“Castlevania: Lords of Shadow” (Xbox 360, PS3)
“Castlevania’s” legacy is barely present in “Lords of Shadow,” which has turned out to be a good thing given it is the finest 3-D entry in the series yet.
Spanish developer MercurySteam Entertainment, one well-versed in horror titles but not necessarily highly rated ones, has swapped out the “Devil May Cry” influences of recent entries and created a game that slavishly follows the “God of War” formula. The game’s opening six hours lack imagination, relying too much on rote combos and dodging without offering platforming elements or scenarios that live up to those found in the “God of War” series.
Eventually, the combat system adds new elements. You will have to make strategic decisions in combat, deciding whether to heal yourself with your limited amount of light magic, or deal additional damage with shadow magic. It’s a novel feature that adds depth and varied pacing to the combat.
Hideo Kojima (“Metal Gear Solid” creator) overlooked this title and his influence is most notable in the lavish cut scenes, soundtrack and art direction. Abandoning the series’ past of campy horror and dimly lit castles, this reboot is filled with color and gorgeous backdrops heavily influenced by “Lord of the Rings” and “Pan’s Labyrinth.” The problems of the series’ 3-D entries remain: The camera is still the player’s greatest enemy and the game lacks polish. But, for once a 3-D “Castlevania” is saddled with production values and some fresh ideas that makes these things forgivable.
For fans of Guillermo Del Toro, “God of War” and button mashing.
“Costume Quest” (Xbox 360, PS3)
Gamers champion Double Fine for good reason: It’s one of the few developers brave enough to focus on comedy and unique stories in a medium filled with space marines and melodrama.
Rather than controlling a dragon slayer, “Costume Quest” is a roleplaying game where you control a prepubescent boy in a costume that can morph him into a giant arachnid with fries for legs, among other collectible transforming outfits.
You go door to door looking for your sibling on Halloween. Some doors will lead to a battle encounter with monsters, while at others you will meet a friendly neighbor who will give you candy that works as the game’s currency. That’s about it.
The art design and dialogue are saccharine to the core. Like a bowl full of candy, “Costume Quest” is a cheap, brief treat that lacks substance. Nevertheless, I can’t think of a better game that captures the spirit of Halloween.
For fans of “Psychonauts,” “Earthbound” and Halloween.