Developed by ‘Scientifically Proven’ and released during E3 week, it would be easy to not notice the release of ‘Blood of the Werewolf’ to XBLA on Xbox 360. This throwback to the very olden days of the 2D Platformer is looking to howl at the full moon to get the attention of gamers hankering for that touch of old school gaming. But does it succeed in bringing such nostalgia to 2014?
‘Blood of The Werewolf’ tells the story of Selena, a werewolf who narrates the story during the voice-over scenes in-between the ten levels that make up the game. Selena was enjoying a peaceful life with her husband and baby until they were attacked resulting in the death of the husband and kidnapping of the child. The game will see Selena go on a quest of vengeance against the attackers whilst trying to win back her child.
Visually the game uses a cell shaded cartoon style which does work well but also looks very generic after only a short time. Gameplay consists of Selena switching between human and Werewolf forms whenever the action moves from inside to outside during a level. In human form, Selena is able to fire a crossbow to take out enemies and can jump longish gaps by holding A and can climb ladders to reach higher and lower platforms. In Wolf form, Selena can double jump to reach higher platforms, can dash attack using RB and has powerful claw slash attack. Both forms can obtain new abilities and upgrades as the game proceeds, most of which are automatically awarded as you progress through the levels as the challenge in enemy increases.
The main issue with trying to bring a little nostalgia from gaming styles of yester year to modern gaming is that not everything should be brought back. The style of platforming action just reminded me of all those poorly rushed out SNES titles which all follow the same patience testing formula of just adding more and more enemies on screen with environmental hazards to obstruct your progress. It was a lazy way of reproducing the same game by just changing the look of the environment and player models. ‘Blood of The Werewolf’ suffers the same problem in that as you progress, all that really acts as a challenge is the increasing numbers of enemies on screen who shoot projectiles which you have to either navigate pass or like me, get bored and just take the hits and move forward. The environmental hazards become nothing more than an exercise in “learn timing, die, repeat” as some of the nods to the old school platforming days quickly make the player understand why such gameplay was left in the past.
Between the levels you have the voice of Selena narrating her own story of why she is doing what she is doing. The voice acting is rather hit and miss as you encounter the main characters in the story. Whilst Selena is portrayed very well, the character Dr Frankenstein for example is hammed up to the level that it undoes the good voice work for Selena. It serves as a reflection of the aspects to the game that do work against those that bring the enjoyment levels down.
Where the game really falls down for me is in the gameplay. As the game starts, the early levels are very well balanced as you get to grips with the two styles of play, as Selena in human form and Selena in Wolf form. In human form, using the crossbow to take out enemies at distance works well as you navigate the ladders to progress through the levels whilst allowing you time to get to grips with how the Werewolf controls work. But as the levels flow, the game just uses the cheap mechanic of simply increasing the number of enemies on screen all firing at you which can knock you off a ladder in human form or grinding down your health as the werewolf, or using environmental challenges such as blocks that have to have the right timing or results in an instant death and sending back to the last checkpoint. The frustration can be put down to user error at times, but I found the majority of cheap deaths are a result of the clunky controls not responded quick enough for the challenge presented. Whilst this styles does work for a game like ‘Super Meat Boy’ where the whole premise of the game is to beat the more increasingly difficult level, in ‘Blood of the Werewolf’ it just feels as though the developers failed to come up with a better level design concept and decided to just throw in ridiculous obstacles to make the player feel as though they need to do better where at times you will simply just die because it is the only way you discover the obstacle itself.
‘Blood of the Werewolf’ is a game that markets itself on being a nod to an old generation of platform games but sadly picked all the annoying and worse elements to bring to their modern day title. Which is a shame as you can see the intent of the developer ‘Scientifically Proven’ to pay homage to a genre of gaming they clearly enjoyed and wanted to emulate and honour with this title, but sadly it has more negatives for the player than positive ones which ultimately make it a poor trip down an unwanted nostalgia road.
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