Note: Castlevania Puzzle: Encore of the Night is now available in the U.S. [Link] as well as Internationally [Link]. We've bumped up this review to reflect the new U.S. release.


Back in May when Konami announced a new Castlevania game exclusive to the iPhone, many gamers (myself included) were disappointed to find that it was actually a gem matching game with a Castlevania theme. With Castlevania Puzzle: Encore of the Night being released today, to say that I was skeptical that I would enjoy it would be a huge understatement. Much to my surprise, not only did I enjoy the title a great deal, but I became helplessly hooked on leveling up my character, discovering new items and spells, and exploring the immense castle in the game. If you can get past the fact that this isn't your traditional Castlevania affair, then you will be treated to one of the best puzzle-RPG games available for iPhone.

Castlevania Puzzle is an offshoot of the highly regarded Castlevania: Symphony of the Night game that began life on the Playstation but has since been ported to multiple platforms. Most of the characters, backgrounds, and even the actual layout of the castle will be familiar to fans of SOTN. The music is also of the same excellent quality as the original title, and actually much of it sounds like just slight remixes of the first game's music. Characters are comprised of sprites that look only slightly upgraded from those in SOTN, which means they're a bit pixely, but they are animated nicely and fit the overall theme of the game. Everything about Castlevania Puzzle looks, sounds, and feels like the Castlevania we all know and love.

>Like most the Castlevania games in recent years, you'll make your way through Dracula's castle room by room, with certain parts of the castle being unreachable until obtaining the proper item or ability. This means that revisiting parts of the castle is a must as you attempt to explore every nook and cranny. This is made less tedious by the inclusion of teleportation rooms spread throughout. A set of lines connecting each of the rooms together tip you off to which way you can proceed, and once you enter a room you may find an item, battle against an enemy, or sometimes nothing happens at all.

When you do enter into a battle, a short intro animation (which can be skipped by tapping the screen) shows you what enemy you'll be facing. You then proceed to the arena which looks similar to competitive gem matching games of this type. Gems fall in pairs of two from the top of the screen, and matching 3 or more of the same color gem erases them from the board, sending blocks to the opponents side and dealing damage to their HP. Gem pairs can be moved by sliding anywhere on the screen, rotated with a quick tap, and sent directly down with a swipe. Some gems are inactive, meaning they won't disappear when matched with like colors until a match has been made to gems that are touching their perimeter. They then turn into normal gems, and through strategic planning this facet can be used to create elaborate chains and score huge hits on the enemy.

Gameplay is nothing groundbreaking for a game like this, but it works and is an easy concept to pick up on. Filling the opponents screen to the top with gems doesn't necessarily mean they're defeated, and will instead take a chunk of their HP away. This means that for enemies with a large amount of HP, you may actually fill their screen to the top multiple times before finally defeating them. This works the same for you, and winning a match comes down to who can completely deplete the other players HP first. The battles in Castlevania Puzzle are slightly mundane at the core, but the addition of items and magic spells to the formula spices things up quite a bit.

As you traverse the expansive castle, you'll come across various items that can be used during battle. A quick access menu at the bottom of the battle screen gives you four slots to assign either an item or magical spell to. Each time your character levels up you can assign points to typical attributes like strength and stamina, as well as magical areas. There's five types of magical areas to level up in (like Lightning and Fire for example) and each one of those contains four unique spells to learn. Leveling up your character is great fun as you can choose to hone in on specific areas like strength or a particular magic type, or just slowly enhance them all in a balanced fashion. Using one of these spells from the quick menu will instantly deduct an amount of HP from the opponent you are fighting.

In addition to the magic system, there's a number of weapons and armor to collect and equip your character with. These can affect your overall offensive and defensive stats, and as you take on progressively harder enemies and bosses, it's vital to be outfitted with the strongest gear possible. There's even a shop that can be visited from the teleportation rooms in the castle. You can buy or sell items and equipment with the money you earn from defeating enemies.

