With the App Store being absolutely flush with zombie games—much like the rest of the industry—it’s incredibly refreshing to see some other monsters, in this case vampires, getting their time in the supernatural spotlight with Bloodmasque. Set in 19th century Paris, Bloodmasque tells the all-too-familiar (but no less satisfying) tale of a half-vampire hunter who joins up with a French rebellion to undermine and overthrow a vampire dynasty that keeps the City of Lights under its spell. The game sticks firmly to its guns in its audiovisual direction, with the game’s Parisian landscape seeming almost like an interactive Les Mis, complete with jaunty string-and-accordion soundtrack.
On the surface, Bloodmasque feels much like Infinity Blade or any number of other swipe-to-attack combat games. Tapping your foes will unleash a flurry of attacks, and swiping the screen allows you to dodge around them. Eventually, after chipping away at their health enough, they blow out of their waistcoats to reveal their more ghoulish countenances so you can continue the process, until you finally get to drive a stake through their heart in a ridiculous, oh-so-Japanese display of impalement. It works well, even if the touch-based combat is quickly becoming cliché in the wake of Infinity Blade.
Where Bloodmasque sets itself apart in the single most ridiculous way possible is the ability to take a trio of pictures of yourself using your iDevice’s handy-dandy camera to be mapped to your character’s in-game face. I don’t post screenshots in my reviews very often, but it needed to be done so I could show you the glory of this:
Sorry ladies, but I’m spoken for, and possibly quite drunk when I took that picture.
The technology is still a little flakey (I, for the life of me, could not get my schnoz to line up with the geometry of the character model) but there’s some completely ridiculous fun to be had in trying out the ability to texture-map your puss onto your in-game avatar.
The other interesting addition comes from the game’s unique take on multiplayer. Instead of being actively pulled into battles with other players, your avatar and its stats are put up for grabs on a roster, allowing other players to use you in battle, earning you valuable blood and bonuses even when you’re not playing the game.
If there are any complaints to be made about Bloodmasque, the game’s dubious use of in-app purchases is rather grumble-inducing. Like many games on the App Store nowadays, there is the carrot-on-a-string tactic of offering in-game currency in exchange for real-world dough. This makes perfect sense in a free-to-play game, but it seems a bit swindly in a game with the (relatively) premium price of $6.99. Also, there is a certain degree of sameness between many of the game’s vampiric enemies, especially when they shed their human facades for one of a small handful of more monstrous forms. However, there is no requirement for players to pony up the extra dough, and the game’s bite-sized bouts of bloody battle mean that, unless you’re playing a marathon session, the repeated character models aren’t a real sticker of an issue. What’s left behind is a deliciously melodramatic slice of European gothic horror that takes itself seriously enough for deeper consideration, but is irreverent enough to fit its bathroom-break structure.