A retro-style action-roguelike that feels like Castlevania on steroids, Vampire Survivor goes from one of the most addictive games on Steam to one of the most addictive games on mobile with a stellar port and some great options no matter your device.
If you have a Steam Deck, you should be playing Vampire Survivors. No excuses. If you haven’t managed to afford to buy the luxury device (or didn’t win one during The Game Awards) like myself, you may have been eagerly awaiting ports of the title to Switch or mobile devices. Well, one of those dreams has come true, so find out how well the action rogue-like from developer Poncle runs on mobile with our Vampire Survivors mobile review.
If you only watch a trailer for Vampire Survivors, I feel like the pixelated art style undersells the chaos and addictive nature of the game. Clearly inspired by Castlevania, you control one of four warriors and wander around an open area with a top-down perspective. There are no buttons to attack, as it all happens automatically, all you have to do is walk around and hope for your weapon strikes to connect against any of the plethora of ghouls attacking you in waves. And I mean waves.
The main selling point of Vampire Survivors is the sheer swathes of enemies that flood the screen. While it all starts out reasonably timid, a few hours and a few dozen levels turn your jaunty stroll into a walk through a nightmare hellscape where bats are more common than a Greggs in Bristol town centre. Each downed enemy drops a blue jewel that grants you experience, and gathering enough allows you to level up where you get to pick a boon.
Depending on your chosen hero, your starting weapon is a single swipe. You begin with Antonio, who is essentially just a Belmont, with a whip which means your first attack is a forward-facing swipe. The additions you get with each level range from an extra swipe to your starting weapon, floating projectiles that can orbit your character, a wand that targets the nearest enemy, or additions to your health, defence, or speed.
You also level up really quickly to begin with, so while the first few moments of the game are a bit meandering, it’s necessary to ease you into the absolutely insane pace and challenge you’ll face with later. Honestly, this game is free to download and play, so everyone with a device capable of playing it should download it, and I dare anyone to get to at least level ten and not be helplessly addicted to Vampire Survivors.
Much like the satisfying power creep of Loop Hero, but with a splash of more agency, Vampire Survivors is all about the thrill of the run. Your rewards for each level are random, and there are destructible elements of the level that can randomly drop health (a whole roast chicken, of course), jewels, or coins. Staying alive is one thing, but getting just the boost you need and a touch of health at a crucial moment are such wildly satisfying little thrills.
Perhaps what’s most impressive here, is that this is all done while sticking to a single-stick formula. The only thing you do in Vampire Survivor is move around, that’s all you control, and somehow the ensuing and encroaching enemies and the wild swing of violence you unleash on them are more than enough to get you hooked. It also means that Vampire Survivor is perfectly suited to mobile and there are even a few options at your disposal.
Vampire Survivors plays in either vertical or horizontal mode and is compatible with external Bluetooth controllers or devices like the Razer Kishi or the Backbone. Personally, I find the best way to play is on iPhone and in vertical mode. This makes it such a perfect pick-up-and-play experience, especially when you have a few minutes to kill. You can see enough of the screen to know what’s going on even vertically, and it’s very rare that you need real precision to do anything.
As a free-to-play game, there are ads in the mobile version, but they’re fairly unobtrusive. When you find a treasure chest, the game gives you the option to watch an ad to double your reward from time to time. Also, occasionally after a death, you’re given the option to watch an ad to revive. I’m not sure yet if this is random or ordained by some sort of prerequisite, but the only times I’ve been offered an ad to revive have been when I was already fairly high-level, so it’s not commonplace.
I would appreciate an option to turn off ads with a small purchase fee, but there doesn’t seem to be anything like that just yet, perhaps in a future update. Also, if you already own the game on Steam, there’s currently no word on cross-save compatibility. Hopefully, this comes in the future too, but the gameplay is so addictive many people may just be happy to start all over again. There also doesn’t seem to be cloud saves between devices, which would be nice down the line so I can carry progress between iPhone and iPad.
Finally, performance seems really great on both devices (I played on an iPhone 14 and a 2021 iPad Pro), with only the slight frame drop when there are literally hundreds of enemies on screen. While simplistic, the gorgeous pixelated art style is still striking, and the many enemies are all given a lot of character and love. Lastly, the music absolutely whips, with a pumping love-letter to the adrenaline-fuelled 8-bit soundtracks of old, reminiscent, especially of the gothic stylings of Symphony of the Night but with a modern electronic tinge.
If you own a mobile device, you need to download Vampire Survivors. This simplistic action rogue-like is one of the most addictive games on the platform and features monster-slaying gameplay and wild weapon enhancements that’ll have you feeling like Richter Belmont himself in minutes. With great options no matter your device and stable performance, this is an ideal port of a fantastic game, with a tiny bit of room for improvement down the line.