There are a few gaming genres that simply aren’t made very often anymore, whether it be due to lack of interest, or that gaming has simply evolved since then. One of those genres you don’t see a lot anymore these days are the very difficult platforming titles other than the standout hits like Super Meatboy and VVVVVV. If you’re into the old classic style of crushingly difficult levels that requires many restarts, patience, and memorization, then Blood of the Werewolf might be right up your alley. Released last year on PC, Blood of the Werewolf is now available on Xbox Live Arcade at a cheap price and has taken much fan feedback from the previous iteration and has some added improvements (alongside a free update for the PC players).
Selena, wife and mother, returns home one day only to find her husband murdered and her son kidnapped, but the twist is that their family was the last of the werewolf clan. The baddies portrayed in Blood of the Werewolf are all takes on classic movie monsters, such as Frankenstein, Dracula, Mummy, and more. In all of the kidnapper’s brilliance, they happened to do this on the night of a full moon, allowing Selena to use her hidden monstrosity to aid her in getting her only child back. Selena is bloodthirsty and won’t let anything get in her way. If there’s something you never do, it’s come in between a mother and her child. The story is simple and won’t have you clamouring to find out what happens next, but it’s enjoyable enough to keep you interested until the end, which I was let down with its weak finale.
Being that Blood of the Werewolf is a hark back to some classic gaming roots, you’ll run into very challenging levels that will require precision platforming skills, and will require even more patience as you replay certain areas over and over to complete them properly. There are quite a few sections in some stages that reminded me of old classics like Mega Man and Battletoads, specifically the sections that had Selena jumping down a shaft with crushing walls. One wrong move and you’ll become splatter on the wall, though after a dozen or so tries, you’ll finally complete this very small section but feel like you just conquered something substantial. That’s something that these brutally difficult games do well, is that they give you a real sense of accomplishment when you finally complete that grueling section that you’ve been retying over and over.
Luckily there are a few modern mechanics included such as infinite lives and a plethora of checkpoints throughout each level. While this may not be totally consistent with days gone by, it’s a welcome addition and helps ease frustration as a whole. Surprisingly, the controls for Selena are actually quite tight, and I never really found myself blaming the controls for multiple deaths like other games. Even though Selena is a werewolf, she’s only able to transform into one when she’s in direct moonlight, so large portions of the game where you’re indoors will be played in her human form, where outside will have you as a werewolf; each with their own strengths and weaknesses.
Human form Selena uses her crossbow to shoot from a ranged distance across the whole screen at her enemies and also has the ability to shoot multiple arrows at once for extra damage when needed. As a werewolf in the moonlight, Selena has the ability to double jump and uses her claws for much stronger, though short range, attacks. Sections are clearly build for each form of Selena, and I was kind of hoping for more levels that would play into her form changing more often. There are also a handful of boss battles that offer as a nice change of pace from the difficult levels. These are were the classic horror monsters will make their cameos, and even though the boss fights themselves aren’t terribly difficult, and recycle the same telegraphs and moves, it was a welcome distraction and change of pace from the standard levels.
I found I hot a spike in difficulty around half way through the game, requiring me to make exact movements with perfect timing, or else I got one-shot or knocked back into deadly pits below that kill you instantly. Couple this with enemies coming at you from many angles and you can see where the frustration starts to set in when the smallest enemies cause you to restart a section over and over. There is an upgrade system in place, but to get these, you have to collect specific upgrade badges. Problem being is that they are either very well hidden or very difficult to reach, so there’s actually many upgrades you might simply miss altogether if you don’t have a keen eye or much patience. Some upgrades are quite useful, where others seem almost pointless later on like the health upgrades, since you’ll get knocked off ledges and instantly killed regardless of your health meter.
With an online leaderboard, there are some bragging rights for those that have the patience and skill to brave the levels over and over to prove they’re the best. If you’re the competitive type or the kind of gamer that needs to find every secret, then Blood of the Werewolf will offer a lot of replayability once you finish the story. If you’re like me and don’t really fit into those categories, then the one playthrough will be more than enough, though at the cheap price point, it feels like a fair investment for the few hours of gameplay you’ll get trying to help Selena save her kidnapped son.
As mentioned above, Blood of the Werewolf feels like a fan service to those gamers that loved this specific genre. If you were a fan of Super Meatboy or VVVVVV then I suggest checking it out. It offers punishingly difficult levels but with a rewarding payoff (unfortunately this doesn’t apply to the story’s conclusion in my opinion). Tight controls and a unique drawn visual style surprised me, as many smaller indie-like games can be a crapshoot of what you’re going to get. It’s great to see that a new game in a genre long gone can emerge today and be fun to enjoy even if it’s not from a well-known developer.