Clearly inspired by the lore and gameplay elements of Konami’s Castlevania, Wallachia: Reign of Dracula is a highly difficult retro-style digital download. Everyone has heard of the term Metroidvania but this title published by No Gravity Games is actually a ContraMan as it blends the faster speed of Contra but with gunplay of something like Mega Man or even Strider. Or how about ConStrider? Regardless of the ridiculous descriptive term, this is an old school action game that will beat you down with challenge.
Playing as a badass female warrior with a terrorized backstory, the player’s main point of attack comes from a bow and arrow. Like Mega Man X, the player can shoot weak shots quickly or can charge for a more power attack. When things heat up in your personal space, a sword attack is used that can also deflect incoming fire or strike low enemies. There are sub-weapons but in the form of friendly helpers. These limited use attacks, like a wolf that clears everything ahead of the player, can only be active once enough orbs have been collected. Perhaps it is easiest to think of these orbs like coins in a Mario game only not as plentiful. Unfortunately, by the time the player has collected enough, death will most likely be only a second or two away. Skilled players might be able to cheese boss battles this way but the common player might never be able to see this special attack due to the high difficulty and large requirement amount.
This is a 90s style challenge through and through. With limited lives, infinite continues, and no way to save your progress (the player cannot even back out to the main menu once in gameplay), tenacity is required to complete each and every stage. Level 1 is mostly a tutorial but still offers challenging segments but then whatever small amount of hand holding gets thrown out the window as early as stage 2. Cheap enemy placement, unfair traps, and arrows coming from off screen require repeat playthroughs to develop memorization and muscle memory.
Wallachia looks like an early SNES game and that isn’t a knock on its quality. The pencil drawing cutscenes might not carry the highest presentation values but it gets the job done. Fans of Bloodstained should also be pleased to know that Myriam’s outfit is also an unlockable Easter egg. The voice acting is also well done for a lower cost digital download. However, the constant grunting by the main female protagonist is so annoying it will make you want to turn the sound off completely.
Seven stages might not sound like a lot but the replay value is high thanks to the stiff challenge, different difficulty settings, and numerous unlockable Challenges (Achievements). It isn’t the best 2D action side-scroller ever made but it is one of the better ones released this year. If you are up for a challenge and enjoy punishment, Wallachia: Reign of Dracula is the ConStrider you might be looking for.
Also Watch: the Castlevania Netflix series
Also Play: Swords and Sandals: Spartacus (Switch)
Wait For It: Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon 3