Castlevania Puzzle: Encore of the Night takes the classic Castlevania: Symphony of the Night and transforms it into a puzzle role-playing game. Can they do that?
I consider Castlevania: Symphony of the Night to be one of the greatest 2D action role-playing games ever created. It has everything: Responsive controls, an engaging storyline, Metroid-style item-based exploration, tons of equipment and spells, and RPG-style leveling that saw Alucard rise from de-powered weakling to super-powered son of the baddest bloodsucker to ever walk the Earth.
So what happens when you take away Symphony of the Night's fluid 2D combat and replace it with a puzzle game? This happens.
It's Symphony Of The Night: Castlevania Puzzle: Encore of the Night is Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, only instead of battling your way through countless creatures as you traverse the various areas, you're fighting individual monsters and bosses in a frantic round of block puzzle madness, somewhat similar to Puzzle Fighter. An hourglass slowly marks off turns as you match blocks. When it turns, both sides do damage to one another. If your side fills, you take a large chunk of damage while a chunk of lines clears.
Once Symphony fans get past the odd combat mechanic, the game starts getting very familiar. You'll traverse maps very similar to the ones you're used to, fighting familiar bosses to gain access to magical items that grant you the power to explore more areas of the castle. Richter Belmont and Maria Renard show up along the way, offering helpful advice or throwing new obstacles in your path. Even the music is lifted straight from SotN, though I'd highly suggest using your own tunes to help get into the puzzle rhythm.
Deep Inside Castlevania: The depth Konami has packed into this $4.99 iPhone game is astounding. This is much more than a simple puzzle game. You've got role-playing leveling and stat progression, spell affinities that unlock new powers to use in combat, armor sets that grant you various bonuses, and a set of 21 honors, which are similar to achievements, only they unlock new abilities and equipment. Between the main adventure, a little extra exploration, and a little level grinding, I spent nearly 13 hours going through the entire game and I still had plenty left to do.
That Damn Touch Screen: A normal, casual puzzle game is frustrating enough to control using the iPhone's touch screen. Add in an element of extreme urgency, and you've got mistakes waiting to happen. This is a game where speed and accuracy are paramount to success, and no matter how I adjusted the control sensitivity, I still found myself dropping blocks where I didn't want to drop blocks or over-rotating, screwing up what would have been match-winning combinations. This is a game that begs for a WiiWare, PlayStation Network, or Xbox Live Arcade release. Anything with a d-pad will do.
The knee-jerk reaction to Castlevania Puzzle: Encore of the Night is to label it a Puzzle Quest clone and move along, which would be a terrible mistake. Puzzle Quest is a combination of turn-based role-playing and puzzle game. With its fast-paced puzzle battles, Encore of the Night is more like a combination of action-RPG and puzzle game. Stretch that across a frame built from one of the greatest 2D action-RPG games of all time, and you've got a fresh new experience that is nearly as satisfying as Symphony of the Night itself.
Castlevania Puzzle: Encore of the Night was published by Konami Digital Entertainment on the North American iTunes App Store on July 21. Retails for $4.99 USD. A code for the game was given to us by the publisher for reviewing purposes. Played game for 13 hours, defeating Dracula. Reached level 29.
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