Turn-based puzzle solving collides with the chaotic world of underground street art in Vandals. This addicting new indie gem, from European developers Cosmografik & Novelab, takes you on a worldwide expedition with only one simple goal in mind: paint the town with your street art. It’s a simple concept that turns out to be rather entertaining.
You need to spread your street art by traversing a series of boards, dodging police and other obstacles along the way, all to reach your canvas undetected. Once there, you’re dropped into this MS-Paint style graffiti simulator where you’re allowed to create your masterpiece before moving onto the next stage. The gameplay is basically XCOM meets ‘Painting with Bob Ross’ – and while that sounds utterly ridiculous, it works so well in this context.
Each time you move on the board the cops move a space as well and it’s a game of constantly trying to avoid them while looking ahead to your goal. There are bonus objectives to grab as well to add an extra bit of challenge to each stage. Some are as easy as picking them up along your way, while others bring you inches from a Game Over in order to claim it. You merely have to get to the canvas to complete the stage, but the bonuses are going to offer up a lot of extra fun for completionists.
Vandals is presented as this relaxed puzzle solving experience, but it does so without sacrificing difficulty. The mechanics are easy to understand and you may find yourself flying through the first few levels. However, as the challenge ramps up in later worlds you’ll begin appreciating the cool down presented by the painting segments more and more.
The single player campaign takes you through a barrage of locations and time periods in your quest for graffiti dominance. The set pieces and score matched the atmosphere perfectly and made the individual puzzles super memorable, something that often can’t be said about budget titles like this one. The overall aesthetic of the game is top notch and it immerses you in this chilled, yet mysterious world of vigilante art all the while you’re staying one step ahead of the crooked authority.
There isn’t much in terms of depth or story but that’s to be expected of these puzzle-based mobile-inspired games we’ve been seeing a lot of on the eShop as of late. They’re designed to be picked up and played in quick bursts and Vandals wastes absolutely no time dropping you into the action. It works really well in the context of playing handheld, but the experience unfortunately doesn’t transfer as well when docked to a TV.
All of the functionality for the game is mapped to the right joy-con. In fact, the only way to play the game docked is with the detached joy-con, Pokémon: Let’s Go style. There are touch screen controls available for handheld mode and I found this to be the most comfortable way to play. But as someone who usually prefers playing with a Switch Pro Controller, it was really frustrating to see it not even supported at all. Functionality is kind of supposed to be the Switch’s bread and butter and I would definitely be more inclined to revisit this title in the future if more controller support was patched in.
Vandals definitely gives off the scent of a mobile developer hastily porting a game to the Nintendo eShop, but there is a lot of fun to be had here. There aren’t any grinding mechanics to incentivize spending money on microtransactions here. The concept is genuinely unique and presented with a lot of heart, and the puzzles offer up enough challenge to satisfy a wide range of players.
- Graphics - 8/108/10
- Sound - 7/107/10
- Gameplay - 8/108/10
- Lasting Appeal - 7/107/10
Final Thoughts: GREAT
While its limited controls are a bit of a sour note, Vandals is a budget title with a refreshing concept absolutely worth looking into. Fans of turn-based RPGs will love the strategy and challenge involved, while puzzle fans will love its charm and easy to pick up gameplay.
Evan Roode is a full time journalism student and amateur game historian. His favorite song from Guitar Hero III was “Even Flow”.