It has been some time since werewolf Selena first set off on her adventure. Hers was a journey of vengeance as she sought revenge on Dr. Frankenstein and his movie monster cohorts for the murder of her husband and the kidnapping of her son. Blood of the Werewolf was a wildly entertaining 2D action platformer, as beautiful as it was punishing. A few gameplay foibles, however, kept it from reaching greatness. But time can mend most wounds. Nearly eight months have passed since it hit the PC, and the game has made it onto the Xbox 360 in spectacular fashion–smoother and tighter than ever.
Most notably, Blood of the Werewolf’s difficulty curve has been smoothed out. The occasional difficulty jumps–notably with the timing of the ruthless smashers early in the game–have been ironed out, making the rise in challenge feel more organic. But though the difficulty has been tuned up, don’t believe for a second that the game has been defanged. This is still Blood of the Werewolf, after all, and it is maliciously designed to toss you into the mouth of death any chance it gets.
Ten stages stand between Selena and her confrontation with Dr. Frankenstein. Contained within are jagged spikes, whirling saw blades, fireball-spewing lava, and supernatural beasts such as vampires, ghouls, and skeleton archers. The game keeps you on your toes: platforms crumble at your feet as bats zip toward you, threatening to knock you out of the air and into the abyss below. Countless times I watched my life get snatched away just as I neared a room’s exit. And more than once I had to momentarily stop playing to collect myself by yelling various profanities at the ceiling.
But while the game is difficult, it is not completely unforgiving. There is no set life count, and checkpoints are located throughout each level, many of which lie just beyond a deadly trap. Respawning at checkpoints replenishes your health and ability meters, removing some of death’s sting. Scattered throughout the stages are also sigils, which increase your health after enough are collected, giving you a better chance of staying alive long enough to reach the next checkpoint. The platforming mechanics are fantastic, and in fact, the game feels better than it did before. In my initial run with Blood of the Werewolf, I lamented the times when Selena would drop off a platform if she landed on the edge. I didn’t encounter this phenomenon even once as I played the game on the console. Every time I died, it was due to my own inability to complete a room, and not from faulty mechanics.
The occasional difficulty jumps–notably with the timing of the ruthless smashers early in the game–have been ironed out, making the rise in challenge feel more organic.
Blood of the Werewolf separates itself from many other platformers by offering two different ways to play its story. Selena is a lycanthrope of folklore, able to shape-shift into a massive werewolf when blessed by the moon’s power. She remains in human form so long as she has a roof overhead, using a crossbow to tackle mythical monsters as well as activate various switches and levers. In her more powerful werewolf form, Selena uses her teeth to tear enemies such as harpies to shreds, while benefitting from her enhanced agility to double jump across gaping chasms.
The abilities of each of her two forms are bolstered with special power-ups you collect along the way. Selena’s crossbow gets upgraded to shoot arrows that split, causing extra damage, or arrows ignited by fire, which work wonders against shuffling zombies. Powers she collects in her werewolf form include a rush attack and an ability to fire off charged energy, great for blasting foes from a distance. She may also howl at the moon to regain some health, a vital power that saved my wolf hide in many white-knuckled boss fights.
Throughout the game, you fight boss monsters straight out of classic Hollywood horror films. You tangle with the likes of Mr. Hyde and later dodge snaking waves of purple energy while trading blows with Dracula. Most battles have you shift between Selena’s two different forms, forcing you to switch up your play style. The boss fights are challenging, and the key to winning is your ability to watch and learn each enemy’s unique patterns and then strike when his or her guard is down. It can take multiple tries and a load of patience, but that only makes the eventual victory all the sweeter.
Once you finish with the story, you can try out the game’s extra content. Score Rush includes 10 stages where you must collect as many point as possible while keeping the clock from running down. If you’re feeling especially masochistic, you can try Endless Challenge, which pits you against room after room of vile beasts, burning jets of fire, and instant-kill spike walls. Finally, you can check out the bestiary, which provides the history behind the many monsters that haunt the game, as well as the myths that inspired their creation.
You tangle with the likes of Mr. Hyde and later dodge snaking waves of purple energy while trading blows with Dracula.
When I wrote the initial review of Blood of the Werewolf, I mentioned my disappointment with the ending. I noted that it “emits more of a whimper than a howl,” but not just because I was writing about werewolves and wanted to sound clever. The game’s ending rang hollow and bittersweet considering the hours of abuse that paved the road to get there. Thankfully, better gameplay wasn’t all the developer focused on with the game’s second release. Blood of the Werewolf has received an expanded ending, which provides a better summary while hinting upon surprising revelations in Selena’s future. With the fixes and gameplay mechanics, what remains is Blood of the Werewolf in its finest form: enjoyable, challenging, and, at long last, satisfying to the very end. Dreadful traps and Hollywood’s most famous monsters stand in your way. How long will you last against the forces of darkness?