzle. It’s always worth hitting the in-game tutorial reminders if you feel you’re missing something. The ability to throw bricks for example.

Vaporum Lockdown - Door

Switch or Other Platforms?

Vaporum Lockdown is such a strange mixed bag in terms of visuals. While also on PC and coming to other consoles, my experience was on the Nintendo Switch. And I wonder if the limitations of it were why it was so mixed. 

Initially, when you load the game up you’re greeted with the old “Nintendo Switch Vasoline Screen”. As the name implies, it looks blurry and undefined. Fortunately, this isn’t as bad as the worst offenders and a few minutes stomping around and it won’t even be THAT noticeable. It is worth noting though as this seems to be a common and unwanted “feature” of Switch games.

Art, Animation and Audio

I do have to say that the art direction for the game is fantastic. It nails the “out at sea” and ominous steampunk era it was going for. The areas in Vaporum Lockdown are quite varied. Due to this, even the floors themselves which are really just dungeons to crawl through manage to have enough environmental hints and storytelling to stop you from getting lost which is usually a huge issue for these games. 

Animation-wise, here we hit quite the snag and that lies within the games tile-based engine. Essentially the game sees you moving by going from tile to tile and enemies do the same. The issue is that this remains in cutscenes. Early on when everything kicks off, you’re given a cutscene of the robotics going mental. It works fine here, but then it shows you rats, slowly moving from title to title like awkward toys. It’s a bit of a mood killer.

A much lesser issue but one I really wish wasn’t an issue at all was the lack of onscreen feedback and weapon models. Your melee attacks are literally little swishes of wind and ranged attacks are bullets. Techniques show a little more but I would have loved for some melee animations or gun reloading.

On the audio side of things, everything is great. The voice acting is about as hammy as you would expect and the rest of the game is made up with some brilliant ambient noise. You can hear enemies around you and it’s well worth playing with earphones in so you can hear what direction they are coming from.


I enjoyed the tone of Vaporum Lockdown. The story was fantastic and it’s been a good while since I was this immersed into a dungeon crawler. I think the lack of replay value does somewhat hurt it a little and the presentation could stand to be improved a little bit but I wholeheartedly recommend Vaporum Lockdown to anyone remotely curious in a more narrative-focused dungeon crawler.


Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PC
Purchase: PC (Humble/Steam)

If you find yourself starving for more RPG action, check out our review of Kowloon High-School Chronicle, another DRPG.

Many thanks go to Fatbot Games who provided a Nintendo Switch review code for this title.

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