Typically, licensed games come in two forms – hit and miss, with the latter generally dominating most releases. Due to a host of reasons most games based on properties that originate in other forms of media end up falling flat, and never living up to their true potential. Whether the problem is concept, design, or the source material itself, the onus of the blame usually ends up falling on the developer. So what happens when a well-established team like WayForward Technologies (known for games like Contra 4, A Boy And His Blob, and Shantae: Risky’s Revenge) gets to try their hand at crafting a game for the number one movie in America? Hotel Transylvania for the 3DS, that’s what.
Based on the movie of the same name, Hotel Transylvania puts players in the role of Mavis, Dracula’s daughter, on her 118th birthday. Her father has invited some of his friends like Bigfoot, Murray the Mummy, and Frankenstein’s Mummy into town for the celebration, but Chef Quasimodo has put a damper on the party by kidnapping Mavis’ human friend, Johnny, and with the hope of serving him as soup for dinner. In addition to that, Mr. and Mrs. Werewolf’s pups have been running amuck all over the hotel, and Dracula has to make sure his guests are happy. Players are in charge of helping Dracula with his hosting duties, and making sure his guests are taken care of, before any attempt is made to save Johnny.
Running around the grounds of the hotel, Mavis has a few weapons at her disposal. Right off the bat, Mavis can jump on the heads of the zombies, skeletons, and walking suits of armor to eliminate, or at least immobilize them. As she progresses through the story she eventually learns different attack abilities like Trance Stare and Electric Bolt, as well as how to wall run, turn into mist, and also into a bat to access different parts of the hotel. After only a couple minutes of playing it’s pretty clear that the game is directly inspired by the Castlevania series, and while the weaponry in this game doesn’t quite amount to the same type of arsenal that Alucard had, it does the job here.
Since Hotel Transylvania is targeted at the younger sect of gamers, the challenge is clearly ratcheted down for the majority of the game. Dying isn’t really a threat in the game since it only resets you to your last save, which is just the last time you loaded a new screen. Most of the game is fetch quests, sending you all over the hotel to perform trivial deeds and then returning to the person that asked you to do them. The overall game, while well-designed, mostly turns into a maze more than anything else, where remembering your path between point a and point b is crucial. While this is, again, similar to Castlevania, the hotel is nowhere near as vast as Dracula’s Castle, and those games have an overwhelmingly greater sense of exploration, whereas you know exactly where you’re going in this game.
The sights and sounds of Hotel Transylvania tend to be a little here and a little there. The graphics are on the lower end of what you might expect on the 3DS, but the game was also developed and released for the DS, which might explain the tame aesthetics. The character animations on the other hand, prove to be nice and smooth for the tiny sprites, making the game feel like its moving well, at the very least. On top of that, the soundtrack is well done, evoking memories of classic Castlevania tunes, while remaining in the style of Hotel Transylvania. There’s a good blend of old and new, making the game easy on the ears.
Don’t be mistaken, Hotel Transylvania was made for the same audience that the movie was – children. While it’s clear that was inspired by Castlevania, this is not Belmont’s next quest. The gameplay is simple, and running back and forth through the castle become tedious, but for a short kids’ game (this is a necessary qualifier) it’s not that bad. As far as licensed games go, Hotel Transylvania could have been much worse, but in the hands of WayForward there’s at least a playable experience that should please fans of the movie. Plus, if there’s even the slightest chance that this game can serve as the gateway drug for kids to introduce them to the awesomeness of 2D Castlevania games (especially the DS ones), that alone justifies its existence.