(content warning: blood and cartoonish gore.)
Y’know, I realized there haven’t been many good games where you play as a werewolf. Out of all the horror monsters out there, werewolves seem to be the ones who get the shaft the most. Often times they’re used as an enemy or a villain, but rarely are they ever the hero. I even asked a few folks about good werewolf games and the one suggestion I got was a quest line in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. So yeah, it seems kinda dire.
But then there was this one game I saw where you play as a werewolf that seemed kinda neat. And I have a knack for playing the fairly niche Xbox Live Arcade/PlayStation Network titles from the early 2010s, so I grabbed it. Will this game be the one that breaks that curse?
Blood of the Werewolf is a platforming game developed by Scientifically Proven, a studio that proudly boasts its 11-person development team, as per one of the load screens states. Scientifically Proven doesn’t have much of a major resume; outside of this game, they worked on assisting Epicenter Studios on games like Real Heroes: Firefighter and… Man vs. Wild with Bear Grylls. Now, to be fair, just because they work on what amounts to shovelware doesn’t mean they can’t put out an original game on their own. But this definitely doesn’t bode well.
I had heard of this game because it was being one of the few games being delisted off of the Xbox 360 marketplace. I was trying to grab games that were only available on the 360, and since this had a PC release, I figured I’d just grab it there instead. In hindsight, this was probably a good move, as we’ll get into in a bit.
This was available a few days early for patrons. Wanna get in on that yourself? Well, transform into a werewolf and howl your way over to my Patreon, where just $1 will get early access to my work. It’s fun! Like being a werewolf.
The story goes like this: You play as Selena, a mother who’s child, Nickoli, has been kidnapped by some monsters, and her husband has been left for dead. Armed with her trusty crossbow, she must travel the various hazards of the world to save her son and keep the blood family alive. Oh, by the way, Selena is also a werewolf. One of a dying breed, according to this game’s lore.
Selena in her human form has the usual platformer rules: Walk, jump, climb ladders, and shoot a crossbow. Pressing RT will shoot in the direction she’s facing, but using the right stick will have her aim at a specific angle, which can be useful for hitting enemy targets or switches.
At certain points in each stage, Selena turns into a werewolf upon a full moon, which follows common werewolf lore. In werewolf mode, she can double jump, do a forward dash with RB, and charge up a damaging shot with RT that takes a bit of time to charge. There’s other powerups you can find and switch between with LB, but for most of the game I stuck with the default dash. Playing as a werewolf is a lot simpler than playing in human form, which turns out to be a good thing, as I’ll get into. The game will switch between Selena’s two forms at certain spots, and sometimes they get quite crafty with the change.
Each level is structured like a conventional platformer level, with moving platforms, enemies and traps to guide your way through. There are checkpoints scattered about so the levels aren’t impossible to beat, but they certainly are challenging. Upon completing a level, you’re given a letter grade from S to C.
Around the levels are tokens that when you collect enough, permanently increase the player’s health. There’s also upgrades for both Selena and the werewolf, usually tucked away hidden in walls. So, be prepared to start randomly jumping into walls and hopefully find goodies, because otherwise you’re gonna be in for a bad time.
See, when Scientifically Proven said Blood of the Werewolf was “this love letter to classic platformers” according to their Steam store page, I was genuinely expecting something fun and cool, maybe a bit challenging in the late game, but would be a breeze otherwise. That thought immediately went poof when I got to the second level, The Docks.
The game starts introducing a fair share of particularly challenging sections where Selena or her werewolf form have to dodge a bunch of crushing platforms. Getting crushed is an instant death in either form. One section towards the end of the level required Selena to fall her way across a myriad of crushing platforms, where stopping at any point spelled death. I honestly thought this was just a fluke, maybe a case of not really balancing the game well, something like that.
Nope. All the later levels have a myriad of tricky platforming segments, often over spikes or pits that will instantly kill the player. In a later level, I had to shoot switches to bring a platform down, while also dodging fireballs. In what I assume is another tribute to classic platformers, when Selena gets hit, she has huge knockback akin to Simon Belmont in Castlevania, which can often spell doom, especially when having to dodge death traps and hazards to make progress.
Even in the werewolf form there’s a lot of hazards to worry about. Having to keep pace with a moving platform, having to do precarious double jumps to get to the next platform without hitting the spikes above or falling to the pit below.
In some cases, especially towards the final major level of the game, The Tower, Selena and her werewolf form have to make precarious jumps on crumbling platforms while avoiding spikes and zombie enemies that spit souls that home in on you. Any moment of hesitation or bad timing will result in Selena dying to spikes. It definitely got me frustrated on some of the design decisions Scientifically Proven decided to do.
I came into Blood of the Werewolf expecting a fun, breezy platforming game. What I got instead was Super Meat Boy but with werewolves. Or as I initially thought, I Wanna Be the Guy, which also had a protagonist firing a gun and dodging deadly obstacles.
It’s all incredibly frustrating in a way that I hadn’t experienced with a platformer since Hell Yeah! Wrath of the Dead Rabbit, a game I played and wrote about earlier this year. That too did a lot of things Blood of the Werewolf does, with alternate gameplay styles, aiming and shooting with the analog stick, the works. Even had the unnecessarily hard difficulty.
Now, I don’t hate hard platformers. But it really feels like some of these games get a thrill out of making the player suffer through unnecessary challenge. It’s why I didn’t enjoy games like the critically acclaimed Limbo: The art style was great, the story was touching, but the platforming was so insufferable that it outright ruined my enjoyment of the game.
The only fairly easy parts are the boss fights, mostly based on classic horror movie villains: Mr. Hyde, Dracula, The Mummy, and so on. Most of them do have some challenge and do require some memorization, but no different than any other platformer.
While I sound completely negative on this game, I actually think it’s a fine game otherwise. The art style looks nice, with the characters having an angular look that’s very stylized for this game, even if I kept wondering if Selena has a fancy hood or her hair is just that big. The voice acting is surprisingly alright for being a bunch of developers and Erin Cummings, who’s mostly known as one of those “Additional Voices” kind of voice actors. Even the music is surprisingly good, which is not surprising since a good majority of it is from Kevin MacLeod’s royalty-free music library. Even the story and feel of the world is surprisingly neat. It’s just marred by the needless challenge. At least dying doesn’t take long to get back into the game.
It’s really hard for me to recommend Blood of the Werewolf. It’s got style, it looks cool, but it’s just frustrating to play. If you enjoy tough-as-nails platformers, you might have a bit of fun with this; but honestly you might be better off looking elsewhere for your platformer fix. The challenge goes from serviceable to outright punishing, and if I got frustrated playing this, I could imagine others not liking the challenge either. I can at least give Scientifically Proven some credit for trying, but it’s okay to make a platformer that doesn’t make you wanna rip and tear yourself apart. Unless you’re into that.
As for Scientifically Proven, this seemed to be their only major game. The rest of the folk seemed to have scattered off into the wind, with most of them being out of the game industry altogether, or just being put into a “Special Thanks” section for games like Song of the Deep. Eventually one game they helped out on, Real Heroes: Firefighter, got an HD remaster a few years back, so at least their legacy lives on, I guess.
If you wanna try Blood of the Werewolf for yourself, it’s available on Steam for a few bucks, and also available on Xbox One. And honestly, at the price of five bucks, it’s at least worth a try. It’s a fittingly spooky game that’s perfect for this Halloween season. But go in knowing you’re gonna get your butt kicked.
Okay, so we’ve come to the conclusion that Blood of the Werewolf is not the good werewolf game we’ve been looking for. The hunt for a good werewolf game continues…