By Adam Riley 29.01.2013
Hotel Transylvania is the latest movie tie-in, being based loosely around the goings-on of the new Sony Pictures computer animated comedy, starring Adam Sandler as Dracula and Selena Gomez as his daughter, Mavis, who is set to celebrate her 118th birthday. The plot is flaky at best, but filled with enough japery and humour to make it thoroughly entertaining. Bringing WayForward Technologies in to handle the Nintendo DS videogame version, then, must have been a smart move, in order to keep the quality high, right?
Bypassing plenty of the movie's storyline, Hotel Transylvania - the videogame version - jumps into the deep end, placing players in the role of 'young' Mavy as she scours Dracula's 'hotel for monsters,' in search of Jonathan, a rogue 21-year-old human that somehow stumbled upon the holiday hotspot by accident whilst on a exploratory hike. Vampiric Mavis, on the cusp of turning 118, does not know about his living and breathing status, believing him to be the distant cousin of one of Frankenstein's monster's body parts, Johnny Stein, thanks to her dad's quick thinking to make the young lad look gruesome so as to not 'scare' the monstrous guests who are surprisingly fearful of humans! These extraneous details are not touched upon in the game itself, meaning the adventure's purpose will be somewhat lost on those not having seen the film yet, but a solid adventure filled with platform antics and a heavy dose of Metroid and Castlevania discovery ensues nonetheless.
Unfortunately, though, there are some drawbacks, such as a map on the lower screen not being interactive in any way, and the fact that there are far too many 'fetch' quests that involve trekking back and forth far too often. The two issues are also interlinked since the required new location handily appears on the map, yet sometimes it will be in an area that is actually off the current view, meaning that unless the player has memorised the names of the different sections of the hotel, it can lead to some blind wandering around until a red marker suddenly appears somewhere on the map when roughly heading in the right direction.
To make up for this, Mavis garners new moves as the adventure continues, making backtracking a little easier and quicker than at the start. Jumping atop enemies is the only method of dispatching them to commence with, yet soon the 'young' vampire girl can zap monsters to freeze them in place temporarily (and use them as platforms to reach greater heights), as well as fire off energy balls to make most of them explode (some break into pieces and re-form after a couple of seconds). The former is a quick attack but the latter has a small delay to prevent it from being too simple to remove everything in the lead character's path. Other moves gained include turning into a wispy cloud that can float through grates leading to new areas or providing shortcuts, the ability to run up certain walls, and changing into a bat for a limited time to fly swiftly around (this comes much later in the game to avoid bypassing many of the obstacles along the way).
Hotel Transylvania is an intriguing one as in many respects it could be seen as a tiresome, repetitive experience, yet WayForward's class definitely shines through, with platform antics to match the highly enjoyable Shantae and A Boy and his Blob, with a touch of the much-loved Metroidvania style mixed in. Having to head back and forth again and again as Mavy is given numerous tasks by both her father and guests (find a skeleton leg, locate luggage, hunt down pesky were-pups - just a few examples of what to expect) would be frustrating if everything controlled poorly, but leaping about, bouncing of enemy heads, navigating across floating tables above treacherous voids, dashing upwards making timely jumps from wall-to-wall whilst avoiding hazards, selecting the right monster to freeze to reach platforms…it goes on, and is surprisingly good fun overall.
Hotel Transylvania is a tightly woven platform adventure full of accurate jumps, clever abilities, and brings the characters from the amusing movie to life. However, constant back-tracking and uninventive fetch missions mar the experience somewhat. Whilst enjoyable for the handful of hours it lasts, unfortunately it never quite takes off to reach the level of quality expected from the WayForward, which is testament to the developer in general since this is still worth a rent and is a good a stab at the Castlevania-style.