Developer: Konami
Price: $4.99
Version Reviewed: 1.0.0

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★★☆
Game Controls Rating: ★★★½☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★½☆☆
Re-use / Replay Value Rating: ★★★★★

Overall Rating: ★★★½☆

Konami Offices – Early 2010.
“So, uh, we should make a new Castlevania game on the iPhone.”
“Um, ok, should we just port a copy?”
“Nahhh, I think we should just make a Match 3 game… a really simplistic one, but add some RPG elements. I’ll bet that we can make that real quick.”
“Ok boss, we’ll get on it.”

…and so they did. Instead of making a real Castlevania game, they made a Match 3 game with some RPG elements. Maybe I wouldn’t be so cynical if they made a great Match 3 game with RPG elements, but they didn’t. Castlevania Puzzle is a simplistic Match 3 game, plain and simple.

I’ll start with what works though, because it’s not all bad. The game itself is set in a world very similar to the console version of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. Many of the characters are the same, the great soundtrack is there (although in very short loops), and the basic premise of going room by room through the castle remains.

As you go through the castle, you find locked doors, rooms with treasure, boss rooms, regular rooms, and rooms that you can teleport to and from throughout the castle so you don’t have to do much backtracking to explore everything. The castle is shown to you in a birds-eye view with rooms being connected to each other by lines that you must follow. As you go through the castle, you will find all sorts of weapons and armor in battles and rooms.

Much like an RPG game, you can upgrade your strength, stamina, different magic abilities that will earn you spells, and other traits that will generally make your character better. The character enhancements all work to help you in the battle sequences that happen randomly throughout the game. While you can’t control when you fight a battle, most of them are short (thankfully), so you won’t go crazy.

While all of the castle searching and RPG elements are fantastic, the meat of the game, the Match 3 part, is plain uninspired.

You begin each battle with a screen that shows you against an enemy. Neither character looks very polished, but it really doesn’t matter because you will basically be playing Dr. Mario. The battle starts with you on the left and the enemy on the right, just like a two player Dr. Mario game. Gem pieces fall in pairs, with some pieces activated and some not. To activate the piece, you have to find a match that is touching, sometimes unlocking the perfect piece to give you even more matches.

As you get more and more matches, you send pieces to the enemies screen, making his game a bit tougher. Fortunately for the enemy, he doesn’t lose when the screen gets filled… some of the bottom points get taken away and he gets damage dealt to him.

Wait… damage? Yeah, instead of simply winning, you have to kill the other opponent in a battle that is decided by your stats, spells that you cast on the enemy, and lastly… your Match 3 skill. Most of the battles boil down to you making the simplest matches possible until the game decides that you have defeated the foe. Bigger matches will add some extra damage, but they are definitely not necessary for the majority of the battles. Except for the bosses, the enemies are a joke, losing in most battles within the first 3-4 minutes.

HimuraKenshin says it best in his rating in the App Store (he gave the game 5 stars). “I hate Tetris-like puzzles. All of them. This one is different. I can level up, be horrible and still win.”

Very little skill is required to get through Castlevania Puzzle, just a burning desire to level your character up and get more weapons. Honestly, if you took the Match 3 aspect out of the game and just turned the battles into a standard turn based RPG affair, or even just simulated it all with no graphics, I would be much happier.

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