(DSiWare)

Soul of Darkness (DSiWare)

Game Review

Soul of Darkness Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Corbie Dillard

Castlevania called - it wants its game back

No game publisher has released more games on the DSiWare service than Gameloft. And while the company has received a wide range of review scores among their various DSiWare releases, no one can argue that they've brought some quality games to the service in the short time it's existed. Soul of Darkness marks their 20th DSiWare release, and while the game obviously borrows heavily from the Castlevania series, it still manages to offer up enough new twists to help it stand out from the crowd somewhat.

If you've ever played a Castlevania game, you should immediately feel right at home with Soul of Darkness. You're going to platform and hack your way through level after level, battling enemies with your spears and using your magic to help you navigate the game's tricky levels. While most of the levels are fairly linear in design, they do offer up enough exploration to keep you guessing, not to mention some areas where you'll really have to put your thinking caps on in order to keep progressing.

You begin the game with a Fire Spear and as you work your way through the game's many levels, you'll begin picking up purple soul shards that can be used to level up your weapon. You can even determine which aspects of the weapon to level up such as its Combo power or even its level of magical capability. The more shards you collect, the more you can upgrade the weapon at the end of each level. As you progress through the game you'll eventually be given an Ice Spear to compliment your Fire Spear. This Ice Spear also has its own unique magical powers that will be needed in order to traverse some of the trickier areas you'll come upon throughout the game. You can even use the shoulder buttons to switch between the two on the fly if necessary.

Another interesting twist in navigating the levels is the ability to transform into a special creature. Each of these creatures also has its own special move set which will be needed at times to get through certain challenging sections of the game. You'll generally be given a button prompt when the time comes to make use of them and they're all fully explained as you acquire new ones during your travels.

At the end of most levels you'll have to face off with the traditional boss fight and this is where the game becomes even more playable. Not only are the bosses extremely well crafted, but their patterns are equally impressive. Each boss has a specific pattern and its up to you to figure it out and exploit it. Once you've dispatched of the boss, you'll move on to the next level and be given the opportunity to upgrade your spear once again.

The play controls in Soul of Darkness are nearly as smooth as those found in the DS Castlevania releases and at times offer up even more versatility in their execution. Even the level designs are very well laid out and give you plenty of opportunities to take on enemies, not to mention use your problem-solving skills to figure out how to keep progressing through them. The game also does a nice job of keeping things challenging without making the experience overly frustrating by allowing you to start at the last checkpoint you passed through when you're character dies. While this might prove to make the game a bit too easy for seasoned platforming fans, it's quite a refreshing feature for a game of this nature and only adds to the high level of fun the game offers up.

As if nailing the gameplay wasn't enough, the developers also managed to put some serious time and effort into the audio/visual package and it certainly doesn't disappoint. Not only are the orchestrated musical tracks phenomenal, but the wide array of visuals that go along with them are equally stunning. This game certainly doesn't look or sound like a DSiWare release and it's impossible to not be impressed with how much the developers were able to squeeze into such a small file size. At the very least, it's easily one of the most impressive musical and visual presentations the service has seen to date.

Conclusion

If you're going to create a clone of a game, you might as well make sure it's a great one and Gameloft have done just that. Taking many of the enjoyable visual, musical, and gameplay aspects of the DS Castlevania releases, the game molds together an absolutely terrific platforming experience that's not only extremely playable, but also wildly enjoyable as well. Sure it's a bit more condensed and linear, but this helps it function more efficiently as the DSiWare release it is. It goes without saying that if you're even the slightest bit a Castlevania fan, you absolutely have to take this wonderful title for a spin. In all honesty, the game would be a bargain at twice its 500 Nintendo Points price tag.

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User Comments (48)

Meiko

#1

Meiko said:

Wow, I thoroughly enjoyed the three Castlevania games for the DS,
but a Castlevania clone at this price?! = Instant BUY!

Sylverstone

#3

Sylverstone said:

Wow...... the tagline made it seem like a bad game but you've shocked me with a 9!

Oh well, I'll get a points card for it..... after I buy Pop Island: Paperfield. :)

SwerdMurd

#4

SwerdMurd said:

wow....completely unexpected score.

Well, if it's a good game, it's a good game. Thanks Gameloft.

Terra

#7

Terra said:

I also have the game on my mobile, and I quite liked the game. Good to see the DSiWare version delivers.

Now, we wait for a certain Elf to bash the game :P

theblackdragonAdmin

#10

theblackdragon said:

love that tagline, lol. totally did not expect a good review coming from this game at all. i may have to check this out. :3

Birdman

#11

Birdman said:

irken - So true.

Hmm, this has me surprised. I may have to consider it after I pick up some other titles like Paperfield, QuickPick and Flametail.

edofthe209

#12

edofthe209 said:

Wow. I got this for my Blackberry a couple years back and thought it was pretty fun until I beat it 45 minutes later. It sounds like they went back to it and actually made it fulfill all of it's promise. Cool. Now, do I buy it again?

Natie31

#14

Natie31 said:

Never played this game before but i did download on the first day and love it just known that gameloft made this game right and would get a good score.

