Blood of the Werewolf is a gem of a 2.5D action platformer that hearkens back to the days of the 8-bit era with new school graphics and gameplay. It stands head and shoulders above other platformers and can almost wedge itself into top tier, first party games for consoles, if only it had a map and animals to ride. Its a game that dares to be fun before it turns into a challenge. The only major flaw is from time to time certain sections of the game are in slow motion even with my top tier computer, but what’s odd is when you alt+tab to a different program and go back in, that fixes the slow.
You play as a Lycan named Selina whose husband was murdered and child was kidnapped. Armed with a crossbow, you alone must save your son and the variety comes in the form of sections that smoothly turn you into a werewolf. In human form, you can high jump, but it seems like if you’re at the edge of a platform, your long jump only goes a short distance. So leap before you get to the edge. I think its designed so you can jump off, collect an item over a pit and still land where you started. There are plenty of tall platforms and narrow gaps, so a jump this high is by design rather than more traditional low jumps built for distance.
Its a game for a controller, but there are still keyboard controls. The left thumbstick or directional pad moves you while the right gives you aim with your crossbow. The left trigger is to crouch, which makes it more precise than if you had to use the analog stick. The right trigger fires a bolt and there is also a selectable secondary weapon that uses mana.
To diversify things, outdoor segments let you play as a giant werewolf with a high jump and a double jump. This beast has to be one of the widest playable characters in any platformer, but the game is designed so well that controlling something the size of a car is never an issue. You attack with your teeth and claws. The claws are far more powerful and can only be used if you stop attacking for a few seconds. There are also secondary abilities, but I found them less useful. A dash that can double as a ground pound if you do it in the air and others.
Everything can be upgraded; your health, your attack power, your secondary abilities and so on. There are plenty of gold and uncommon blue medallions that lead to an upgrade to give you incentive to collect them all. Secrets can be found by pushing up against the correct walls or taking a direction off the beaten path. While the game does offer some exploration these are straight forward areas.
You have plenty of health and you can have some restored along with your mana. Checkpoints are frequent, but the further into the game the longer between them. There is a blend of calmer sections with enemies and combat for every crazy section with death traps that requires speed. As the game progresses, it tilts from one end of the spectrum to the other. It starts off easy and ramps up the challenge on a nice incline that keeps it enjoyable.
When you get hit, you’re knocked back and even with all the platforming, its always forgiving. There are pits full of water, ooze or even lava that hurt you, but you’re still alive. All of these liquids also add a layer of depth, because when you’re covered, you move slower. So if you’re hit with toxic green vomit, you’re slow until the effect wears off. Its much better than just getting hit.
The game does a lot to mix up the challenges. You go from light platforming and shooting enemies, to dodging projectiles. Then its dodging crushers that telegraph when they’ll slam shut. After that its fire walls that damage rather than cause a gooey death like the crushers. There are sections on convener belts where you’ll have to sneak past red lights, because if they see you when you’re green, they launch a projectile that homes in on you.
Every three levels, you’ll get to fight a monstrous boss. Up first is a giant mutant whale, then its Mr. Hyde himself that uses an energy chamber to hide. The bosses are a lot of fun and a good break from typical levels. They have attack patterns that get randomized, so you need to be on your toes, but its nothing too difficult.
Death sends you back to the last checkpoint after a brief death screen with hints and nostalgic phrases such as “Its dangerous to go alone” and “oh what a horrible night to have a curse.” The game summons a lot of nostalgia here from classic games and twists it to meet its own standards. There are references to the Belmonts in rooftop billboards. River City is spray painted on brick walls. There is a section similar to Quick Man’s stage from Mega Man 2 where you need to plunge down while avoiding the game’s crushers. It feels like there’s a homage to the mansion from Ghosts and Goblins complete with ladders. Between the levels, you get to see a map scroll charting your progress like Ghouls and Ghosts or the original Castlevania.
Here you have a serious game with blood, violence and a kidnapping with a lot of references to classic games from the mid 80s to keep anyone amused. Its something that I can imagine may turn people off with the mismatch of a serious tone and a lighthearted one, but I loved it. Your character is never part of the amusement, her son has been kidnapped.
At the end of each level you’re graded based on your time and how many medallions you’ve collected. A lot of the blue medallions I’d find after I as able to get them. Its a reason to play again and with the clock always on the screen, its a game with speed runners in mind.
The art style is very enjoyable. Areas look different and there are nice cut scenes here and there. The water and projectiles glow effectively. There is lighting and and other enjoyable details in the background.
In terms of enemies, there are only a few types in each area, but they’re used effective. Projectile shooting fish men, ground stomping men of fire. One type of enemy hurls things at you which makes him perfect to hide behind cover. Wolves seem to be the basic fodder enemies, which is like you or I having to shoot a chimp. The variety is less of a focus and there are far more crushers than enemies.
With all of the good covered, I can talk about the bad and I’ve already told you about the worst sin and that’s the slowdown. It only happens with a few sections of the game and while its an issue, it makes the game easier. The other issue is how soft the volume is on the voice acting. I had to crank it up just to hear any of it. You can still skip the brief animated cut scenes, but there should be a voice volume as well as the ones for music and sound effects.
Its well worth its dirt cheap price. I’d dare say that I’d pay much more for the enjoyment I get out of this game. Its a true gem just waiting for anyone to find it.