Like most Castlevania fans I was more than a bit skeptical when Castlevania Puzzle: Encore of the Night was announced for the iDevices. But like any true hardcore gamer, I decided to reserve my judgement for the final product itself. While I was not thrilled with the idea of a puzzle fighter I decided to give it a chance and let Konami put my fears to rest.
What I found was, in fact, one of the deepest and surprisingly longest games I have ever played on my iPod. The game takes place after the legendary Symphony of the Night game and has you take up Alucard’s mantle once again. Featuring high production values and a single player campaign that is incredibly long, Castlevania Puzzle: Encore of the Night has a lot more to offer than most any other game on the app store.
Classic Castlevania feel: This was quite possibly the biggest and most pleasant surprise of the entire game. Konami managed to maintain the very essence of Castlevania through traditional map exploration, short character interactions, and many traditional RPG elements such as a leveling system, spells, equipment, and other items to manage.
Music: The music also has a very classic Castlevania sound to it that really helps maintain the essence of the franchise while also keeping the mood intense throughout the entire experience.
Art style: Keeping with the series’ now trademark 16-bit art style, Castlevania Puzzle: Encore of the Night again maintains the integrity of the franchise by not straying from another key element. The detail of each segment of the castle is also instantly noticeable and easily appreciated for the intricate designs.
Depth: Despite the overly simple puzzle fighter mechanic, there is a surprisingly deep and long adventure/RPG in there. There are lots of items/item sets to collect and a wide array of in-game achievements that inspire the player to scour every inch of the castle in search of its secrets. The castle itself is as big as any found in previous titles with many varied areas. Just exploring this behemoth will take hours of your time.
Story: The traditional short story segments spread throughout the castle are by today’s standards sub-par. Contrary to this, these snippets of story have long since been a staple of the series’ storytelling format and thus add a smidgen of charm despite the weaker dialogue than in previous games in the series.
Boss fights: The one real flaw about the game is the lack of potency of the boss fights. The vast majority of them did not feel much different from regular monsters. Sometimes the difficultly is ratcheted up a few notches but often times they just feel like regular fights that go on a little bit longer. This is the only area of the entire experience that really shifts away from the classic Castlevania style. Boss fights always stand out and often require a dramatic shift in gameplay tactics over trash mobs. Perhaps the puzzle-fighter aspect of the game is what prevents this traditional part of the experience from being presented since it’s highly restrictive on what can and cannot happen during a battle.
Control: Another small grievance is the control issues. While the puzzle touch sensitivity can be adjusted it does not seem to help the occasional hiccups that occur with the controls. More often that could be considered just a fluke I found that when I was swiping a puzzle piece around the screen it would randomly drop straight down when I had not made the downward stroke for it to do so. Also the exact opposite happened occasionally as well: I made a downward swipe to make the puzzle piece fall straight down to the bottom of the puzzle and instead it would either do nothing or make one turn in a different direction. Fortunately these problems never caused any major harm I was almost always able to recover from the mistake.
Another control issue that arose was very similar in nature, leading me to believe that there is some fault somewhere in the control design. Quite frequently I would tap on one side of Alucard only to watch in shock as he would walk in the exact opposite direction. The end result would often be two unnecessary fights to get back to where I started. This quickly became my greatest frustration with the game as I am usually pressed for time and would like to make as much progress as quick as I can and avoid any unnecessary combat.
Hints: One of the most frustrating parts of any Casltevania game is when you occasionally get lost when backtracking and retracing your steps in order to find where to go next. Konami has decided to alleviate this problem by having the Master Librarian give you hints at any given point throughout the game. However, the Master Librarian’s hints are often incredibly cryptic and/or vague and as a result are almost completely useless.
Castlevania Puzzle: Encore of the Night took me by surprise in many ways. Having seen so many classic franchises fail miserably when trying to do something a little different, I was initially concerned that making the game a puzzle fighter was a misstep. Fortunately, Konami obviously took very special care to craft a full (and I mean FULL) Castlevania game for the iDevices with a fresh take because what we received is quite possibly one of the biggest games exclusively made for the iDevices. While the game is clearly made with longtime Castlevania fans in mind, there is more than enough content for a newcomer to the series to get their feet wet and enjoy.