Castlevania: Harmony of Despair

Konami | Xbox 360 Live Arcade

After a few decades, video-game icons often go for a new angle to keep the kiddies interested. Mario went 3-D, Samus Aran positioned herself as a first-person-shooter, and now Castlevania asks you to invite a few friends for multiplayer action. Though series original Simon Belmont isn’t around, you’ll recognize the big bad (who else? Dracula) and vampire hunters from previous games such as Alucard, Soma Cruz and Shanoa. There are six playable characters and six levels and while that may not seem like a lot of gameplay, you’ll find the levels daunting and strenuous. Unfortunately, learning how to play the game has the same feeling. There’s no in-game tutorial so you have to figure out how to gain new spells and weapons (it’s different for each character) and zoom the camera. Gameplay will come easier to seasoned vets of the series, but newcomers will struggle. The multiplayer hook is strong enough to lure in both, however, and with a group of six, the 2-D side-scroller is a nostalgic ride. Konami successfully tried something new for the fans. With a little luck, they’ll sire a few more life-long vampire hunters.