"Virtually all of this level is you in a race against time while spikes descend upon you, chase you as you ascend a tower and follow after you while you sprint to the left. You'll be jumping across plummeting platforms and narrow blocks like crazy, whipping worms who stand in your path and doing whatever you can to stay ahead of the pursuing spikes. With a character that neither jumps nor moves well. After getting through all that, I was so mentally drained I wasn't even bothered by how pitifully weak the humanoid bat creature boss wound up being."
Castlevania: The Adventure is less an adventure than an exercise that alternates between being boring and frustrating. At times it feels less like an old-school Castlevania game than a retro Mega Man one -- assuming someone tied the Blue Bomber's legs together and replaced the oil for his mechanical joints with molasses.
Early on, Game Boy protagonist Christopher Belmont might feel like he was in a true Castlevania game, even if it's far less atmospheric than those of Simon and Trevor. While controlling him, you'll walk slowly from one side of the screen to the other, whipping the occasional creature that gets in the way, while occasionally jumping somewhere or climbing a rope to another screen. Assuming you're able to power up Chris' whip, the slow-moving boss will be no threat at all, which means the level's toughest challenge is simply jumping across a few groups of blocks and platforms. The reason this is so tough is because Mr. Belmont barely has any agility whatsoever. You need to exhibit PERFECT timing in lifting off from the ground just to clear a gap that's roughly two blocks wide. Making matters worse, some of those platforms are designed to plummet the instant your feet touch them. And, as you might guess, they are the ones situated over bottomless pits. Hey, who doesn't love high-stakes platforming with a character horribly suited for that style of play?
The second of the game's four stages is essentially more of the same, except there will be a lot more focus on the game's annoying enemies, like the bat and the rolling eyeball. While bats fly as slowly as you walk, they don't have a set pattern and tend to blunder into you quite frequently, especially since the hit detection operates along the "close DOES count" lines. While they might not cause much damage, every hit you take removes one power-up level from your whip. And with your default weapon being both weak and with very little range, that's not good. Eyeballs, on the other hand, explode upon getting whipped. In the first level, all that means is that if you're too close to them, you'll take damage. Here, they tend to be found rolling across flimsy bridges where their explosions will create tiny holes that push Christopher's jumping ability to the max. Oh, and opposed to giving you something cool like Medusa or Death to fight as a boss, you get to whip down a horde of little frog-like critters that pop out of four holes in the wall. If not for how even the tiniest jump created tense moments, I'd have been falling asleep while playing this one.
But things change when the third level begins. Castlevania: The Adventure debuts a new enemy far more fearsome than anything else in the game (even Dracula, the only series staple allowed to participate in the fun) -- the dreaded instant-kill bed of spikes. Virtually all of this level is you in a race against time while spikes descend upon you, chase you as you ascend a tower and follow after you while you sprint to the left. You'll be jumping across plummeting platforms and narrow blocks like crazy, whipping worms who stand in your path and doing whatever you can to stay ahead of the pursuing spikes. With a character that neither jumps nor moves well. After getting through all that, I was so mentally drained I wasn't even bothered by how pitifully weak the humanoid bat creature boss wound up being.
And then, all that I had to do was Dr. Wily's Castle.....I mean Dracula's lair. It was hilarious how derivative this level was of certain Mega Man areas. A good portion of this level consisted of a series of single-screen rooms where Christopher had to perform a number of "miss and you're dead" jumps involving spikes to get to the other side, where he'd climb a vine and go through a similar challenge in the next room. On the positive side, at least there weren't any enemies in these rooms to add to the difficulty. On the negative side....well, I think I've said more than enough about how Christopher's lack of mobility makes any sort of jumping far more difficult than it should be. At least after beating Dracula, you do get the always-cool scene of his castle crumbling into the ground with *SURPRISE* a big bat magically escaping in the nick of time. I guess there was something in this game that wasn't disappointing!
Castlevania: The Adventure was the first game in the series for a portable system and third released in America. Konami decided to eschew the light role-playing elements found in Simon's Quest to attempt recreating the tough-as-nails arcade platforming found in the original Castlevania. The problem is this game just doesn't feel like it's truly part of Castlevania lore. There is very little of that gothic medieval atmosphere that's made those games so appealing to me and Dracula and the whip-wielding hero are about the only things that made me think "Castlevania". Take away those two elements and all you have is a clumsy, slow-moving guy struggling through tricky platforming bits to fight the game's boss. Nothing more, nothing less.
Staff review by Rob Hamilton (December 11, 2008)
Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.
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