Zombies and Vampires focus heavily in the gaming landscape, with series such as Legacy of Kain and Castlevania waving the flag for our favourite nocturnal blood suckers and Dead Rising, DayZ and the upcoming Dying Light and H1Z1 at the forefront to represent our favourite shambling hordes. but the trifecta of literary monsters is not complete without the stalwart Werewolf featuring somewhere. Sadly, Lycanthropes are sorely under represented in the video game medium.
The team at Scientifically Proven Entertainment and Midnight City are here to attempt to remedy this oversight.
Blood of the Werewolf is an action platformer that harks back to the good old days, attempting to emulate the highly regarded action platformers of yesteryear such as Ghosts and Goblins and Megaman.
Prior to taking control of the primary character Selena, we are given an insight into the events leading up to your adventure. Selena, her husband and your newborn child are the remnants of the once proud Werewolf clans, hunted to the brink of extinction by the zealous humans, now in hiding to protect their offspring. Through a series of events they are discovered, your husband Marko is killed, your child Nikoli removed and you are left for dead in the burning remains of your home. Swearing vengeance on the “monsters” that kidnapped your son, you set out to recover him and bring vengeance to those who wronged you.
Although I first compared this game to G’n’G and Megaman, I found this game to be more akin to another old school Action Platformer from the early 90′s. Blood of the Werewolf is extremely reminiscent of Traveller’s Tales first mainstream title, Leander. This is down to both the fluid yet punishing controls and its unusual art style.
Graphically, Blood of the Werewolf does not break any new ground, and in fact has a somewhat dated look about it. With their focus to emulate the old guard of action platformers, it is easy to believe this to be an intentional, old school design, mentality. Selena and the enemy characters have a distinctly archaic feel to them, which sets them apart from the backgrounds, which are a mix of static artistic backdrops and base tilesets, making the characters feel disconnected from the world they inhabit. The overworld map smacks of tribute to G’n’G’s original Stage path display, and the UI and weapon animations are simple and distinct from the character. In other words, it has character. Many people will look upon it, and think that this title may be from the same era as some of the aforementioned titles, and others will see the reverential homage that SPE are aiming for with this title.
I found the narrative particularly engrossing and, being told from Serena’s point of view, you are prompted to root for the character who is ostensibly the traditional villain. From her perspective she is the innocent victim of the piece who, with her husband and son, live closer to nature and the world around them than the humans who share her world, and easily transfers the role of the antagonists onto the humans, who have destroyed her peace, murdered her husband and kidnapped her son. It is only later in the story that her perception of the world becomes more grey, (or blood red), than black and white, and I thoroughly enjoyed this narrative that saw Serena start as an enraged mother and became the fanged vengeance, with more than a share of interesting twists to the tale before the end. I have to say that while the writing is excellent, but it was only made possible by Erin Cummings quality voice acting as Selena. Should either have lacked the required punch it may have fallen flat, but thankfully both writing and voice acting is tuned perfectly for the part.
Gameplay in Blood of the Werewolves is also a respectful clone of these same titular releases. Simplicity itself, controlling Selena is easy to do, but hard to master. At the beginning of the game, you are only asked to navigate simple platform ledges and enemies take few hits from your crossbow to dispatch. As you progress and make your way into the moonlight, you are transformed into your hulking Lupine form and deal out exponentially greater damage and leap with longer reach, with the obligatory double jump ability unlocked. During these sections you are limited to melee range as opposed to Serena’s long ranged crossbow attacks, but each section is catered to suit your form. As you progress, you soon face the challenge inherent with all platformers of this ilk, precision leaping. Whether this be a sequence of jumps in quick successions to navigate a deadly hydraulic system, or just to navigate a jump between two distant ladders over the damaging pool of water, you will undoubtedly die countless times in this game, but this does not matter. This game is aimed at those happy to dust themselves off and jump back in for another try.
What sets it apart from its perceived 90′s contemporaries is its modern progress system. As is common these days, if you die, you are simply returned to a checkpoint, with the focus being purely on speed of traversal and the collectables available within each level. With the finite lives stumbling block removed, the developers had free license to make the more troubling navigation puzzles all the more fiendish. It goes without saying, this is not a game for the faint of heart, or those who find themselves giving up if things don’t go their way; this game will punish you for the slightest miscalculation, but that punishment is a minor setback rather than a disastrous inconvenience.
Throw in some large scale bosses to overcome, hidden items to upgrade your character and a plethora of collectables in each level and there is plenty of challenges and fun available for those willing to devote the time.
The one major niggle I encountered with the game, is also what allows the game to be as challenging as needed to stand out from the action platformer crowd, and that is its checkpoint system. If you feel the need to try to min/max the level the checkpoints are extremely frequent, and I did find myself on numerous occasions either triggering a checkpoint too early, or missing a jump and finding myself frustratingly returned to a part of the level I had already struggled to overcome. If you can look past this annoyance, there is a really enjoyable and interesting title that gives enough challenge, and enough emphasis on the characters plight to see you through. Personally, my love for all things old school is unbounded and this game propelled me back to those halcyon days when I started gaming, and games were extremely difficult yet ultimately all the more rewarding. Plus, hopefully this will be one of many Werewolf themed games on the horizon.
MLG Rating: 9/10 Format: PC / Xbox 360 / PlayStation 3 /WiiU Release: 28/10/13
Disclosure: Midlife Gamer were provided a copy of Blood of the Werewolf for review purposes. The title was reviewed over the course of two weeks on a PC. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.