For the longest time, 2D platformers were disregarded in this industry. This was due to the growing popularity of 3D fare, but as of late we're seeing more and more games nostalgically modeled after the classic 2D style. Joining the fray is Blood of the Werewolf, Midnight City's latest release, which is greatly improved from the PC release we saw several months back.
Dark and stormy gameplay
The game tells the story of Selena, a woman with a dark, hideous secret. When she's out in the moonlight, she transforms into a bloodthirsty werewolf. She decides to use this in her favor when it comes to hunting down the vile Dr. Frankenstein, the man responsible for her dead husband and missing son.
Blood of the Werewolf divides itself into two types of gameplay, both which happily embrace the side-scrolling style of old. When she's a wolf, Selena is able to bite into enemies, while also performing double jumps and executing new attacks, such as a cool "rush" technique that makes her body aglow and charges through most enemies with ease. Then there's her human side, which you'll be playing with a majority of the time, where she'll have typical jumping and running capabilities, while utilizing a crossbow as her weapon of choice.
That's not to say her human side is useless, as she can still collect orbs like a champ and wield secondary firepower to give her an edge, including firing double arrows and fire arrows that can scorch anything they touch. These aren't as common as you might think, so conservation will be in your best interest as far as they go.
The gameplay is tight and responsive in both forms, and any deaths I ran into over the course of the game were, as expected, my own fault. Still, that doesn't mean Blood of the Werewolf isn't ready to put up a fight over the course of its ten stages.
Tough as a beast
What's great about this game is that it's tough, but not impossible. There were many segments where I found myself meeting a demise, whether it was with the consistent string of mashers that popped up midway through the first stage, or the instant spike walls that didn't give us an opportunity to breathe later on. Fortunately, the save points in the game are supplied throughout, so if you do manage to survive the tougher points, you'll be rewarded by not having to go through them again. Here's a lesson that a few developers should learn: provide a little mercy after making us work so hard.
You'll need to work hard, too, because the bosses also put up quite a fight. Classic monsters like Dracula and Mr. Hyde pop up, along with a few others that we won't mention for the sake of spoilers. They play out like traditional bosses from the NES days, with special attacks to memorize and defeat in order to make it to the next round. Fortunately, you'll have enough lives to go around, since the game doesn't penalize as far as body count goes.
The presentation's not quite a howler
While Blood of the Werewolf won't be confused with more beautiful 2D affairs (like the recently released Child of Light), it's a good-looking game. The environments and character design harken back to the classic horror movies of old, and the level design can be downright diabolical. For instance, the mashers segment in the first stage of the game is relentless, but you can actually peer at a map in the background to see the best way to go (and then, of course, die several times before you finally beat it). It's nicely designed, if not as elegant as it should be.
The audio has room for improvement, though. The music gets repetitive way too often and doesn't nearly have enough "spookiness" behind it, and the sound effects are basic, save for the werewolf's joyous gnashing sound effects. More variety could've been useful here.
Bloody good extras
Once you finish Blood of the Werewolf's main story mode, you can take advantage of extra modes. Score Rush introduces 10 stages where you try to rack up as many points as possible, competing against other scores. Endless Challenge is good fun as well, living up to its name as you bombard as many enemies as you can in one single run. Finally, the Bestiary provides a fascinating history on the monsters you'll come across in the game. Sure, there's learning involved, but it's nice to see Midnight City provide a little history to go with its bloody action. If only the Castlevania games did something like this.
Blood of the Werewolf is a pleasant little surprise from Midnight City, a game that's improved greatly since its PC release with a number of touches here and there, along with the additional modes. The presentation may not sparkle as greatly as it should, but the solid gameplay and fun secondary modes are great. And for hardcore 2D fans (you know who you are), that's more than enough.
Final Score: 7 out of 10.
This review is based on a review code provided by the publisher. Blood of the Werewolf is available now for Xbox 360 and PC. The game is rated M for mature.