Castlevania Puzzle is an incredibly complex game, and while on the surface it appears as merely a gem matching game with a Castlevania theme, there's much more going on here than just that. As such, there's certainly aspects that I haven't touched on in this review, but this should be ok as the game has a fantastic tutorial system. The same character that runs the shop also serves as the guide, and he'll pop up from the bottom of the screen whenever you embark on something new. It's really well explained, and although it's a complicated game, the tutorial makes sure you can ease into everything as you become familiar with it. Once you do, the game flows really well and is completely engaging as you want to explore just a bit more of the castle or earn some XP on your way to your character's next level.

I'm not going to deny that I wish a proper Castlevania game would come to the iPhone in all its platforming and enemy whipping glory, and I'm still holding out hope for that someday. But it's hard to dismiss what a fantastic game Castlevania Puzzle actually is, and most importantly how much fun it is. My only real complaint about the game is that the controls during battle can be overly sensitive. Not unplayably so by any means, but expect to errantly spin a gem or accidentally send one to the bottom when you don't mean to. You adjust to it somewhat to, so it's surely not a deal breaker.

With countless items and weapons to collect, a number of spells to learn, plenty of enemies and gigantic bosses to fight, and a compelling story and character progression system to tie it all together and keep you playing, Castlevania Puzzle: Encore of the Night will keep you busy for a long time. Most importantly, however, is that despite the gem battling aspect of the game it feels entirely like a robust Castlevania game through and through, and should really appeal to fans of the series.

Non-US App Store Link: Castlevania Puzzle: Encore of the Night, $4.99

TouchArcade Rating

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  • Delusionaltool

    So can we get a reason why konami did this to the us yet again? are they waiting for american reviewers to hype it up first? just doesnt make sense to screw over the us, they loose however long till its released sales so in a way they loose money doesnt really make sense to me....

    • Eli Hodapp

      Konami seems to submit two different versions to the App Store, one for international markets and one for the US. The US version could just be held up in the approval process and instead of "screwing over" the rest of the world, they released the international version when it was ready.

      Either way, I'm sure it will be out soon enough. It's in Konami's best interest to get this game out the door as quickly as possible.

    • MidianGTX

      You've got it easier than you think. Move to the EU and you'll end up complaing about being screwed over daily.

    • Jackoftrades

      Delaying a release doesn't necessarily lose the company money. And they aren't likely to be doing it intentionally.

  • Lord Gek

    1) Are highscores tracked in Arcade?
    2) Is there anything like a Tournament/Survival Mode where the player must defeat an endless supply of baddies in one on one battles until finally overcome?

  • MidianGTX

    Question: I keep hearing the term "original sprites" thrown around, yet these screens seem to show either updated sprites or at least some kind of filter to hide the blockiness or the originals. So which is it? The old screens showed Alucard as being a higher resolution than the enemies, which looked downright weird, but it looks like that's changed now...

    I know it may seem like a trivial matter, but it's clear they're using the SotN theme to draw the fans in, so if they want to do us a good service, these are the things we're interested in.

    • Kaos999

      Some sprite are shiny and updated, some aren't.

  • http://twitter.com/BulkSlash BulkSlash

    I've got to be honest the game hasn't really grabbed me. The puzzle game seems to be dreadfully generic, being little more than a Columns clone.

    The other problem I've had (maybe it's my iPhone 4's screen?) is that dragging and dropping shapes just doesn't feel very smooth or responsive. Compare this game with the excellent iPhone version of Tetris and it's clear the game just doesn't respond to inputs as well as it could.

    The Castlevania theme was enough to make me buy the game, but to be honest I very quickly went back to Helsing and Rafton to kill vampires with torches and potions... :)

  • Woodlandstar

    Alucard sprite is updated. Some of the enemies look very blocky though, especially on an iphone 4.
    The music is the same as SOTN, not remixes though as the review suggests. I think they have been trimmed though, possibly to keep the file size down.
    I think it definitely needs an entire castle map view though, as you can only view what ever area at the time.

    • Woodlandstar

      I meant you can only see the map for the section your in such as the library for example, you can't zoom out and see the whole castle which would be a help for navigation.

  • Bryan

    Is it just me, or is this game incredibly boring? Seriously, I'm shocked by how dull it is. Castlevania packaging on an otherwise unremarkable game.

