Hands-on Preview: Vampire Therapist

There are a plethora of sexy vampire sims out there, most of which are currently on my wishlist, but few have captured my attention quite like Vampire Therapist! Initially, I braced myself for another pretty but ultimately soulless, funny-concept rush job, but this visual novel turned self-care educator left me pleasantly surprised and has been solidly lodged in my mind since I finished it.

It should be noted that I played through the preview version of this game, so elements may change before the final release!

An Undead Desperado

Sam Walls was your classic cowboy, hat and accent included, until tragedy left him bloodless and vengeful. As a vampire, he was merciless until the kindness of a group of strangers brought him out of his spiral. Sam realized there was more to unlife than murder and anger, and after years of self-reflection, has decided to share his revelations with the rest of Vampire kind.

Sam is such a fun protagonist! He’s a cowboy. He’s a vampire. He’s oblivious to flirting. He’s my favorite man. This dark, steamy, gothic world is so much fun viewed through his eyes. In both writing and delivery, he is the perfect window for the audience to view this new world through while not denying him his own personality, struggles, or story.

As Sam, you’ll study under the gaze of the beautiful and supportive 3000-year-old vampire, Andromachos. Having been on a similar journey of self-discovery himself (only with fewer horses and more queer overtones), Andromachos is a compassionate and powerful guide, acting as a well of information with enough development to make you keenly curious about his own backstory. Under Andy’s care, you’ll learn all about cognitive distortions and navigating negative self-talk, ultimately helping not only your fellow blood buddies but yourself along the way.

A Beautifully Gothic Presentation

This game is so pretty! With painterly rendering for both the character models and backgrounds, it’s a treat to watch and fits the gothic setting beautifully. The character designs are distinctive and interesting while still feeling grounded. The thick-lined style and cell shading give a western-comics feel while keeping it warm and inviting with smoothed corners and warm, blended color palettes. It’s just lovely to look at!

Lots of attention has been paid to the rendering of the UI as well. Dialogue boxes are surrounded by stained glass and candle motifs, Sam’s journal and desk are touched with cowboy imagery, and correct choices are marked by festive blood spurts. The designs all around feel tied to the vampire aesthetic while still holding on to Sam’s cowboy heritage, a marriage that seems counterintuitive but is achieved with pleasant harmony.

A Voice Acting Masterclass

My gosh. Turn this game into an audiobook and rock me to sleep. The voices are beautiful, with immaculate accents that I absolutely butchered when trying to recreate them in my Let’s Play. And the acting itself is fantastic! It’s clear that the recording process was treated with the needed respect and given the time it deserves; all lines are delivered with nuance, the scripts are clearly well-understood by the actors, and the back-and-forth fits together well. The casting is flawless. The voices suit the characters fantastically and feel perfectly integrated into the dynamic world.

The music design and mixing were good for the most part. While in Andromachos’ study, the muffled bass from the club below kept you immersed in the setting and tied the different audio elements together nicely. Occasionally, some FX elements were a touch too loud, such as turning pages in Sam’s journal, but such things can be expected from a preview.

Brilliant Writing

The writing is the highlight of this game for me. The pacing of the dialogue was excellent and felt very natural, never meandering too long or underexplaining. But the main point of excellence was the engagement with psychology.

Throughout the game, you learn different real-life therapy terms, such as ‘Labeling’ and ‘Control Fallacy,’ and are taught how to identify them in dialogue. While this is presented through the lens of vampirism, these techniques are explained in a way that allows for transference to everyday situations. For example, Sam telling a vampire that labeling themselves as ‘evil’ is bad can help me identify that calling myself a ‘failure’ is also detrimental. That’s a basic example, but you get the idea.

These terms are presented comprehensibly and in enough context that they don’t feel preachy; the role of Sam is well-established enough that I felt like I was learning alongside him, not simply running through a psych simulator. And all this is done under the guise of teaching you how to help others; you feel more comfortable learning about these concepts when the end goal feels selfless, all the while subtly helping you better yourself as well.

It isn’t all psychology, though, of course. You’ll spend a good deal of time chatting with bar-going goths, the cool, leather-clad bartender, and the stoic vampire bouncer, learning more about their problems and their interests. You’ll feed on patrons (consensually), fend off their advances (awkwardly), and settle into this new community (eventually).

The writing is often lighthearted, flirty, and fun but is balanced with heartwarming advice and connections that leave me feeling both entertained and enlightened.

Conclusion

I cannot wait for the full version of Vampire Therapist to be released. Rarely have a game’s characters and writing grabbed me so quickly, and I genuinely feel interested to keep learning what it’s teaching me. I regularly find the dialogue and terminology popping into my mind, even from just the preview. I can’t wait to see how impactful the game as a whole will be.

If you like funny visual novels, sexy vampires, the goth aesthetic, or you need therapy (that’s only kind of a joke), then definitely add Vampire Therapist to your wishlist. You won’t want to miss it!

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