Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Vampire Therapist Gives Us What We Never Knew We Needed

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Have you ever seen the trailer for a game and gone “how the heck didn’t I think of this?” Well that was me when I saw the trailer for Vampire Therapist from Berlin based Little Bat Games. Following a formerly murderous cowboy vampire who starts working as a vampire therapist, the game has players dispel decades of delusions, and confront the complexities of self-loathing in multiple vampires from different times in history.

The demo is available now as part of Steam Next Fest and it is frickin spectacular. I can’t remember the last time a game made me laugh aloud so many times. Fully voiced and with a super unique art style, Vampire Therapist should be one of the best games released this summer!

You play as Sam, a cowboy who has moved on from murdering and chaos to figuring out your own cognitive distrotions, you’ve now been invited to work as a therapist by 3000+ year old Andromachos in Europe. (Of course all the vampires are hot.)

Set in an European goth club where humans and vampire can mix and play, you take clients at night (of course) and help them to identify the cognitive distortions that are making it difficult for them to live their (un)life.

The demo introduces a number of characters including Sam and Andy, Crimson, the bartender who is Andy’s blood partner, two humans who really want a bite (mini-game!), and a few of Sam’s new clients, with four total in the full game.

Fortunately for Sam, he doesn’t have to start offering sessions right away.

First, he has sessions with Andy so that he can learn the real names for the cognitive distortions (more are unlocked as the game progresses) and to work through his own negative self-talk and labeling, disqualifying the positive, and black and white thinking. Except Andy calls that Nosferatu Thinking, one of many moments where I just bust out laughing.

a list of distortions that the player can choose to assign a client in vampire therapist like disqualifying the positive, labeling, control fallacy
Multiple distortions that you can pick from when diagnosing the vampire.

I loved a lot of things about the demo. As the therapy friend who isn’t actually a licensed professional but has spent years learning about psychology and how to deal with my own stuff, I couldn’t get over how dang realistic the sessions are, and how much of the dialogue is stuff that I’ve found myself saying to friends.

What’s really unique in an already unique concept is that the vampires aren’t all fictional, which would take away some of the gravity I think of the actual premise. One of the first introduced clients is Isabella D’Este, known as one of the leading women of the Italian Renaissance and she is going THROUGH it.

The kids these days don’t know art, and she feels like everything she ever did was for naught, because everything is awful forever and she’s mad about it. Essentially she’s a Boomer but like, from the 1400s. I love it though because you can’t help but facepalm and at the same time feel for her.

One of the draws about vampire stories is that you can nearly do anything within a set of fairly universal parameters, but how you do it completely changes the tone and impact of the story. Is your vampire old and tired (and probably rich)? Are they a newly turned or created vamp who is Not Happy about the turn of events, or are they super excited that they’re no longer human? Whether they’re excited or not, what does it mean if they can’t walk outside during the day? How do they feel about losing their family (unless their entire family is vampires)? The questions and approaches are endless.

In the case of Vampire Therapist, having Isabella be part of the cast lets the player delve deep into what it actually means to be alive so damn long.

For example, Andy is 3000 and has been around since like, the start of time, thus having seen literally every war, every change, every new issue. This means that as a character he can be anything. For Isabella, though, to go from being a major cultural and political figure and patron of the arts to now dead and tired means she thinks she never did anything worthy at all!

photos and memorabilia on Sam's desk with the sentence "Vampires aren't monsters. Or at least, they don't have to be. And come hell or high water, I'm gonna prove it to 'em."

The demo ends after the first few clients and their first few sessions so I’m really excited to see how the second (and further?) sessions go with each vampire. I’m also curious to see how much more we’ll learn about Andy and Crimson (I love her, your honor).

As I mentioned at the start, the game is fully voiced, making it a truly immersive experience with creator and developer, Cyrus Nemati of the game himself voicing Sam, Andromachos, Dr. Drayne, and Edmund Kean. The cast also includes Francesa Meaux (Crimson), Sarah Grayson (Meddy), Kylie Clark (Isabelle d’Este), and Matthew Mercer (Reinhard and others). But the dialogue can also stand completely on its own which is a hard test to pass!

And while the game is appropriately respectful and takes seriously what it means for these vampires, its focus is on comedy, which developer Nemati believes is the only way the game could have worked, and I agree!

“I wanted to get very serious when it came to the psychological gameplay, but the game could have easily been draining (no pun intended) or even confrontational to players. But we designed the whole game with fun in mind first, from human, yet clearly animated character designs, to the bat motifs all over the game, to the playful voice acting. We hope it’ll pay off and people have as much fun laughing as they do learning about psychology.”

Based on the over an hour long demo and clear work with licensed professionals, Vampire Therapist promises to be one of the best games of the summer and personally, one of the best games that I’ve ever played.

You can try the demo now on Steam and catch the full game on July 18!

Images and early review copy courtesy of Little Bat Games

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