Xkhaoz

#16

Xkhaoz said:

Wow, Gameloft's first nine. If only all of their games were this quality.

Slapshot

#17

Slapshot said:

Now where did i put my thinking cap?

Great review corbie. Really unexpected, but I'm glad to see a good new 2D platformer hit the service. I'm buying!

blueyoshi525

#19

blueyoshi525 said:

Great review. I was waiting to hear about this one and now im downloading it for sure. I was a lil thrown by the tag line as well but now it makes sense.

EdEN

#20

EdEN said:

@bboy2970: I downloaded it yesterday at 10:30 p.m., played until 12 a.m. and it said I had finished 77% of the game so my guess is it will be 2 hours if you go out of your way to find all the HP and MP crystals. So far if the game had already ended I would have gotten my 500 points worth but with at least 20-40 minutes left it is a must buy for any Castlevania fans.

LordJumpMad

#21

LordJumpMad said:

The Game sounds great, but I'll past if its too short.
I want a game I'm going to play for only one week....

ErrorSupply

#22

ErrorSupply said:

Getting this for sure, shameless clone or not. And at 5$, length is not a big deal to me. Can't really expect retail length epic at a fraction of the cost (and size limitation).

cheapogamer4life

#23

cheapogamer4life said:

So Corbie loves this one plus EdEN sures us that this isnt a short game.
/ heads to the DSiware shop
@ Gameloft: thanks for another good game after Earthworm Jim for the DSi!

Imerion

#25

Imerion said:

Interesting! I played this game on my phone, but this type of action-based gameplay really didn't work very well there, not to mention the graphics were sluggish and the loading times way too long. But it seems the DSi version turned out rather excellent. If it has more levels and variation that the mobile version, I'll get this for sure. Can't get enough of Castlevania, clone or not.

Adam

#26

Adam said:

Wow, this looks both shameless and awesome. Wish it were on WiiWare.

UNC5052

#28

UNC5052 said:

I just finished 2nd level and it says 19 percent done. I would guess that there is about 10 levels.

MakeMyBiscuit

#30

MakeMyBiscuit said:

Thanks for the review on this game and so fast too. I was just wondering about this game. Now I will have to add it to my list.

Well done!

Stuffgamer1

#31

Stuffgamer1 said:

If it's linear, is it difficult to max out the weapons? I like doing that sort of thing and would be kind of bummed if it was made so you have to carefully choose what you can actually get by the end.

grumblegrumble

#32

grumblegrumble said:

Great! I was hoping this might do well. I hate how ppl hate on Gameloft so much. They have actually brought me some of my favorite games, including UNO ;) I'll have to get this since I love the original Castlevania games. ;) Thx.

grumblegrumble

#33

grumblegrumble said:

Wow! You are so right, too. I just downloaded this since the review was so fantastic and within seconds I can see the quality and level of care put into this Gameloft release. I give this one a 9/10, too, and that's just after five minutes of playing ;) Thanks for the recommendation, I am loving this! Seems like something made for the original GBA ;) Great!

EdEN

#34

EdEN said:

@Stuffgamer1: No backtracking since the game is separated into levels (11 if I recall properly). You get to use the purple orbs to max out the weapons but you CAN'T max both of them, at least not on Normal difficulty (might get more orbs on hard, which I'm currently playing after finishing the game but I see no difference so far orb-wise). I needed an extra 5,000 orbs for full max but you MIGHT get them if you go back and forth between screens and kill all the enemies. Will take a while.

jdarrell

#35

jdarrell said:

If you hit left at the level select screen, you can replay old levels (useful if you missed a chest.)

cheapogamer4life

#36

cheapogamer4life said:

So after beating this title I would have to agree with most of GG post number 33 comment. Kind short, but this platformer is just a fun as DVZ( another good DSiware game).

hulklol123456789

#37

hulklol123456789 said:

Well reading the review at first it seems to me that you find the game boring, but you didn't say anything bad about it,so good review, good game, i have never played Castelvania or whatever but I think im gonna get it :)

Bakajin

#39

Bakajin said:

Day-um, this review makes me wish I had a DSi. The 3DS will support DSiWare, right?

motang

#40

motang said:

Just bought this game after reading this review since I had 500 points just laying around. It's fun and addictive!

KiroX777

#42

KiroX777 said:

yup, this review was on point. every thing i played was said right. i love this game so much! started on normal and now playing hard mode and actually enjoy playing again and again. music is nice too =D

that dragon boss thing is my favorite part in the whole game. its challenging and oh so fun! i would have loved a boss battle/time attack mode for extra replay value, but hey. i dont blame gameloft. i blame nintendo (less than 512mb internal memory what a joke >_>)

Blink

#43

Blink said:

I enjoyed this game. Played it through twice, once on normal once on hard. Totally worth 5 bucks. Although it lacked depth, the story was...iffy, and it was short (11 levels, about 2 and a half hours each play through) I enjoyed it immensely. That, and the fact it pointed me towards Castlevania Dawn of Sorrow helps a bit too. :3

EddieP

#45

EddieP said:

This.
I had a lot of fun with this game, while Pop Island felt too chaotic for me.

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