Postcard Review: Patrick Stewart-infused Castlevania

(Editor’s note: In this feature, members of the Pixelitis staff write small, easily digestible reviews big enough to ‘fit on a postcard’ – hence the title. It can be about the whole experience or just a small piece of the pie. No scores needed.)

Castlevania’s 3D offerings never took off the way Konami probably wanted them to, so with Lords of Shadow, it made sense to give a Western developer a shot at rebooting the series.

In some ways it felt that MercurySteam, whose game was originally not a Castlevania title until Hideo Kojima’s intervention, took the “reboot” aspect too far, borrowing less from previous Castlevanias and more from other 3D action titles like God of War.

Although producer David Cox insisted on distancing the game from God of War, the influence of the series is obvious, from the heavy use of quick-time events, epic boss battles right down to replenishing your health via a green font.

The game carries Castlevania’s tradition of difficulty; that ‘Game Over’ screen became commonplace and from the game’s middle to end I was bombarded with way too many puzzles. Even then, the combat was a thrill, its visuals were impeccable and it featured solid voice acting from Patrick Stewart and Robert Carlyle.

While I understood that this was a new take on Castlevania, I couldn’t help but feel underwhelmed by its minimal ties to the past, especially with its music, which only briefly touches upon a melody or two from the original and Super Castlevania IV.

Nevertheless, Lords of Shadow is an interesting iteration of Castlevania. If fans can forgive some of those gameplay grievances and enter with open minds, they may get as enraptured in its atmosphere as I was.