Capcom recently blew us away with Devil May Cry: Refrain... which was a step-by-step masterclass in how not to adapt a console franchise on the iPhone. Despite the shoddiness of the overall package, we were mainly amazed because Konami have already demonstrated how to do it properly. Welcome to Castlevania Puzzle: Encore Of The Night.
The Castlevania series stands proud as one of gaming's most successful and beloved platforming franchises, but when it came to porting the series over to the iPhone, Konami realised that platformers frequently fail due to insufficient virtual controls. Puzzle games, on the other hand, are perfectly suited to the touchscreen.
As Alucard (the androgynous son of Dracula), players will return to the horrific realms of Castlevania - which conforms to the same floorplan as you'll remember from the masterful Symphony Of The Night. You'll explore the dark demesne, level up your character and learn new abilities to explore new parts of the sprawling map. Instead of engaging in combat, however, you'll play a fast and addictive puzzle game against the castle's ghoulish denizens.
Castlevania Puzzle is built around a central core of familiar match-three mechanics, which simply requires falling pairs of gems to be rotated and placed into groups of three or more. Making matches removes them from your play field and adds them to your foe's stock; which directly influences the damage doled out to both characters at regular intervals.
Devastating spells can be triggered in real time rather than waiting for the attack counter to run down, creating a puzzler that's both instantly accessible and suitable for monstrous boss showdowns.
The only problem with the combat system is that damage meted out according to an insanely powerful algorithm that ticks along behind the scenes. It's a shame to set up huge combos without seeing it instantly affect the enemy, but it's a tiny problem in an otherwise excellent title. Seriously, I had to convince my girlfriend to lock my iPod in her car just to get this review finished. It's that addictive.
Don't assume that Castlevania Puzzle has gone soft just because it's swapped precision jumps for pearly gems. The rock solid roleplaying elements are still in place along with a robust magic system, bags of equipment and a whole host of achievement-esque challenges. Depth needn't be sacrificed when making an iPhone spinoff.
Castlevania Puzzle lifts original art assets, level design and creatures directly out of Symphpony Of The Night; meaning that the experience is deep, attractive and authentic above all else. What's more, C-Vania games are renowned for their astoundingly awesome operatic rock soundtracks, which have also made the transition in their entirety. Crank up the volume!
The only major problem is one that's also dogged most other regular Castlevania titles: backtracking. The experience is built around gaining new skills to access previously-locked rooms, but with the slower progression and inadequate maps, it can be difficult to remember where these areas are.
- Fast accessible puzzling
- Addictive RPG elements
- Authentic visuals and assets
- Indirect damage
- Exploration and backtracking can be unwieldy
- Can be dangerously addictive. Productivity beware!
Summary: Castlevania Puzzle: Encore Of The Night is how a portable spinoff should be done. It treats the source material with respect whilst replacing possibly finicky combat with a new addictive draw. Highly recommended.
Developer: Konami Digital
Compatibility: Compatible with iPhone, iPod touch and iPad. Requires iOS 3.0 or later.
Price: £2.99 - App Store