Backgrounds that could have been taken from old Hanna-Barbera cartoons and a bad guy who looks like he just stepped off a Count Chocula cereal box make A Vampyre Story one of the most distinctive adventures released this year. This point-and-click romp through a gothic carnival is more successful for its striking appearance than its gameplay, however. A punny sense of humor generates more groans than laughs, while the traditional puzzle design and a new twist to inventory management can make for obtuse mysteries. Still, the game has enough charm to get it over these rough patches.
Mona, the vampire in denial.
A Vampyre Story is pretty much an interactive Saturday-morning cartoon. You play as Mona De Lafitte, a ditzy opera wannabe who was turned into a toothy creature of the night by Baron Shrowdy Von Kiefer, who has such a huge pointy head and buckteeth that he could be mistaken for the aforementioned cereal mascot's long-lost twin brother. Mona doesn't much like being a vampire, so she wants to escape the baron's Castle Warg in Draxsylvania and resume her singing career in Paris. Hijinks ensue as the vamp-in-denial tries to get away from bloodsucker central, although this is just the first chapter in a series of episodes. You'll need to do the "same bat-time, same bat-channel" thing and come back for the sequel to see if Mona gets back to France or accepts her undead ways and starts chomping down on villagers.
Characters and plot blend modern Disney animated movie conventions with the nonstop puns that weighed down cartoons that the big three TV networks walloped kids with in the 1970s. So you've got the requisite smart-mouthed animal sidekick, in this case a bat named Froderick, alongside punny jokes about everything from the Internet to Ozzy Osbourne to Harry Potter to a pack of rats named Frankie, Dean, Sammy, and Joey. The story is one big groan punctuated by the odd chuckle. OK, that doesn't sound very appealing. And it occasionally isn't, although the biggest culprit here is actually the voice actor who decided to give Mona the squeak of a Gallic version of Jennifer Tilly. While Mona herself may grate on your nerves, A Vampyre Story's general shtick never gets annoying because all the liberal dollops of cheese seem to be in their natural environment here. In front of skewed backdrops reminiscent of cornball cartoon escapades like Scooby-Doo, puns and broad double entendres are pretty much expected.