‘Hotel Transylvania’ is a 2D cartoon platform game based on an animated feature film of the same name.
You play as Mavis, a charming young vampire and the daughter of the notorious Count Dracula (the owner of Hotel Transylvania). Today is your birthday and as such the hotel is brimming with family, friends and well wishers who have arrived to celebrate, however Mavis has a problem. Upon starting your adventure the hotel’s cannibal gourmet chef (former Hunchback of Notre Dame ‘Quasimodo’) has kidnapped a young human named ‘Jonathan’ and intends on cooking him. Your mission is to find Quasimodo and rescue Jonathan.
The game is set inside and around the grounds of the hotel. Initially the aim is to find your father and ask for his help in finding Quasimodo & Jonathan, however upon encountering him a running joke begins which become the basis of the entire game. Dracula doesn’t seem too concerned with Mavis’s problem and is far more concerned with preparing for her birthday party. As a result Dracula needs Mavis’s help with menial chores such as helping guests settle into their rooms, finding their lost luggage, etc.
From this point onwards the game essentially turns into treasure hunt. Regardless of what’s happening in the plot the game boils down to running towards checkpoints that appear on the map. When you collect whichever item is needed at the time (be it a guests belongings or something for the party) the next check point will appear (normally the family member you have to return the item to). You then rinse and repeat until you reach the game’s conclusion.
At first Mavis is only capable of running and jumping, however as you assist more family members they teach you new abilities which will help you reach new areas of the hotel. There’s the ‘freeze stare’ which allows her to temporarily turn enemies into blocks that she can jump on to reach new heights. The ‘wall runner’ ability which allows her to run vertically up particular walls. The ‘electric’ ability which allows her to shock and stun the abundance of knights and skeletons which roam the castle. The ‘mist’ ability which allows Mavis to turn into a cloud of mist and pass through grates. Finally there’s the ‘bat’ ability which allows her to turn temporally into a vampire bat, as such allowing her to fly around rooms and up to platforms that she wouldn’t normally be able to reach.
Now if the penny hasn’t dropped at this point allow me to spell it out. A non-linear platform game, set in Dracula’s castle, over run with skeletons and knights, where you can unlock the ability to turn into mist or a bat? It didn’t take me long to realise that this game is essentially a watered down knock off of the highly acclaimed 1997 Konami hit ‘Castlevania: Symphony of the Night’. So if ‘Hotel Transylvania’ has taken inspiration from a well renowned classic like ‘Symphony of the Night’ then it must be a good game right? Well, not exactly.
Although the game is built in the metroidvania style it lacks a lot of what makes non-linear platform games appealing to play. One of things I enjoy most about games that require the player to unlock more abilities is the emphasis they place on exploration. Players are often rewarded by their own ingenuity in discovering new areas, secrets, items and upgrades. However in Hotel Transylvania although you are free to roam the castle within your abilities there is very little to discover outside of the main narrative. Since you’re just running from one check point to the next you’ll never be in a situation where you lack an ability in order to progress, essentially creating a very linear experience within the confines of a non-linear play area. There are gems to collect which extend you maximum health however there are no side quests or additional tasks to speak of.
For the most part Mavis does control well although it’s worth noting that she is unable to duck, something which I find bizarre. This means that if a projectile is flying towards her at head height she is forced to jump when in any other platform game simply pressing down would be sufficient. She quickly responds to button inputs and I do like the way she hovers in mid-air while shooting her electric or ice beams as these can actually be used to influence jumps and falls.
However the controls in this game aren’t entirely without faults. I did find the buttons were laid out well however there is no option for button mapping, so although they were comfortable for me they may not be comfortable for everyone and if so there’s no way of changing them. There were a couple of moves I did find tricky to pull off which both involved jumping while using the wall running ability. There were a few points in the game where I had to run vertically up a wall and then leap from one wall to another to continue proceeding upwards. The problem I discovered was that when I jumped from the first wall to the second I had to reach the second wall quickly because as soon as I began to down-turn I lost the ability to wall run and ended up falling rather than climbing. The second issue happened while running up a wall at speed and having to jump at a very specific point with little to no room for error. Jumping too early would result in me missing the ledge I was aiming for yet jumping too late would result in me bumping into the ceiling and dropping vertically down like a stone.
That actually leads me to another little issue that Mavis has and that’s losing control after a mid air collision. In this game you can influence Mavis’s mid air movement, however should Mavis get hit by a hazard she will shoot vertically down to the ground. I know a lot of people complain about ‘knock back’ in platform games but at least with knock back there’s a chance you’ll land safely on the ledge you jumped from. The problem with falling straight to the ground is that usually when you jump in a platform game it’s because you’re trying to avoid something, so rather than getting knocked back this system lands you literally right in it.
Although the game has no major glitches or bugs I did find a lot of small issues in the short time it took me to complete it. There were little hit detection and clipping problems such falling through the tips of ledges, being able to stand on a frozen enemy as if the enemy is standing upright when actually they were crouching creating the illusion that Mavis was standing in mid-air, and not being able to shoot an enemy if they are standing too close as your laser beam spawns from slightly in front of you bypassing the enemy completely. There are also ledges that have different properties (some being completely solid and impenetrable and some that you’re able to jump up through) that have exactly the same graphics with no way of telling them apart. Finally there were doors on timers which got stuck if I pressed the release buttons at the wrong time. Nothing completely game breaking, just a lot of sloppiness.
I did feel as if there was a lack in variety of enemies and bosses. This felt disproportional to the amount of different friendly characters in the game. The game is also very easy and short which I’m mainly putting down to that fact that it’s aimed at younger players, however an option to increase the difficulty would have been welcomed. The game can easily be beaten within three hours and once it’s done there is no incentive to continue with your save file as by this point you would have completely exhausted the relatively small map.
The graphics in this game are pretty nice for the most part. Nothing spectacular although I did like the cartoon drawings that pop up during dialogue sequences. The facial expressions are great and add a lot of charm and character to the game. There were a few rooms where I did find the backgrounds contained far too much detail. This distracted me a bit from the game itself as it made the screen look too cluttered. Also while I had the 3D mode turned on there were some transparent layers in the foreground which looked a little disorientating.
If there is one thing I can praise in this game without fear of contradiction it’s the sound. The music in this game is fantastic and fits the game’s spooky theme perfectly. The music is fun and upbeat with a hint of gothic style. Even the little chime that sounds during the game’s opening logos brought a smile to my face.
Although I did find the similarities to Castlevania amusing I couldn’t recommend this game to anyone over the age of about 11. If you have a young child who enjoys platformers then this game is enough to kill a long car journey, but outside of that I couldn’t recommend in over a Mario, Yoshi or Kirby title. Novel, but approach with caution.
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