The Vault of the Lost Tyrant
Spelunking for long-lost treasure in a cavern far beneath the sea in itself may seem no simple task, but when there are a few extra sentient beings down beneath, things quickly become even more complicated. You follow the journey of female protagonist Cassandra Nech, a member of the renowned Rogue's Guild, an organization devoted to (among other things) preserving treasures of generations past. Of course, there are generally other forces and characters in play with - shall we say - less noble ambitions, but we'll get to that shortly. Today she's come to recover the long-lost items from the legendary Sea Tyrant. The little background around him is shrouded in mystery, but it is believed that he perished long ago, leaving nothing but the clicks of the machinery in the dark cave. If you enjoyed A Tale of Caos: Overture, you will surely love this spin-off adventure. (It should be noted though, this one is shorter - around a couple hours of gameplay.)
The Vault of the Lost Tyrant is another retro, pixel-art style game brought to you by Expera Games Studio. Produced in Unity just like their last title we previously reviewed on JiG, this game implements several suggestions fans have been clamoring for. Most notably, the protagonist is now animated and displays a smooth walking animation as you move from place to place, rendering it a much cleaner and smoother experience. You can even have Cassandra pace around the room if that's the sort of thing that helps you think - though given some of the hazards lying in wait, I'd be careful where you place her feet! On another note, the hint system has been reformed and hints can be garnered as Cassandra speaking in text above her head, rather than hints in a device accessible only through several more clicks. It is a welcome development for the seamlessness of gameplay, though the style of several layers of hints for a given step (back in A Tale of Caos: Overture) was also a nice touch.
It would be an understatement to describe the beginning of Cassandra's mission to recoup the lost treasure as bungled. Before she knows it, she is confronted by two thugs: the infamous Pinnazza Brothers, who demand she disarm at once. Having no other choice after being outflanked in numbers and by the element of surprise, she reluctantly tosses her crossbow Antoinette into a crevice as the notorious, cowardly thieves scurry out, locking the door behind her. With no other apparent exits other than a cluster of highly toxic mushrooms, it appears that Cassandra's cunning style will be required to progress. Of course, calling for backup with that radio in her pocket might be an easy way out, but as she explains: being a member of the Rogue's Guild means being able to take care of oneself and escape trouble ALONE.
Indeed, as she explores around the room in which she is currently trapped, she discovers a central computer harboring an interesting secret. The computer has come to life and is orchestrating plans to - wait, that's not quite right. But the computer bank has acquired sentience in a thrilling plot twist: the Lost Tyrant himself transferred consciousness of himself into the machines that were, as he puts it, "once his servants." You read that right - in a sci-fi twist, the fearsome Lost Tyrant, after all his misdeeds and blood on his conscience - is now a rapidly decaying mess of 0s and 1s.
At first, it appears the Tyrant may be a veritable adversary, with the computer barking out harsh commands and lots of exclamation points, and even going so far as to equate Cassandra with the Pinnazza Brothers. But he soon has a change of heart when she explains about the mission of the Rogue's Guild (which has apparently been around since before the Sea Tyrant's rule and downfall) and their beneficial nature to society and preservation...very much orthogonal to the petty thieves and their mission to pillage. Who would you rather your treasure go to, Cassandra implies slyly, and he soon agrees.
With this newfound cooperation and newly forged alliance, you set out to defeat the two villainous brothers. The only issue is that they always seem to be two steps ahead of you, hellbent on destroying everything and messing things up, even if not completely intentionally! Matters are made worse when you learn the truth of why the caverns have laid undisturbed for all these years - a giant sea monster lurking in the depths. Letting it out would wreak a major catastrophe on the surface and maybe even lead to the end of that world! Unfortunately, someone has managed to break the Tyrant's "idiotproof" system and unleashed a potentially monstrous problem.
You'll play through the game with very much standardized point-and-click controls. Move the mouse over the scenes to interact with objects and navigate through different areas. Note that there is often more than one way to move from one place to another, but many of these must be unlocked by a step somewhere deeper in and hence can't be accessed straight away. When going through dialogue, you can select the options you want by clicking the appropriate line of dialogue in the corresponding text box. You can use items from your inventory by clicking on them, then clicking somewhere in a room where you want Cassandra to try and use them, or combine by clicking on one object within the inventory and then another. There's also a helpful tool to highlight all of the potential interactive elements within a room, eliminating problematic and frustrating pixel hunts. And to top off all of that enticement, there is a pretty sweet soundtrack and sound effects to boot, marking the perfect accompaniment to the retro graphics.
The Vault of the Lost Tyrant explores a short but complex narrative that has more layers than might first meet the eye, along with several good laughs. Despite the nickname, is the main antihero of the story really just pure evil? Could there be a chance for redemption at the end of a dark, winding underwater tunnel? Will Cassandra manage to reunite with the love of her life, Antoinette? If you look closely enough, can you recover some more information and lore that the Tyrant's aging memory banks cannot quite recall? And last but not least, what humiliation with the merciless heroine inflict upon the Pinnazza brothers once she finally catches up with them? Available in several languages, you will I guess you'll just have to find out, assuming of course that the sea monster doesn't manage to gobble you up first!
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