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Golden Idol Mysteries: The Lemurian Vampire review

Golden Idol Mysteries: The Lemurian Vampire review
Sean Parker avatar image

Final DLC offers the most challenge yet to sink your teeth into

The Case of the Golden Idol was one of 2022's most delightful sleeper hits, and startlingly unique. We'd had the frozen-in-time whodunnit Return of the Obra Dinn a few years earlier, but to have a Mad Libs-style deduction game where players fill blanks by dragging-and-dropping nouns and verbs into incomplete summaries that reveal an ever-growing web of brain-bending crimes ... who saw that coming? Some cases were simple whodunnits, while others got far more twisty and esoteric — and no matter what the game asked of me, I absolutely loved it. I was far from alone; here at the Hotspot, we collectively bestowed it with the title of Game of the Year.

Golden Idol Mysteries: The Lemurian Vampire is the second (and allegedly final) downloadable expansion for the base game, serving as a direct sequel to the previous chapter, The Spider of Lanka. These DLC installments combine to tell a tale similar in length to the original game and make up a fascinating two-part prequel that details how the dreaded idol came into the possession of the conniving Cloudsley family. If you're a fan of what's come before, you probably won't need much convincing that this chapter is well worth your time.

The Lemurian Vampire directly follows where we last left off, but it takes a very new direction from its predecessor. This time the action is set entirely within an isolated, community-focused village on the small island of Lemuria. A few of Spider of Lanka's characters take center stage here, washing ashore after a shipwreck, and find themselves welcomed into the island community.

While fairly pleasant on the surface, there's clearly something amiss with this not-quite-utopian village, and it isn't long before we’re introduced to the malevolent mythos of the Tower Dweller: an ancient menace that resides at the outskirts, whom the villagers have been trying to keep at bay for generations using some rather mystical methods. The newcomers find themselves swiftly wrapped up in the mystery, having their own opinions (and ulterior motives) on how to deal with the Tower Dweller once and for all ... and boy, do things go awry.

I'd highly recommend that you wait on diving into this expansion until you’ve completed all other cases in the series. There might be a temptation for new players to play the DLC first if they want to experience the whole story chronologically, but The Lemurian Vampire contains some of the most difficult puzzles so far, and I firmly believe the base game remains the best starting point. It's nice, though, that this story works well enough on its own that you don't need to have every twist of Spider of Lanka's story fresh in your mind to get a full appreciation of the tale.

What surprised me most about this expansion is the way it adds a major new feature. In addition to each of its three cases taking place across many screens, there's now a bit of minor time travel available. Each case features an overview map of the island for navigation, where two or even three different times of day are available to pick from. Some screens can only be seen at one certain time, while others are available to be revisited at multiple hours of the day for a "before and after" contrast of the fateful events — something that really sets it apart from the base game and prior DLC. This also means that each case has much more to sink your teeth into, with developer Color Gray's excellent worldbuilding able to shine brighter than ever.

The characters really stand out this time around, bolstered in large part by this feature. Being able to see the same people in different contexts during a case allowed me to spend more time with each of them, and I appreciated getting a much deeper understanding of who they were. I was particularly intrigued by the local council: four people with their own domains and responsibilities to ensure life continues in the village as prosperously (and peacefully) as possible, and the writers did an excellent job making each one of them seem committed and caring, yet potentially nefarious. I also appreciated the return of the constantly beleaguered Zubiri Kerra as a primary figure, one of the series' most sympathetic and fish-out-of-water characters.

The deliberately low-resolution graphics we've come to expect from the series make a return, which feel like pixel art tableaus that carry an off-kilter vibe, especially in the character design. Some may find the art style a bit rough or unpalatable, but it's hard to argue that it doesn't fit in with the spooky, unsettling story. Sound design is on par with the prior installments as well: sparse but effective. Music dominates each scene, with little in the way of sound effects, and the all-new soundtrack has the same style and quality of moody tunes that make the series' atmosphere so effective.

The game took me somewhere between three to four hours to complete, though particularly sharp players might be able to finish in two. My only complaint comes with the level of challenge this time around, particularly toward the end. In keeping with tradition established in the base game and Spider of Lanka, the final case of The Lemurian Vampire isn't about solving an isolated murder; it asks you to put all the pieces together from past cases and solve a convoluted web (loaded with backstory) that summarizes the broad strokes of the overarching mystery. This has always led to a very wordy and difficult finish for each game in the series, where the sheer number of sentences makes the task of choosing the right wording more daunting. The Lemurian Vampire takes this issue and runs with it even further by making the sentences vaguer than before, with perhaps a few too many blanks, leading to a finicky challenge where I was spending more effort trying to unravel the game mechanics than the actual mystery.

For comparison, I didn't need any assistance from the in-game help system to beat this DLC's first two cases, but for the finale I needed to exhaust all four hints — and it still wasn't enough. Ultimately I needed to look up a walkthrough, where I learned that I had the right idea, but had been using incorrect phrasing for a few of the keywords in one of the summary scrolls. This is one of the only times in the whole Golden Idol experience where I bemoaned the expectations put upon the player. The backstory and motive of the game's villain is fascinating, brilliant, and completely made sense when it dawned on me — it just took a bit too much effort to get on the game's level and understand not only what was happening, but how the game wanted me to convey my deductions back to it. That said, those frustrations were temporary and faded quickly. My fonder memories of the story (and its clever way of leading into the events of the first game's opening case) will last far longer, which I'd love to talk about in full, but dare not spoil here.

Final Verdict

With this DLC closing the door on the original Case of the Golden Idol, it's time to shift our focus to the mystery of how the developers follow it up. They've already answered our prayers to keep the franchise going with the promise of a full-fledged sequel, but it remains to be seen how much they'll tweak the formula in the upcoming Rise of the Golden Idol. We've now had three home runs from Color Gray, though, so whatever they've got cooking up, they have my trust. As long as they keep their intricate plotting, their larger-than-life yet believable characters, and fascinating worldbuilding, I'm certain they'll compel us all to keep poking into every nook and cranny (and rifle through every pocket). They're just too good at this.

Hot take


Golden Idol Mysteries: The Lemurian Vampire serves up a fitting conclusion to the elaborate and electrifying mystery started in The Spider of Lanka, making that game's satisfying story feel even more complete. Rarely do mystery games make observational deduction this much fun.


  • Exceptional central mystery neatly dovetails into the original game
  • New time-hopping mechanic makes each case feel bigger than ever
  • Packed with great details that flesh out the world in fascinating ways
  • Retroactively makes The Spider of Lanka even better by forming two parts of an epic


  • Very easy to get stuck while trying to form the right wordage in the final puzzle

Sean played his own copy of Golden Idol Mysteries: The Lemurian Vampire on PC. (Note: Requires the base game The Case of the Golden Idol to play.)

1 Comment

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  1. Uh-oh, I succeeded in finishing the original game and the first DLC without any hints, but now I only have the final part of this one left, and reading your review it seems I might have to succumb and ask for help too... But not before giving cracking the case a good try myself first!


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