Castlevania: Curse of Darkness PlayStation 2
Published by Konami
Developed by Konami
Release Date: Out Now
Castlevania: Curse of Darkness, an introduction.
The Castlevania games have long been regarded as superb games. For years they were 2D side-scrolling affairs that offered a superb mix of combat and platform game action. When the series moved into 3D, critics were not so impressed even though the first Castlevania game on the PlayStation 2 was actually very enjoyable. The trouble here of course is that when you move a 2D series into the world of 3D it can't remain the same and it's natural that some gamers won't like the changes that have to be made. Castlevania: Curse of Darkness is the second Castlevania game to appear on the PlayStation 2, so let's see how it's turned out.
What's the game about?
Three years ago Dracula was slain. It should have been a time to rejoice but Dracula's dying words were to utter a demonic curse that placed Vallachia, and the rest of Europe, under the grip of fear. Pestilence, heresy and mob violence are now in full swing. When Isaac, a friend of Dracula and fellow Devil Forgemaster, hears of Dracula's death he believes that Hector, a former forgemaster, betrayed him because he had given up his evil powers in an effort to lead a normal life and therefore didn't protect Dracula. Isaac takes it upon himself to see that Hector's love is killed and in return Hector swears revenge upon Isaac, which is what this game is about.
What's good about the game?
Whilst there are some issues with Curse of Darkness on the whole it's a solid action game and one that can keep you playing for hours at a time. To a large extent it's very similar to the previous Castlevania game we reviewed on the PlayStation 2, which we also happened to like, and there are some new features to make this experience sufficiently different. You'll have Innocent Devils (I.D.) which are mystical creatures that are created by forgemasters. These I.D. are a kind of mini-assistant that will follow Hector around until they are slain. The I.D. use hearts as energy and health combined so even if they are slain they can be revived providing Hector collects enough hearts (from slain enemies) to do so. You have to be careful though as using an I.D's special powers will deplete their hearts. The I.D. will level up and gain experience along with Hector. In effect then in Curse of Darkness you'll want to not only level up Hector but also his I.D. so they are more effective in the latter part of the game. You can issue a few basic commands to the I.D. by using the directional pad. You can also have them do as they wish by selecting an automatic mode for them. There are several types of I.D. in the game, over 30 in fact which is quite impressive.
There are a lot more weapons to use in Curse of Darkness and weapons now have their own combos which makes things a little more interesting. Hector can also make his own weapons using the weapons and materials he'll take from enemies. The process of creating new weapons is fairly simplistic but it adds some extra depth to the game and it's a feature that I'm sure most will appreciate. Hector can also steal from enemies at certain points during a battle. Money, potions, materials etc. can all be stolen and it's worth noting that the objects you can steal appear to be different from the items you might obtain from simply killing the enemies. It's also great to see the action move out into the open and there are a variety of locations in the game that all make a nice change from simply fighting your way around the castle. That said however, you're still confined to a specific path but at least this prevents you from becoming disorientated and you can call up the map (select button) that allows you to see what direction you should be travelling in.
What's not so good about the game?
Whilst Castlevania: Curse of Darkness is a good action game it does have its problems. Our biggest complaint is probably that the game feels a bit too easy. You'll begin by facing enemies who don't offer any challenge at all and at first you'll just put it down to the game offering a gentle learning curve but as the game progress the anticipated rise in difficulty just doesn't seem to materialise; at least if it does it's negated by the fact that Hector has levelled up so much by then. Only at the game's climax does the game offer a real challenge. It's a shame that graphically the game hasn't improved from the last PlayStation 2 version of Castlevania. The level design is also a little uninspired and at times it feels like you're moving from one room to another with very little difference between the two. The camera angles can be a little problematic, particularly if you use the lock-on feature, although for the most part it's fine. You could also argue that respawning enemies are a source of annoyance, although you can exploit this to level up Hector so maybe it's not that much of a problem.
How does it look?
Graphically Curse of Darkness isn't really that much different from the last Castlevania game to appear on the PlayStation 2 (simply known as Castlevania here in Europe) which is slightly disappointing. Whilst the frame rate almost always remains smooth (it can dip when you first encounter a large amount of enemies but this only lasts for a fraction of a second), you'll notice that the draw distance is never great and looking down corridors etc. you'll notice that grey shrouds are used to mask this. The enemies for the most part look good and there's quite a variation in size between them.
How deaf gamer friendly is the game?
Subtitles are available in Curse of Darkness and they are enabled by default. In-game dialogue and cutscenes are subtitled which is great to see but it's a little disappointing to see that the subtitles are not colour-coded or that the character's name who is speaking isn't placed alongside the text. This isn't a major problem though and at least you'll be able to follow the game's story. All other information is shown in text too, such as tutorial tips and descriptions of the items you find etc. The tutorial tips can be recalled at any time by accessing the pause menu (using the start button) and selecting tips.
Castlevania: Curse of Darkness can be described as a solid, if not inspired sequel to the first Castlevania game that appeared on the PlayStation 2. The new features, the weapon creation and the Innocent Devils etc., are actually quite good but they don't change the formula in any significant way. The difficultly level does seem very odd though and for the most part the game feels much too easy for anyone who is used to action games. Problems aside though Castlevania: Curse of Darkness is quite enjoyable.
Overall Game Rating: 7.3/10
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Castlevania: Curse of Darkness is a solid sequel with some interesting new features but it's fair to say that it's a game that hasn't really advanced the series and there are some problems here too.