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Vangers

From the Database of Home of the Underdogs

GAME DESIGNER:Andrey Kouzmine

GAME DEVELOPER:KD Lab

GAME PUBLISHER:Interactive Magic

Copyright 1998, KD Lab

One of the most original genre-busting games I have ever played, Vangers is a unique and captivating blend of action, racing, strategy, and even adventure elements that result in a compelling experience. As Bob Mandel of Adrenaline Vault exclaims in his review: “…this game is like no other I have ever played before. Although no single element of the game is completely new, its combination of racing, combat, conversation, and trading makes it seem absolutely without precedent. When adding in its complex storyline and unorthodox interface to its hybrid gameplay, even a seasoned game reviewer like myself feels like an awkward novice ripping the shrink wrap from my very first computer game.”

The closest comparison of this game would be Exxos’ weirdly wonderful Captain Blood, except you need to add a dash of Autoduel and Death Rally to get a better idea. The weirdness starts with the plot, which is almost indecipherable. The basic premise is that in the future, humans have finally succeeded at merging “scientific” and “esoteric” (by which I suppose they mean “supernatural”) knowledge, and the result makes us one step closer to the “Infinite Mind.” If this sounds weird to you, don’t worry – it’s about to get worse ;) Throughout the course of the game, you will come across an astounding number of alien words including: Infinite Mind, the Passages, the Chain of Worlds, the Cryspo, the Softie, the Bouillon of Spawn, the Lostie, beeboorats, boorawchicks, conlarvers, eleepods, glueks, kernoboos, leepuringas, nobools, nymbos, pereponkas, phlegmas, poponkas, rubboxes, tabutasks, zeeficks, and many more words that will make you feel like learning a whole new language :)

While the designers at KD Lab may have gone a bit overboard with inventing the nomenclature, the game itself is not hard to grasp if you spend some time reading the manual and playing the tutorial. As member of a clan of Vangers which comprises explorers, warriors, traders, and pirates, your goal in the game is to basically to help your clan survive by exploring the dangerous world and defending your vehicle against hostile vehicles. You drive around in weird-looking vehicles called “Mechos,” each of which can be armed with your choice of 32 weapons and other power-ups. Customizing your Mechos is one of the best features of the game: with the right equipment, they can shoot, swim, flip, jump, fly, float, and even tunnel under the ground. You may use your weapons not only to attack or defend against other vehicles but also to change the landscape itself, which is a really nice feature (although unfortunately shooting an obstacle often sends you crazily rebounding backwards). With time and effort, you will be able to buy better vehicles (37 types in all) and equipment, trade for profit, run more complicated missions and, naturally, destroy your rival clans. Exploration is important because it is the only way to discover new escaves (i.e. enclaves), each of which has a leader who will give you new missions, usually involving the delivery of goods. By running these, winning ritual races, and trading at escaves, you raise your local reputation. This in turn brings a number of rewards, including freebie items that range from weapons to keys that unlock new worlds. You also get credits by completing missions, and you get additional credits if you dominate adversaries in battle or races. Over time, you will locate strange artifacts necessary for completing the game and that grant you strange and wonderful powers. The funniest of these is the “Circus” ability, which comes with the Mechanic Messiah. When invoked, Circus draws a huge smiley face on the turf, causing all Mechos above it to rise and float helplessly in the air – except yours, of course.

As unique and diverse as the gameplay is, Vangers would be much less fun were the terrain very repetitive. Fortunately, the worlds are very interesting and unique. There are 10 diverse planets you can travel to in the course of the game, including a lava world, desert world, moon world, and urban world. There is even an alphabet world, which is as zany as it sounds. These planets contain special effects such as dust, plasma, and water as well as elevators, traps, moving hills, and other animated features.

Although there is plot development of sorts as you go to leaders for new missions, most of the time you can simply roam around the planets to your heart’s content, getting in fights and trading goods – not unlike Origin’s Privateer. This freedom of movement adds to the already significant replayability, and makes multiplayer games (LAN or the Internet) much more fun. Three different multiplayer games are available: Van-War (a combat game), Mechosoma (a trading game), and Passembloss (a racing game). Unfortunately, these options do not take full advantage of the game’s diverse gameplay – it would be much more interesting to be able to combine all three elements (combat, trading, and racing) in multiplayer games.

With a wacky plot and an original gameplay, Vangers could easily fall into the pitfalls of weird-but-boring-because-it-is-so-indecipherable games. Luckily for us, KD Lab managed to translate their unique vision into an addictive game. The environments are immersive, the music is original, the storyline as rich and creative a fiction as I have seen in any game, and the replayability is enhanced by the excellent freedom of movement. If you enjoy cross-genre or unique underdogs, Vangers is a truly wonderful, truly underrated gem that will handsomely reward some effort required to understand it. Two thumbs up, way up!



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