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Castlevania Puzzle: Encore of the Night – iOS

Castlevania Puzzle: Encore of the Night – iOS

Castlevania Puzzle: Encore of the NightPlatform: iOS

Release Date (NA):  July 21st, 2010

Developer:  Konami

Publisher:  Konami

Genre:  Puzzle

Nerd Rating:  7 out of 10

As my research into the Castlevania franchise continues, I continue to stumble across strange little titles like this one, Castlevania Puzzle: Encore of the Night.  Sounds like a total gimmick, right?  It’s easy to brush the game off as “some damn puzzle game” but after seeing the level of craftsmanship put into Order of ShadowsI decided that it may just be worth a look.  First released for iOS devices and later on the Windows Phone platform (no Android port for whatever reason…), it could be easily classified as just another time-waster.  True, it does lend itself well to waiting rooms, car rides, long lines, and other daily lulls, but it’s done in such an interesting fashion that it’s hard to resist.

Encore of the Night retells the story of Symphony of the Night using the same sprites, the same castle, and a similar inventory system.  There’s a lot to deal with here, and it’s all thrown at the player very quickly, but the game starts out easy enough.  Players can choose from any number of characters in Arcade Mode, but the real fun comes in playing through the Story Mode.

Castlevania Puzzle: Encore of the NightAs Alucard, the player moves through a map of the castle, room by room.  Some rooms are inaccessible for various reasons.  Much like the game, they depend on Alucard gaining items or attributes to enter whether it be doors sealed with blue magic or the ability to double jump to reach higher places.  The player doesn’t actually do these things (such as jumping), but Alucard’s movement through the castle is represented by his attainments.  In nearly every room, at least when entered for the first time, Alucard “battles” a creature.  The 2 sprites appear onscreen, and a “puzzle battle” commences.  Depending on the player’s stats and how well they’re doing with the puzzle, a certain amount of damage is exchanged at regular intervals represented by an hour glass.  Items can be used during puzzles to help the player or harm the opponent, among other things.

Clearly there’s an awesome calculation or formula at work here, because characters level up and equip items much like an RPG.  Besides monsters, Alucard stumbles across all sorts of armor and weaponry in the castle which can be equipped to enhance certain stats.  Whenever the player levels up, they’re also granted a few points with which to boost their base stats.  Spells can eventually be cast using MP, and it all makes for a very customizable experience.  Once one gets into the game a little it becomes easy to pick up and put down at will, but the first few battles demand some serious attention to fully utilize the potential of the game’s features.  Enemies get tougher (the AI gets better at puzzles) very quickly and a combination of top-of-the-line equipment, good puzzle skills, and deft usage of items is needed to win.

With everything that’s going on, it’s remarkable that all the player is really doing is playing Dr. Mario-like puzzles.  Blocks come in 5 different colors and fall in pairs.  The object is to clear blocks by touching 3 of the same color in any configuration.  Complicating matters are “inactive” blocks, which must first be adjacent to a cleared set before becoming eligible to be cleared themselves.  The concept is super-easy; the key is accuracy and speed.  When cleared segments can be chained together, that is when dropping one block clears multiple sets, it begins dropping an entire layer of inactive blocks on the other player, essentially rendering existing pieces useless for the time being; the player must then “start over” and clear new blocks to render the fallen ones “active.”

Castlevania Puzzle: Encore of the NightThe game doesn’t end when the screen fills up; it ends when one of you dies.  When and if the screen does fill up, a certain portion (about half) is automatically cleared and HP are taken away accordingly.  This can lead to devastating hits without warning.  It’s frustrating to chip away steadily at an opponent only to have absolute hell rain down but it can also lead to amazing comebacks.  One thing that I found interesting from both my perspective and that of the opponent involves these massive deliveries of blocks: if they don’t outright destroy the player (or monster), and the player (or monster) can spend some time recovering, the plethora of blocks can lead to some incredible yet unintentional chains that often lead to even larger “downpours” of inactive blocks on the opposing player.  The amount of attention given to both balance and variety is something not usually encountered in run-of-the-mill puzzle games, and certainly not anything I expected out of something as derivative as Castlevania Puzzle: Encore of the Night.

