Review: Hotel Transylvania

HotelTransylvania

So it’s time for a little Halloween truth in marketing: The game based on the animated Adam Sandler vehicle Hotel Transylvania is a big ol’ misnomer. They really should have called it Hotel Castlevania.

Okay, so that might have screwed the tie-in vibe—and brazenly violated Konami’s copyright—but at least it would have been honest. Hotel Transylvania lacks Castlevania’s steroid-sized boss monsters and the snap-n-crack of the leather whips favored by the Belmont clan, but otherwise, it has the baseline gameplay and environments down pat: Jump, jump and jump some more, hopping around a castle, clocktower and graveyard that’s packed with things that are hard to reach and things that are more than happy to kill you. Too bad it lacks any of the style and creativity that made the Castlevania games classic.

Teenagers aren’t generally thrilled to have to do chores, so it’s a little odd that Mavis, the 118-year-old goth-riffic daughter of Daddy Drac himself, is so generally cheerful about the baziliion fetch quests she’s tasked with here. The entire game is based upon these FedEx fests—deliver room keys, find lost binkies, restore the missing body parts of various monster relatives that have been stolen by the unruly werewolf pups that run rampant through the hotel. And then walk them all the way back. The number of times you’ll traverse back and forth will give you whiplash within the first of the game’s three hours of gameplay.

In the game’s early going, it’s frustrating to realize just how much of the game world (and jewels) you can’t access because you haven’t unlocked the necessary ability to reach them yet. This is especially true of the hidden hotel rooms, which you’re basically better off ignoring completely until the mid and later stages.

In addition to trying to save Johnnystein from the clutches of the mad chef Quasimodo and playing Jeeves to Mavis’s set of extended relatives, you’ll also collect hidden jewels. These expand your life meter, but so what? Unlike, say, coin-collecting in Super Mario Bros. 2 (which also yields a 1UP benefit) there’s no thrill or sense of accomplishment whatsoever to adding an extra heart. Probably because you’re about to get sent back to the courtyard again to find another trivial object for the damned Invisible Man.

The platforming here isn’t for novices by any means, and that’s an odd juxtaposition for a game that seems like it’s aimed at the school-age set that was likely the movie’s primary audience. The controls aren’t particularly forgiving, and more than half of the enemies either can’t be destroyed or regenerate to menace you again within a few seconds. There’s no penalty, score or otherwise, for dying, so screwing up and rebooting to the nearest checkpoint only rises to the level of minor annoyance. Eventually, Mavis scores abilities that help her navigate the platform maze a little more gracefully, things like mist form and trance stare, a zap that freezes an enemy for a few seconds so you can use him as a stepping-tone to that heretofore unreachable ledge. These take way too long to obtain, and can’t overcome the monotony of the back-and-forth gameplay.

Ultimately, Hotel Transylvania ends up feeling like a cheap store-bought Halloween costume. It looks a little like what it’s trying to emulate, but the craftsmanship is clumsy and the seams are not just showing, they’re ripped.

SkipIt

Pros:
+ Castlevania-style platforming

Cons:
– Repetitive fetch-quest gameplay
– Tie-in elements are weak at best
– Special abilities take too long to gain

Game Info:
Platform: Nintendo 3DS/DS
Publisher: GameMill Entertainment
Developer: WayForward Technologies
Release Date: 9/25/2012
Genre: Platformer
ESRB Rating: E10+
Players: 1
Source: Review copy provided by publisher

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About the Author

Aaron R. Conklin has been writing about games and games culture for more than 15 years. A former contributor to Computer Games Magazine and Massive Magazine, his writing has appeared on IGN.com and in newspapers and alt-weeklies across the country. Conklin's an unapologetic Minnesota sports fan living in Madison, Wisconsin, home of the Midwest's most underrated gaming vibe.