So, let’s get one thing straight before we go any further into this review. I’m a very casual fan of the vtuber craze. I don’t tend to catch a lot of streams from the girls of Hololive and I most certainly do not throw money at them. A lot of vtubers I do follow I follow more for their content than the fact they’re cute virtual waifus. So keep in mind that’s my perspective on this since the game we’re looking at is very much about the VTuber phenomenon: HoloCure.
GENRE: Reverse bullet hell survival…With cute anime waifus!
GET IT HERE FOR FREE!: https://kay-yu.itch.io/holocure
HoloCure is the fusion of two things that have absolutely taken the internet by storm recently: VTubers and Vampire Survivors. VTubers are basically streamers/content creators who use an anime girl rendered in 2D or 3D with real time tracking technology for movement and facial expressions, with HoloLive being a business that features some of the most popular girls in this new industry. Vampire Survivors is a simple to play and hard to put down game about gradually getting stronger and stronger as you fight waves of enemies in a topdown gameplay environment that features automatic attacks and gradually escalates into a “Reverse Bullet Hell” where you’re flooding the screen in attacks and killing by the hundreds.
And wouldn’t you know it? Turns out VTuber Waifus and Vampire Survivors go together like peanut butter and chocolate! Kay Yu has taken the already addictive formula of Vampire Survivors and added his own unique gameplay spins on it while adding in the allure of HoloLive’s ever so lovable crew of VTubers, in order to create something that will honestly have little trouble pulling in fans of either. The fact the asking price of this game is “Completely free” is a massive bonus on top of this.
Much like Vampire Survivors, things start out relatively simple here with only a small roster available to you, and one level. You’ll pick a girl, probably survive a few minutes, and die. But of course, like Vampire Survivors, the satisfaction and fun comes from gradually getting stronger each attempt, as you both earn money for permanent upgrades, but also discover what weapons and items synergize with each other.
So, like Vampire Survivors, you’ll auto attack with your weapons and kill enemies, get EXP pickups and then add new weapons and passive items to your loadout as you do so, only to do it all over again on the next run regardless of victory or defeat. So how does HoloCure shake up the Vampire Survivors formula? In…Quite a few ways, actually.
The first is that every girl in HoloCure starts with a signature weapon. Unlike Vampire Survivors, these starting weapons are exclusive to their owners: Only Gawr Gura can wield her Trident weapon, no one else! The other big twist is that every girl also has three unique passive skills that they can gain and upgrade in a run which don’t occupy their item slots. These passive skills provide various bonuses offensively and defensively depending on the character, with each girl’s three passives being unique and exclusive to them. What this means is that each girl in HoloCure’s roster very much has their own identity, as they have exclusive weapons and exclusive passive bonuses only they can make use of, which can further define a build in a way Vampire Survivors can’t quite do.
Along with the strong individual character identities of each girl in HoloCure, how you evolve (Or rather, combine) weapons is also very different. Each girl’s starting weapon can be upgraded to an evolved form simply by leveling it up to max level: No special chest or drop required. Other weapons on the other hand, rather than evolving, are combined to create a new super weapon via “Collabs.” A Collab has you combine two compatible max level weapons via a golden anvil (which has a chance to spawn from a defeated enemy if you have a valid Collab combo with both weapons at max level), creating a new powerful weapon out of the combined result. A simple example: Combine the orbiting BL Books with the Psycho Axe that spirals outward from where it’s thrown to create the BJ Fujoshi, an endless orbit of deadly books and axes that never stop rapidly orbiting your character. This honestly makes weapon selection a lot more interesting than in VS, as in VS only a few Union type evolutions exist. In HoloCure, many weapons are part of more than one Collab, but you can’t obtain the same weapon twice: This means while several Collabs use the BL Book, you can only create *ONE* Collab with the BL Book per run. This adds a lot more weight to your decisions, as you can’t just get all of the best weapons at once: You have to pick and choose.
Regular Anvils are another way the game shakes things up, as they can be used to level up weapons and items, or boost weapons with extra damage if they’re at the level cap, though the more times you boost a weapon per run, the lower your chances of success become for further attempts that run. And succeed or fail, a weapon boost requires gold, so it’s a bit of a gamble that you have to consider.
Gold of course has value outside of runs too: Any gold you don’t spend after a run, win or lose, is banked and can be used to buy permanent upgrades, or do a gacha pull for a new character. Don’t worry, the gacha is purely ingame currency based, there’s no real money nonsense here. And on top of that, getting a character you already own just improves their stats, so getting a duplicate is still a win.
Upgrading is quite important, as you’ll likely need some decent permanent upgrades just to get past the first of 3 stages that are currently available (along with hard mode variants). On top of that, the enemies in HoloCure have a lot more variety to them that you have to be aware of. Rather than just small variances in speed and health, a lot of enemies in HoloCure have specific movement styles or patterns, some also have ranged attacks. And a lot of later waves as you survive longer will throw complex enemy patterns at you that require more of a focus on dodging than just mindlessly cutting through them all.
Don’t worry, there’s plenty of regular swarms you’ll be killing, but HoloCure expects you to watch for the warning signs that indicate things like a massive AOE incoming, or a group of enemies that will just run quickly in a straight direction while covering a large area with their numbers, requiring you to thread the proverbial needle to survive. It actually makes for a much more engaging run in my opinion, and is definitely something that helps give it some identity and appeal of its own compared to Vampire Survivors.
Bosses are also a strong point of the game, with bosses being more than just high HP enemies. Bosses have actual attacks to watch out for: Such as Fubukizilla who constantly fires large horizontal laser beams, or Smol Ame who will try to squish you with a ground pound attack after jumping offscreen, requiring you to flee from her shadow before her butt squishes you dead. And the bosses in later stages get way more complex and involved, making them feel much more like a proper boss fight than just an extra large thing you need to kill. My first fight against Stage 2’s final boss at 20 minutes? I was sweating bullets, because she was shooting bullets at *me* like a touhou boss. It was good stuff!
While there’s admittedly not as much content as Vampire Survivors at the moment since HoloCure is still in development as of this review, what’s there for a 100% free game made out of love is amazing. 29 playable characters, 3 stages (with hard mode variants), plenty of achievements to unlock, and a satisfying and addictive gameplay loop that takes what made Vampire Survivors work so well, but builds on it to forge its own identity.
The chiptune music by Eufrik (https://twitter.com/eufrik) also deserves special mention. It’s all HoloLive inspired chiptune arrangements apparently, and while I don’t know any of the source music, I will say, it slaps good. Stage 1’s theme lives rent free in my head now, and I’m okay with that.
Considering the asking price is absolutely nothing, there’s no reason to ignore this game in my opinion if you’re a fan of either thing, or just looking for a good time killer in general. Swing by Ka Yu’s itch.io page and give HoloCure a try! See why VTubers and Vampire Survivors have taken the net by storm, and join the ever increasing army of fans! …Or, y’know, be like me and enjoy the game even though I’m a much more casual HoloLive fan. It’s a fun game, that’s what I care about at the end of the day!