Tuesday, November 21, 2000

Castlevania: Lament of Innocence | 8.0

In a sense this game is old hat. The beautiful fiancée of Leon Belmont, a knight crusader, is captured by Walter Bernhard, a master vampire. Leon deserts the crusades and flies off to the castle of the aforementioned vampire. There, after being handed a mystical whip, he penetrates layer after layer of horrible badness until he faces, and hopefully destroys, his true enemy. Which is about all the plot a good third person hack-and-slash really needs.

However, to create such a game with sufficient workmanship to make it compelling visually and challenging mentally and physically is no small feat. And that is what sets Lament of Innocence apart from many of its competitors. For one thing, developers are always tempted to substitute extreme difficulty for interesting challenges. Lament, on the other hand, is just doable enough to keep the player from throwing the controller at the monitor in disgust. And its puzzles can be resolved by keeping in mind that anything can be a tool.

Castlevania isn't perfect. I found that motion control and camera angle are both a little too loose. To some degree this is intentional, but I prefer controls that send objects where they are suppose to go. Especially when you are leaping from stone to stone in a frantic effort to scale a wall and there is one, and only one, spot from which to leap.

One of the problems in rating a game like Lament of Innocence is that it is very good, but falls slightly short of some other, very similar games. In this case I'm thinking of Devil May Cry. This is a case where 5 stars are too many, but 4 are too few. I would recommend both as great examples of their genre that can be played repeatedly.

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