Note: iOS 9 + Facebook users w/ trouble scrolling: #super sorry# we hope to fix it asap. In the meantime Chrome Mobile is a reach around
hot  /  reviews  /  videos  /  cblogs  /  qposts

Soul of Darkness

Review: Soul of Darkness

2:00 PM on 07.12.2010 // Tony Ponce
  @megaStryke

If gaming were a religion, it would vary in practice and observance from person to person. In my case, I'd model it closely to the faith with which I have the most experience, Catholicism. I'd recognize my own Holy Trinity of Gaming -- the triumvirate of Mega Man, Contra, and Castlevania, three distinct franchises that encapsulate all the values I hold dear.

So strong is my reverence that that it trickles down and extends to all the other games that have been directly inspired by the Trinity. I've kinda made it my mission to seek out these disciples and judge whether they are true prophets or self-serving pretenders. There's really a fine line between hat tipping and straight-up ripping off.

Soul of Darkness caught my attention when it appeared on DSiWare last week. A Castlevania-lite for five bucks was too good of a deal to pass up, any game preaching from the Book of Belmont deserved at least a minute of attention. Too bad it ended before its minute was up.

Soul of Darkness (DSiWare)
Developer: Gameloft
Publisher: Gameloft
Released: July 5, 2010 
MSRP: 500 Nintendo DSi Points

Like all of Gameloft's home console releases, Soul of Darkness is a port of a mobile game, specifically a slightly enhanced, two-year-old cellphone game. The total domination of the iPhone in the mobile space has forced app development into high gear, turning the hardware into a robust platform. When it comes to vanilla cellphones, however, there are still many roadblocks that keep gaming in the ghetto. Even if these titles find new life on dedicated gaming machines, many of those limitations will fail to be addressed.

Such is the issue with Soul of Darkness, a game that shows great promise but ends too damn quickly. I wouldn't have been as nonplussed had the roughly two-hour playtime been extremely feature-packed, but it blows what little load it carries before the end of the first half.

You are Kale, a vampire hunter on a quest to rid your amnesiac girlfriend Lydia of her nightmares. A bad ol' vamp named Ritter who claims to know Lydia personally suddenly swoops in and kidnaps her, and thus your adventure begins. It's a bare bones framework that recalls the simpler days of 8- and 16-bit Castlevania before the timeline became a convoluted web of hasty retconning.


Borrowing much from the post-Symphony of the Night era, the sprite and background art are rich in color and detail. There are a few enemies that look and behave exactly like their Castlevania counterparts, including imps and succubi. You break statues and secret walls to uncover items. The bottom screen display's the current stage's map. Even Kale's movements are animated similarly to those of Alucard or Soma, right down to the delayed body turn when changing direction.

All the humanoid characters sport what I like to call the "Konami Mannequin Head." In many of Konami's sprite-based games including Metal Gear and Contra, the small size of character sprites meant that facial features would be hard to distinguish and thus were not added. This design quirk wasn't unique to Konami, but I most associate it with that company and in particular Castlevania, a series that for the past two decades has maintained a relatively unchanged aesthetic.

The game teases a grand skill set but doesn't deliver. You start with a flame sword and later gain an ice spear, then you enhance their strength and magic attributes by infusing them with purple souls from fallen enemies not unlike Onimusha or God of War. There are no other weapons aside from these two, making the enhancement system feel underused. You also have the ability to transform into one of three monsters but only in rare designated areas, another unfortunate waste of potential.


On the other hand, the focus on small set of moves keeps the game running at a brisk pace. The eleven levels are surprisingly varied -- there are water spouts that you freeze into ice platforms, laser traps that you navigate by blocking the lasers' paths, and a forced scrolling level during which you ride on an angelic swan. Hell, a couple of boss battles feature cinematic quick time events! Imagine that! Normally, I'd be up in arms over QTEs, but they are used here sparsely and to great effect.

For a laugh, you can use the DSi's camera to paste your face over any of the character portraits used in cutscenes. The camera also comes in handy at special booths that reward you with souls, health, or magic if you take a photo that is predominantly red, green, or blue respectively. This latter function is a bit temperamental, requiring perfect lighting conditions -- I took a close-up photo of a house plant and the game wouldn't recognize it as green! I found that the best way to cheat the system is, if you have access to a computer, fire up a paint program, use the bucket tool the fill the whole screen, and snap a shot. BAM! Suck it!

Though progress is swift, jumping is floaty, enemies lack agility, and all action in general feels sluggish. I'm positive that this is another holdover from the game's cellphone days. Considering how cumbersome it is to play anything on a keypad, the game would have to be tailored with awkward button placement in mind. Apparently, the code wasn't properly adapted to the DSi, and the challenge is lower than it should be as a result.


The game is just way too easy. As in Castlevania, levels are split into rooms that are a few screen lengths in width or height. Should you die, you will be sent back to the start of either the current room or the previous one. The enemies you killed return and your soul count drops to pre-checkpoint levels, but your health and magic are restored. Since you have unlimited lives, death is essentially free of any consequence. In fact, if you are running low on health or if you made a room's puzzle impossible to solve, you can select "restart" from the pause menu to insta-kill and rejuvenate yourself! It's an invitation to brute-force your way through the adventure.

After a disappointing final boss who doesn't even have the courtesy to whip out a second, more beastly form, you are given the option to replay the game on so-called "hard mode." The enemies deal slightly more damage, but since you are allowed to carry over your leveled-up weapons and health/magic upgrades, the net challenge increase is zero. With no other rewards of features to speak of, you are done. How unbelievably anticlimactic.

