Many claim that it is hard to beat the classics. Classic movies, classic films, classic rock and classic games were once just humble slices of media that have dug their hooks into everyone’s minds over time. The moniker is often well-deserved because of how they set or even raised the bar of quality. Fans of classic Hollywood movie monsters no doubt lament the treatment vampires and werewolves have gotten from the young adult fiction crowd. Though video games have only been around for a few decades there are even still a few classics. Those in their late twenties and thirties have no doubt waxed nostalgic for the days of classic platformers like Mario or classic shooters like Doom similar to the way grandpa grumbled about walking five miles in the snow just to get to school. Blood of the Werewolf isn’t afraid to hide what has inspired it. A game filled with classic monsters like Dracula and The Creature is coupled with some NES-like gameplay. It seems like a wonderful marriage, but is it? Find out in our review below.
In Blood of the Werewolf, players take on the role of Selena who is chasing after those who have kidnapped her son Nikolai and murdered her husband. But in this story Selena is a powerful werewolf, the last of her kind, and the kidnappers who stand in her way are classic monsters like Dracula, Dr. Frankenstein, and the Mummy. Selena travels across various environments right on the trail of her son. Overall, the plot is quite simple during the initial five or six hours of the game. Narration is provided before and after the end of each level which mainly constitutes Selena addressing her son as if she is writing in a journal. She speaks of the nature of werewolves and why this plight came upon them and the voice actress takes these lines and delivers them wonderfully. Other times she will banter with an upcoming boss but not much else.
While the game’s story is centered around Selena’s journey, the real meat is in how developer Scientifically Proven displays their admiration of those old Hollywood movie monsters. It’s easy enough to dismiss the core story as a way to motivate game characters and while that is kind of true here, it happens with many games of this sort. However, the whole world and lore is framed in such a way that any fan of the “Nosferatu” side of Dracula or the old bandaged Mummy would love it. Levels definitely set a great mood whether they be graveyards, sewers, or clock towers. If anything, it’s definitely a jumping off point for future entries.
A few levels into Blood of the Werewolf the player will find themselves jumping across tall buildings in a city. Soon enough a few billboards can be seen in the background that definitely feel out of place. Careful examination shows that they are clever nods to past games like Ghosts ‘N Goblins and Castlevania (Guacamelee! pulled it off as well). In this way, the entire game is a type of love letter to those old games and, for the most part, it lives up to their standards quite well.
When referencing a game like Castlevania or Ghosts ‘N Goblins, difficulty obviously comes up and Blood of the Werewolf has its brutal moments. The developers should firstly be praised for an excellent opening pace. The first level of the game pushes players gently into the foundations of double jumping, accurate timing, and how enemies are obstacles unto themselves. Sure it feels a bit easy but then the second level comes along and amps up the difficulty. The game is full of many instant death moments where a wrong move or jump will land Selena into a pit or onto spikes. Sometimes these sections can span several screens and are even more punishing because of the checkpoint system. To be fair, arguing about checkpoints might seem silly but there are moments where death can take the player back to the beginning of a very long section of a level. These sections aren’t always hard, they are just tedious to have to work through again because a poorly-timed jump led to death.
Rarely does the game feel unfair or cheap. Often the clever placement of enemies, platforms, and various projectiles turns Blood of the Werewolf into a fun kind of bullet hell game without getting too extreme. Boss fights are another strong point of the title because they are fun and quite contained. Playing out in single screens, bosses require good memorization and careful dodging as if they were enormous bosses from a Mega Man game. If one large complaint could be directed at the title, it would be that it doesn’t feel that there enough fresh ideas outside of the ability to transform into a werewolf. It can definitely be hard to “reinvent” a classic platformer, but there is enough solid gameplay in place to make for a fun experience. However, the addition of health collectibles and power upgrades further urges players to explore.
It feels necessary and important to mention Blood of the Werewolf’s controls in the context of the game. First and foremost, the game should be played with some sort of gamepad as opposed to a keyboard and mouse. When Scientifically Proven aimed for an old-school platformer it needed to be backed up with tight controls. Thankfully, the control scheme is simple and responsive. Because of the focus on platforming, it’s crucial that jumps can change direction mid air and Selena never loses momentum. Some might find it annoying that being hit by something will send them flying back, but any player familiar with older games knows this is par for the course. Very rarely did landings (or even jumps) not stick and occasionally, Selena would lose her footing on a moving platform while standing still or landing on it.
Graphics & Sound
On the technical side, Blood of the Werewolf isn’t anything stellar. Character animations aren’t greatly detailed and often don’t contain a lot of variety. Rayman Legends this is not and things look less detailed up close. Touches like the same death animation being used for virtually every monster is a shame considering that the monsters themselves are actually well designed. But it isn’t all bad news. Where the game really makes its mark is in capturing that monster movie aura. Environmental design is certainly a plus. This isn’t a big-budget title but it’s easy to tell that care was put into giving a distinct atmosphere to Selena and her surroundings. Some levels contain really cool background art and certainly draw the player into the world.
Though there aren’t any spoken lines of dialogue outside of the end level cutscenes, Erin Cummings who voices Selena certainly makes a lasting impression. She takes the role and fills it with a great passion where the player can sense the love, despair, and anger any mother might feel given the situation. Blood of the Werewolf’s soundtrack is also quite impressive. Tracks feel appropriate for the levels they are contained in. The last couple of levels are especially amazing at getting the adrenaline pumping as the game blasts into its conclusion.
Blood of the Werewolf makes the most out of its goal at being like older platformers. It has a lot of those classic touches and uses them in a great world that can certainly be mined for sequels. The care to make the game a great and challenging platformer is only bested by the excellent atmosphere created by the art team. Some bland graphics and shortage of fresh ideas might detract from a second playthrough. But those who enjoy a challenge can improve their skills and shoot for the tops of leaderboards. While the game is only available on PC right now, it will be available on consoles in the first quarter of 2014. Hopefully on consoles (and with better controls) the game will reach an even larger audience up for a challenge.