Game Picks: Hotel Transylvania

October 25, 2012 

The delightfully bloody 1997 PlayStation game “Castlevania: Symphony of the Night” is one of the all-time great platforming games and a true cult classic (heh). The 2-D Japanese side-scroller put the players deep in the heart of a sinister castle to fight through waves of minions and defeat the nefarious Count Dracula.

“Symphony” broke a lot of new ground in the genre by mixing in RPG elements and paying attention to details like environment, mood and music. The game’s soundtrack is frequently cited as a landmark moment in the development of video game music.

The new movie tie-in title “Hotel Transylvania” (DS, 3DS; $29.99; rated E10+) is clearly intended to be a PG-rated riff on the old Castlevania franchise, but it’s sorely lacking in the essentials.

“Hotel Transylvania” is exactly the kind of game that gives movie tie-in titles a bad name. At $30, it’s a surprisingly slight experience – you can burn through it in an afternoon – and has all the hallmarks of a rushed development: Levels are repetitive, animations are minimal and the story is little more than a of a series of fetch quests.

Luckily, the game borrows from quality source material in both concept and execution. The animated film on which it’s based has provided a nice comic back story: You play as Dracula’s daughter Mavis, whose 118th birthday party goes awry when monsters start stalking her new boyfriend around the castle.

Meanwhile, several of the gameplay elements are pulled from the Castlevania series. For instance, you shift into bat form or mist form to get by particular obstacles, and the environments recall the labyrinthine cathedrals and towers of the older series – but with a more ’toony, comic twist.

The game does pepper in a few interesting twists of its own. You can freeze enemy monsters with your vampiric Trance Stare. There’s an optional mode for collecting hidden gems around the castle. And running up walls has always been one of the nicer perks of vampire life.

“Hotel Transylvania” qualifies as a Halloween-themed pick in that younger players, unfamiliar with the Castlevania games, should have a good time with all the spooky 2D platforming. But if you really want to show them a good time, track down “Symphony of Night” on PlayStation Network or Xbox Live Arcade.

Also New This Week: Open-world racing with “Forza Horizon” (X360), elite special-ops action with “Medal of Honor: Warfighter” (PC,PS3, X360), diabolical 3D horror with the disturbing “Lucius” (PC) and the “Spyro’s Adventure” sequel “Skylanders: Giants” (multiple platforms).

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