UNOFFICIAL OFF-BRAND GAMES SCORE

You are holding a Nintendo DSi in your hand. You have access to three real Castlevania games, all available used for less than a twenty spot and packed with more than ten times the juice. Why should you bother with crumbs that provide no nourishment when there's a feast waiting in the next room? Are those unused DSi points burning that deep a hole in your pocket?

Empty calories, people. Empty calories.

The Mortal Kombat Scale of Palette-Swapped Create-A-Ninjas:

OFFICIAL REVIEW SCORE

In all honesty, Soul of Darkness is a decent game that adequately captures the gothic spirit of the Castlevania franchise. Unfortunately, its failure to expand upon promising game mechanics, its criminally short playtime, the absence of any real challenge, and the lack of compelling replay value make it hard to recommend. I wouldn't give it the time of day if it was priced any higher, but for five bucks, it's a nice diversion for a lazy afternoon.



THE VERDICT

6.5

Soul of Darkness - Reviewed by Tony Ponce
Amicable - A presentable but unmemorable time. Focusing on the bright spots helps, and I appreciate the effort, but I won't be playing this repeatedly.

See more reviews or the Destructoid score guide.

Tony Ponce, Former Contributor
 Follow Blog + disclosure megaStryke Tips
(Decommissioned) Super Fighting Robot more   |   staff directory



 Setup email comments

Unsavory comments? Please report harassment, spam, and hate speech to our community fisters, and flag the user (we will ban users dishing bad karma). Can't see comments? Apps like Avast or browser extensions can cause it. You can fix it by adding *.disqus.com to your whitelists.

destructoid's previous coverage:
Soul of Darkness


View all:powered by:  MM.Elephant

Ads on destructoid may be purchased from:



Please contact Crave Online, thanks!


Summer Wars: The Video Gameā€¦.I mean Digimon: Cyber Sleuth

Gaming's Beautiful People #4: Valentine's Day Special OR Love Multi-Kills

Exist Archive: The Other Side Of The Sky Import Review

Stupid Teens Do Stupid Things: An Oxenfree Critique

A blog test. Brought to you by Buckner & Garcia

Cblogs of 2/11/16, 2/12/16 + Firethoughts

XCOM 2 And The Glory of Mods

PS+ Games of the Month January 2016 - Feat. GajKnight and SolarPonyDjango

Your Opinions On Racing Games Are Stupid

The Nerds Have Won

 Add your impressions

 Quickposts
Status updates from C-bloggers

Parismio avatarParismio
Omg i love the internet
Mike Martin avatarMike Martin
Iron Paladin avatarIron Paladin
Jed Whitaker avatarJed Whitaker
I can't wait to mute Niero. #NoRules #ThePurge
Joe Parlock avatarJoe Parlock
I spent all last night playing Day of Defeat: Source. If only Valve gave it even half the attention it did to TF2 or CS:S...
BaronVonSnakPak avatarBaronVonSnakPak
Nearing Platinum status.
CoilWhine avatarCoilWhine
THIS IS THE BEST EMAIL I'VE EVER GOTTEN HOLY SHIT
Parismio avatarParismio
Sheesh i played metal gear rising before and Platinum ruined the franchise.
Fuzunga avatarFuzunga
Toonami is running a poll right now at [url]www.toonami.com/poll[/url] where one of the questions is which show you'd want un-cancelled. Oh, Teen Titans is included? That's curious...
SlyTAdvantage avatarSlyTAdvantage
"The Ravagers dropped the giant insects and waited for them to evolve ... it's clear. This is their plan from the start" -EDF 4.1 scientist So dragons are evolved forms of ants, spiders and/or wasps ....... what?
Ckarasu avatarCkarasu
Every time I hear "I don't understand why people like _____ game", I get annoyed. Of course you understand, if you've listened to what those people were saying. You just don't agree, and that's A-OK. I HATE Twilight, but I understand why people like it.
RadicalYoseph avatarRadicalYoseph
Just tried playing the first Bayonetta game... it was really bad. Honestly I don't understand why Platinum games are so well regarded. None of them are really worthwhile.
StriderHoang avatarStriderHoang
The first person I block is the person who talks shit about Platinum
Torchman avatarTorchman
Even though your waifus are shit
Darth Wachen avatarDarth Wachen
Finally, a blog that I can call my own, I feel accomplished somehow.
Nekrosys avatarNekrosys
Gonna be honest; this really made my day.
Rico the Penguin avatarRico the Penguin
I doubt I'll use it much but I'm totally fine with a block/ignore feature. Everyone has a right to speak, but I don't think anyone has a right to be heard. If this place played country music I'd want a mute button, basically :p.
Sir Shenanigans avatarSir Shenanigans
Mall haul today (plus I split a BEAUTIFUL Star Wars Slave I with my brother). Any thoughts on Haze? Wanted to play it back when it came out and I had no PS3. For a dollar you can't go wrong!
Dreamweaver avatarDreamweaver
I'm not gonna lie, I don't feel "good" about the upcoming "ignore" feature. Maybe it's just me, but I don't like the idea that people can mute other people because they don't agree with them. Spammers and trolls, sure, but not regular community members.
Gundy avatarGundy
Oh man. Those Next Gen transformations in Megadimension Neptunia are legit as fuck!
more quickposts


Contest!


Seriously

Invert site colors

  Dark Theme
  Light Theme


Destructoid means family.
Living the dream, since 2006

Pssst. konami code + enter

modernmethod logo



Back to Top


We follow moms on   Facebook  and   Twitter
  Light Theme      Dark Theme
Pssst. Konami Code + Enter!
You may remix stuff our site under creative commons w/@
- Destructoid means family. Living the dream, since 2006 -