Thursday, November 4, 2010

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow

*HM found the old Castlevania music and it is playing in the background as I type*

We all remember Alucard, the most transparent pseudonym EVER. We all remember the creepy music. The map that slowly but surely revealed itself with every newly discovered inch of territory. Those were things of beauty from a bygone era. With that in mind, don’t go walking into this thinking that it is just a new installment of the old series. It isn’t. It is hugely different from the 2D, side scrolling, maze-like house you are accustomed to wandering through. Whereas combat used to be almost optional, it is now essential. Puzzles that mostly consisted of figuring out how to get into and out of rooms are replaced by more complicated brain teasers.

Let me start out by saying this about the graphics on this newest incarnation of a classic video game: OMGWTFPHENOMENAL! I mean, this thing is f-ing PRETTY! The attention to detail on both scenery and characters (monsters and non monsters alike) was exquisite and when necessary horrifying. As a goth girl, I want to live in the castle. Giant columns and statues, Byzantine tile work, arches and stained glass windows all over this vast structure set, of course, on top of a remote mountain. And, while you might assume that there would be an over abundance of dreary colors, you would be wrong. The first few chapters of the game take place in a lush forest. The artists responsible for this game were not afraid of the color wheel and wielded it like a master swordsman would a blade. There are an abundance of Steampunk aspects (two words…Clockwork Tower) that will appeal to the lovers of that style as well as monsters, blood and gore for the horror fans. Like I said, this game is f-ing pretty.

There is a judicious helping of magic use on both the light and dark sides of the scale, but no morality system to distract you from the game play itself. The only real drawback that we could find was the lag time involved in blocking. Now, you won’t die repeatedly if you cannot manage to block (dodging saves your sorry hide just as well), but if you can’t master the block it does removes some pretty sweet looking combo moves from your repertoire.

For the puzzle lovers, this game has a plethora of them. Mirror puzzles, order puzzles, trick door puzzles, portal puzzles, and on and on and on. Being a puzzle junkie, this made me VERY HAPPY. But not everyone is puzzle inclined. Well, Kojima thought about that crowd, too. On the bodies of fallen knights, you will find “hint scrolls” and you have the option (if you just aren’t interested or get so frustrated you want to smash things) of solving the puzzle. The only thing you lose is some bonus XP.

This is a two disc game and we are a little more than halfway through. The storyline is compelling enough that I was hooked in the first few levels and am anxious to find out what the FRAK is going on. A lot of the extra story aspects are found on the bodies of dead knights littering the landscape everywhere you go. If you buy the game, there is plenty of content to get your money’s worth with the trials and difficulty levels. If you rent it, there are enough collectibles to be enjoyable for those with OCD (Obsessive Completion Disorder) but not so many as to be more pain in the a$$ than they are worth.

So, overall, we are extremely pleased with the new Castlevania: LoS. It is visually stunning, mentally captivating, and challenging in its game play. If you liked the old games and are prepared for a revamping (pun completely intended there) of an old classic, find time to rent this at the very least.

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