Did you know, that there is no female equivalent of “werewolf”? We have mermen and mermaids, vampires and vampiresses, warlocks and witches but no feminine werewolf noun. I have thought about this for far too long and I propose they should be called “werebitches”, because it sounds totally badass. Right. Glad that’s sorted.
Blood of the Werewolf is a 2D action platformer from indie developer Scientifically Proven, part Castlevania and part Super Meat Boy, smothered by an overly dramatic narrative that attempts to pay homage to the classic monster movies of the 30s and 40s. It sounds good on paper, but fails to achieve any one aspect particularly well. It just about manages to pass with solid gameplay and decent level design, but neither are anything to shout about.
You play as Selena, a Werebitch, on the hunt for her kidnapped baby after an attack left her severely wounded and her husband dead. But if movies, TV and games have taught us anything, it’s that you don’t mess with a mama’s baby (or a baby mama for that matter) so armed with her crossbow and the ability to go full beast mode, she takes on the other classic ghouls including Dracula, the Mummy and Hyde (of “Jekyll and” fame). I’m not sure why the other monsters are such a pain, though; you’d think being feared and hated by all of humankind would bring them together to form a sort of Munsters-type commune, but apparently not. They hate you and they hate your baby. After a few of them feel the sharp, bloody claws of female empowerment, you find out Dr. Frankenstein is the main culprit and plans to make an army of werewolves from your child’s blood. You are understandably upset by this.
It’s not the worst excuse for a plot ever seen, but it does take itself very seriously. The writing is over the top most of time and doesn’t allow the solid voice acting to do itself justice. If it opted for a lighter tone, maybe one a little more playful, it might be much more charming. Sadly, it demands to be taken seriously, even with such antiquated and tired subject matter.
The influence of classic horror movies is obviously apparent, but poorly incorporated. The grainy, vintage title cards announcing boss fights and new locations are about the only thing that capture the vibe it was aiming for. The atmosphere they were trying to create is slightly at odds with the choice of art style, as Scientifically Proven attempt to merge the monochrome menace of Universal Pictures’ pioneering monster flicks with crisp, colourful cartoons. It just doesn’t work. However, if they had opted for a less serious approach then it could well have suited.
The game plays like any Castlevania clone but with one minor difference: Werebitch powers. In human form, you’re armed with a crossbow; while channeling your inner wolf, you rely on melee attacks but have the added “double-jump” ability. Both have their merits and uses but you don’t get a say in when you transform. At various points in each of the 10 levels, you change from one form to another, but it would be far more enjoyable if you were allowed to choose for yourself. Upgrades are available for each form but, they are well-hidden.
The levels themselves are well-designed, and variation keeps things fresh – there are some clever platform moments that really stand out. Of course, there are also a share of rage-inducing, controller-tossing, hyper-difficult moments that will make you swear like a dock-worker with tourettes. The Super Meat Boy comparison is justified, but where that game made you feel like it was your fault, Blood of the Werewolf feels less fair at times, with certain jumps or sequences that are too unforgiving.
VERDICT: Blood of the Werewolf is a short ride and, ultimately, a forgettable one. There’s little to bring you back around for another pass unless online leaderboards are your thing, and although it’s selling for a bargain on Steam it just doesn’t come highly recommended. There are some brief moments where it shines, but it’s mostly flat, uninspiring and lacking any real innovation. But the most important thing is that we finally answered the age old question of what to call female werewolves.
AVERAGE. The epitome of a 50/50 game, this title will be unspectacular but inoffensive, charmless but amiable. We aren’t condemning a game by scoring it a 5, but we certainly aren’t championing it, either.