In retaining the essence of most Castlevania games, Konami has done its best not to make Encore of the Night too easy.  The first couple of areas can be traversed without much incident aside from the occasional lucky monster, but the game doesn’t wait too long to get into full swing.  When moving into new territory monsters are fierce, unrelenting, and smart…all in the context of puzzle playing, of course!  As trivial as the entire concept might sound, “battles” are tough.  It pays to be quick and dump blocks on the opponent early on, but it’s also important to set up chains to do serious damage before they have a chance to do the same.  Balancing the long game with the short comprises an ever-narrowing window as the enemies get tougher, and mitigating the 2 is at the crux of successful gameplay.

Castlevania Puzzle: Encore of the Night

Another clever and worthwhile inclusion is the “Safe Rooms.”  These act as places of rest and respite within Encore of the Night, offering several useful services to the downtrodden adventurer.  Just by entering the room, Alucard recovers all lost HP.  As in Symphony of the Night, these rooms also act as teleporters to other Safe Rooms, a nifty way of getting around without too much backtracking through the demonic hordes that inhabit the castle.  Via the magic of video games, a shop is present in each and every Safe Room where Alucard can stock up on items to use in battle and buy equipment.  He can also offload unused or obsolete equipment for cash.  The shopkeeper carries bigger and better stuff as progress is made, and plenty of gold can be collected over the normal course of the game from slaying monsters.

Castlevania Puzzle: Encore of the NightEven though the puzzles are at the core of gameplay in Castlevania Puzzle: Encore of the Night, the stats and items and spells and other stuff have a profound effect on one’s level of involvement, especially those familiar with Symphony of the Night.  Having purpose and goals behind beating the AI enhances the sometimes mundane quality of playing puzzle after puzzle.  Fighting bosses, traveling through the castle, unlocking new areas, finding items, and improving one’s character may all be limited to a conceptual and representative role in Encore of the Night, but somehow it works.  It doesn’t seem hokey or unnecessary.  Instead, it comes across as novel, useful, and well-rounded.  No glaring flaws get in the way and each of the many facets seems to serve a true purpose.

Graphics may not be pushing the envelope considering what touchscreen devices are capable of, but it does a great job of replicating the look from Symphony of the Night.  In fact, I don’t think the graphics were so much replicated as they were reused from the previous game.  Players are treated to music from the original as well; it even changes as one enters into different sections of the castle.  Controls are simple and intuitive yet fully customizable.  Touch sensitivity, among other factors, can be fine-tuned to give every player the perfect feel.

Encore of the Night may not turn any heads as a puzzler or Castlevania title, but it is a neat little game that serves its purpose well.  It manages to combine somewhat generic puzzle mechanics with Castlevania lore in an effective manner and without becoming just a puzzler with a mere Castlevania facade.  The two concepts are integrated well, so well in fact that Castlevania Puzzle: Encore of the Night had a difficult time connecting with audiences.  What started at $4.99 quickly dropped to $1.99 and then $0.99.  Castlevania purists will be left with a blank look of dissatisfaction while puzzle fans will be puzzled by the Castlevania framework.  Perhaps Konami combined 2 things that were destined to remain separate; even so, they managed to do a great job.  For $0.99, this clever take on the average puzzle game is definitely worth a look.

Reviewed by The Cubist

Written by The Cubist

The Cubist


Co-founder, Head Author, & Site Technician

Find out what these ratings mean and how I rate video games.

I collect as much video gaming paraphernalia as I can get my hands on, especially when it comes to hardware. With over 40 systems including oldies like the ColecoVision and Intellivision, obscurities like the CD-i and 3DO, and the latest and greatest including the Wii U, PS4, Xbox One, 3DS, and PS Vita, I get easily overwhelmed. Most of the time you can find me firmly nestled sometime between 1985 and 1995 when it comes to my games of choice, but I’m also having a great time seeing what the 8th generation has to offer.

Currently in love with: Mortal Kombat

Email me anytime, about anything: thecubist@nerdbacon.com

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2 Comments

  1. A “mobile game, puzzle spin-off” sounds terrible on paper if it borrowed from any franchise. So surprising to see that this one is well done. Too bad there’s no Android version 🙁

     
    • Yeah, I was a little pissed too. I got an iPod Touch a couple of years ago for $200 with a damn 3″ screen, and just a few weeks ago I got a 7″ Samsung tablet for $50 less. I’d much prefer to have this on my 7″ screen. I guess I should find some kinda touchscreen Windows device to complete the picture.

       

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