by Bryson Hile
reviewed on PC
Point and Paint
Allowing player creativity in games is something that is not always expressed. Normally, a specific mission is given and it needs to be done a certain way or you will ultimately fail. Luckily, Vandals is not only a game that allows creativity, but encourages the player to create beautiful works of art by simply using their mouse. Vandals is a point and click stealth game, which tasks players with creating their own graffiti without being caught by the authorities. The game is broken up into cities during different eras, each consisting of 12 increasingly difficult levels. Each level is laid out for the player by tracing out where they can move and how far each police officer can see.
Sneaking around the police, however, is only part of the game. Once players reach the space they need to, marked by a spray paint can, they begin painting whatever they like. There are three different brush sizes to select from, along with eight colors to paint with. This is where the player’s creativity, or lack thereof, shows up. The game gives no instructions or rules on what to paint. A spray paint can is simply given to the player and they take it from there.
This aspect of the game is one of the best parts starting out. I created simple pictures such as a Jack-O-Lantern or banana due to my lack of skill. Later on, however, I found myself uninterested in the painting portion and instead focused on the stealth aspect. The reasoning behind this was not my lack of skill, but rather the limited options for creating the art. The few colors that are provided are bright which doesn’t allow them to blend well, limiting your creation options as a result. Ultimately, I ended up drawing quick and simple pictures just to move on to the more tasteful part of the game.
The levels of Vandals are simply laid out for the player. Each city brings something new, like being able to travel through manholes in New York City, or introducing a new type of enemy equipped with binoculars and allowing them to see much further. These new elements made me implement new tactics and analyze the level in depth. A whistle, as well as the occasional glass bottles on the map, gives players the ability to distract police officers opening new routes to the objective and exit. These levels and mechanics got increasingly difficult which I loved. Late game, it became a strategic focus instead of a creative one which I genuinely enjoyed.
Later levels got increasingly difficult and required my full attention and focus. I found it enjoyable to work out the best routes around police officers, and using the mechanics of the glass bottles or whistle to their full potential. What was really helpful was knowing the amount of ‘moves’ in which each level could be completed with. For example, the game would tell me that I could complete a certain level in 14 moves and I would try to shoot for that exact amount to get the maximum of three stars for that level.
One last fun and surprising feature is the history-filled collectables hidden in each level. Flyers can be found in each level that share historic moments of graffiti in the specific city that you are in. These were really entertaining to read and actually taught something on a subject that is widely known as crime.
Better as mobile
Vandals’ features, user interface, heads-up display, and general gameplay work really well together and suit the PC platform. Other features, such as the spray painting and its point and click control scheme, make it better suited for mobile. Vandals is the type of game that offers an enjoyable challenge on mobile platforms, for which the game is also available. I could spend hours with it if I could pull it out of my pocket at the dentist office. With Vandals being on my PC, I still find it fun, but I feel I am required to sacrifice time for another game that I probably want to play more.
Player creativity, strategic gameplay
Lacking paint options