  • Demonskunk

    Is it just me, or does this game look more like a crappy fan-made game than an actual Konami release?

    I want to try this game, but everything just looks... bad.
    The animation in the trailer is choppy, the way the combat looks is uninteresting, the map system looks boring, and just uses a crappy shrunken down version of alucard's main sprite.

    Konami needs to try a little harder, or this game is going to be ranked as the iphone's "Judgement"

    hrf.

    I might grab a lite version if that have it and give a real opinion on it - but seriously, konami, this just looks like an effort to make more money without effort :<

    • http://www.squarezerostudio.com squarezero

      As has been stated earlier (and, frankly, should be obvious to anyone who thinks about it) if they wanted to make no effort, they would have just ported Symphony of the Night. Making a new game (regardless of what it looks like to you ) takes effort, both from a design and coding perspective.

      Is it just me, or is "is it just me" just a tired and cliche way to start a comment?

      • Bryan

        It's just you.

      • eleven59

        i would have been happy with a lazy no effort port of SOTN, or any castlevania game for that matter....

      • http://www.squarezerostudio.com squarezero

        The comment wasn't directed at you, Brian. But now that you mention it, the phrase was tired and cliched when you used it, too Didn't mean to make you feel left out.

      • http://soiled.com Gload

        Don't mind SquareZero, he's just a bitter troll skulking around nearly every post to flame nonsensically. Including the part where he tried to justify the difficulty of creating an App Store game when the developer is a multi-billion dollar company.

      • http://www.squarezerostudio.com squarezero

        Hey, at least I didn't insult anyone personally. It takes a real troll to do that.

      • Jim G

        Squarezero is direct, but he's never struck me as a troll.

        As for the game, I'd like to see a traditional Castlevania game, but this might be fun depending on the actual execution and gameplay.

  • Zonko

    Does seem rather lazy, but it's a decent enough Columns clone.

    I really don't understand why it's in landscape mode though. It just makes the very vertical oriented playing area incredibly small and fiddly to control.

  • dekon

    Mr T mode on/ I pitty the fool who buys that game! /Mr T mode off

  • Cookies

    This looks cool, but puzzle fighters really aren't alot of fun for more than a few minutes, and it's still not a real Castlevania. Until they give us atleast some ports then I'm gonna stick with playing grokion.

  • Murloc King

    Murlocs in Castlevania?

    • GDawg

      Alucard in Warcraft?

  • juno

    Give me the real SOTN !! SOTN is best episode of Castlevania!!

  • Chris

    I don't get puzzle fighters - why not make it a true RPG, or just make a full on puzzle game without the extra nonsense (Like Helsing's Fire or Hexius)?

    • Cookies

      That would be too awesome and Konami would explode.

    • Xurkey

      But Helsing's Fire isn't a puzzle game.

  • Jetrel

    Okay, seriously? Shame on them. THIS IS NOT CASTLEVANIA. D:

    It's a freaking puzzle game with a castlevania sticker slapped on it.
    How crass.

    A straight port of any existing castlevania game, with no improvements/changes, would be better than this.

  • MrMuesli

    *Yawn* How about a Castlevania Whack-a-Mole game next Konami, or perhaps a Dot-to-Dot...

  • Fokion

    Actually, it's Puzzle Fighter meets Puzzle Quest with Castlevania assets. Not a bad combo by any means. I just wish that performance was better on the 3G.

    • http://soiled.com Gload

      It doesn't play like puzzle fighter at all. You don't make cubes, you don't have what I called initiator blocks (those lit up spheres). The controls in this game are also really bad and require far too much spamming of swipes.

  • eBoy78

    Jog on haters! its a great chuffing game. If you don't like it, don't buy it.

  • eBoy78

    Jetrel your comments are quite yawn inspiring! Have you played it?

  • Jetrel
  • Gabriel May

    I must have been one fo the few, if not only person, to expect that this would actually be a good game, since I loved Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo :D

Castlevania Puzzle: Encore of the Night Reviewed by Jared Nelson on . Rating: 4.5