Okay. I bought Vigil: Blood Bitterness several years ago for about $1 during a super-sale, which saw the entire Meridian4 catalog going for very cheap. I checked out the sale for Shadowgrounds (which is an excellent game) but decided to browse the rest of the catalog, and Vigil: Blood Bitterness caught my attention due to its stark black and white visual style. The description implied a point-and-click adventure game, set in a strange futuristic world with a dark and forboding atmosphere. I decided it was worth $1 to check it out, but then I promptly got distracted by all sorts of other games, and only got around to trying it recently.
I actually played it before I injured my wrist, but given that it is entirely controlled with the mouse you could easily play it with one hand. But you shouldn’t.
To be fair, the visuals, which originally attracted me to the game, actually work quite well. Environments which might have otherwise looked overly familiar or uninteresting became strange and alien, and really supported the oppressive and otherworldly tone that the developers were going for. I was intrigued while exploring the bizarre cathedral that the protagonist calls his home, and trying to fathom exactly what kind of world he lives in. The sound design, while simple, also fits the mood, with characters speaking in strange, subtitled guttural whispers, and sparse ambient sounds promoting a feeling of isolation.
It’s too bad, then, that the rest of the game is a mess. It’s as if the designers designed this strange environment and then felt some obligation to tack “game” elements onto it, seemingly at random. Rather than a traditional point-and-click adventure, which revolves around collecting items and using them in various combinations to solve puzzles, Vigil: Blood Bitterness instead opts for a simplified control scheme, with the left mouse button moving the protagonist and the right mouse button making him interact with the environment, usually to open or close a door. In fact, the majority of the puzzles in the game are simply about opening and closing doors in a certain order, usually to find cluess that explain outright what to do next. So, in what must have been an attempt to add challenge, the designers saw fit to include areas that instantly kill the protagonist and timed sequences that require trudging back to the beginning if the player takes too long. Not to mention that navigating is a chore since the camera angle is constantly shifting, often reversing which side of the screen the protagonist is on and completely messing up the mouse-based navigation. To top it all off, there’s no way to save, so if you die you must start the entire act over again.
I might have forgiven some of these problems if the game remained interesting to explore, but it didn’t. The writing is basically nonsense, wasting the potential of the creepy setting and making everything feel pointless. I struggled through to the end (with the help of an online walkthrough, which wasn’t easy to find by the way) out of sheer stubbornness, but I do not recommend you do the same.
I would love to see a better game with an art style like this. Coupled with quality writing and world-building, it could make for a really excellent adventure game. But Vigil: Blood Bitterness is not that game. I’ve argued before that sometimes bad games are worth playing; other times, however, they’re just bad.