Vigil: Blood Bitterness

What's black and white and dread all over?

What a fascinating game. And what a mess. It's such a shame, as Vigil's unique black and white appearance and twisted design could have created something splendid. As it is, it's a greater test of patience than skill.

Little is explained as you start, letting you try to fathom the meaning of the game for yourself. You play one of four ancient creatures, the other three being dead. Exploring, you learn how they died as you pursue your sworn enemy, Evil.

Each of the four is represented by an emblem, and such emblems, when on the floor, can be prayed upon, triggering responses. The entire thing is presented in barren, haunting black and white silhouette, viewed from obscure, high-angled perspectives.


Rather than a series of puzzles, the game claims to be one meta-puzzle, with clues discovered throughout. On a more mundane level, this come down to finding pieces of paper with obfuscated hints for how to open the next door. But it's all so pleasingly esoteric as to avoid falling into the depths of such trite clichés. With the help of the darkly ambient background chimes and a ferociously whispered unknown language, it's deeply atmospheric.

How this simple and stark design manages to grind my behemothic PC to a near halt is the game's greatest mystery. Running down barely detailed corridors makes the entire thing stagger and chunter. Which would be tolerable were it not for your character's accompanying habit of either refusing to move or charging off in the wrong direction, often to his death.

And it's in death that Vigil signs its doom. The pace is sedate, creating a calm tone your first time through a section. The second, third, and certainly fourth, it creates impotent fury. And knowing the solution is no help - you must again go through each room, and find each clue, before you're allowed to solve a puzzle. So after the game's pushed you off a narrow bridge despite your clicking in a quite different direction, finding the patience to repeat the last 20 minutes of tedious trudging about is a tough call.

Oh, for a quicksave. The random deaths aren't just technical glitches (another being that this won't run on Vista). A wrong step can impale you on spikes. In hindsight you realise the clue associated with that death, but only in hindsight.

The ending, reached after what would be a splendid timed puzzle if only the game worked properly, is a deliberate, self-acknowledged anticlimax. A strange choice, but forgivable given that Vigil is episodic, part two already in development. Just don't expect your questions to be answered.

There's about two hours of game here, spread out over a day's increasingly angry frustration. It's nigh impossible without a walkthrough (found at the game's website), and while both visually and emotionally striking, it simply doesn't work.

The verdict

Superb artistic design, broken game

Puzzle, Adventure