Blood of the Werewolf

There are few properties that have been reused as much as Universal's Classic Monsters. Serving as the stereotypical model for their respective archetypes, seeing them in a property that deals even a little in horror is really no surprise. It is surprising though, when their use manages to be both referential and fresh, adding its own spin to the monsters while paying them the respect they deserve.

Blood of the Werewolf manages this feat twice: once for the monsters themselves, and the second for their mix of old school and new school action platforming. It's an interesting take, especially when you compare its masocore leanings to the terrors its mascots-as-bosses are capable of inflicting. In fact, one of Blood's only faults is that those leanings make extended sessions frustrating, though it's more then ample checkpoints make the act of starting or stopping a non-issue.

Starring Selena, a mother werewolf whose husband was killed and child kidnapped, Blood swaps the standard videogame revenge fantasy, allowing a woman to fulfill the “Liam Neeson-esque” Taken role. It would have been nice to see a break from this type of story telling, as it the revenge/rescue story is getting a bit stale as the go to reason for nearly everything videogames, but it fits well within the genre, drawing direct parallels to your Marios and Meat Boys. The long way to the kidnappers is riddled with some neat takes on the classic monsters. Everyone is represented, from a Creature that goes deep into its watery roots, to a steampunk Dracula, who's path to the immortality of his race lies in tech coffins that constantly spit out inferior genetic copies. The homage to monster movies is also picked up in each stage's title card and dialog pieces; one highlights a classic look, while the other provides a personal back drop to the story that indentifies this as a world where the monsters know of each other.

While in her human form, Selena is armed with a vicious crossbow and a decent jump, and her areas tend to focus on precision jumps and single enemies, often mixing the two in a positively mean fashion. One section of note, located in the second half of the game, has you jumping between collapsing platforms while dodging/killing homing projectile spewing priests. It, like the rest of the game, was difficult but fair, and the deaths, of which there were more then a few, served more as teaching tools then roadblocks.

That's not to say there weren't roadblocks, as many of Selena's stages lean heavily into timing traps, with the developers showing a real love for anything that smashes things into a fine mist. In these sections, even small deviations are met with swift and sudden doom, which makes the placement of Blood's versions of the coin collectable far more evil. These sigils, which extend your health bar upon collecting enough of them, often seem within reach, but the alterations needed for jumps to collect them all can be devastating in such a timed environment. It's a problem that can surely be solved by time and practice, as those sections are nothing if not tests of memory and reflexes, but I let loose more then a single curse trying, and failing to grab them all.

Blood adjusts it's formula when Selena is exposed to moon light, which shifts her instantly into the form of a rather beefy white wolf. While her bite is more the equivalent of Selena's standard crossbow shot, it's the wolf's ability to perform a focus attack by not mashing the attack button that really allows her to open up. Add to that the wolf's ability to double jump and heal herself, and its easy to see how those sections escalate into a series of long jumps between platforms, where landing often involves attacking or dodging whatever is there waiting for you. I found these areas to be a bit more forgiving, as the wolf is capable of re-jumping after being hit, and one of her blood powers gives back health.

While the self heal adds to the wolf's survivability, I imagine that it was only included to help people like me power through situations that would have caused us much undue stress. To add some challenge back, like it needed it, Blood grades your performance, giving you a letter score at the end of every level. While I never ranked below a C, the only way to earn more then just a couple of the game's achievements will be to complete each stage with a higher grade, and I imagine that the highest grades are only earned by not dying and not getting hit. I look forward to not earning these.

I say that not to be dismissive, but to simply acknowledge the amount of time and dedication it would take to truly achieve those grades and milestones. Blood is not an easy game, and I found myself taking multiple breaks throughout its levels in order to come back to the challenges with a fresh outlook. This is one of those games where you have to stop and assess what you've learned by your death, even if it's just a simple acknowledgment of events combined with a “must work harder/move faster/play smarter” remark. Certainly not bad, but it does affect the way I consumed the game, leading to many small sittings as opposed to one or two big ones.

If that kind of thing does float your boat though, Blood also offers a score attack and endless mode. The endless is of particular interest, as it switches you between Selena and the wolf in quick succession during a march through an endless side scrolling room with a limited supply of lives. I made it 20+ deep before I my ticket was punched, but the change from set levels to one stage shifting as you go was a fun one.

With a style carved from some old greats, Blood of the Werewolf is an excellent game. Comfortable in its own skin and not afraid to play with the ideas that brought it to the party, Scientifically Proven's first venture into the platform genre is a joy, even when it's doing its damnedest to teach you lessons you don't want to learn.