Dracula has had many enemies over the years, mostly inanimate objects such as garlic and wooden stakes. However, only one human foe has really left an impression on the über-vampire: Dr. Abraham Van Helsing. In this game you fight your way through Dracula’s realm, taking out his minions and underbosses along the way with the power of light and color-coded tonics.
The gameplay mechanic in Helsing’s Fire is completely original and masterful. You are given a top-down view of a room, full of walls and various enemies. Using the walls as barriers, you must move the torch around so the light emitting around it 360 degrees only shines on specific enemies.
Once you’ve got the light adjusted where you like, you can drop one of three colored tonics, sending out a stream of color and affecting any enemies it touches. If the enemy is of the same color, it will destroy it, while enemies of another color will gain extra protection and ultimately force you to restart the level.
As you continue through the game, new types of enemies are introduced. For example, there are archers and ogres, who will try to hit your torch with projectiles once you hit them. If they succeed, you lose a torch, and you have three tries before you need to restart the puzzle.
There are also ghosts that turn invisible when you shine light on them, meaning you need to remember their position, bats that move and possibly change color each time you hit them, and werewolves that turn into damsels in distress who cannot be hit if you are to complete the level.
Most enemies also have shields, which must be destroyed with the right colors before you can destroy the enemy. This means you’ll need to plan out the order in which you deploy tonics, so you don’t run out of a certain color before all enemies are eradicated.
There are three boss battles in the game, the last of which is Dracula. Our favorite parts of these fights are their darkness attack, which is basically a version of your torchlight that causes you harm. In order to avoid it, you need to hide behind a wall.
Although it may sound complicated, this novel mechanic becomes easy once you start playing the game. If you ever have trouble on a level, you can change between three difficulty levels. The best part about the difficulty setting, however, is that each of the three options offers a unique puzzle based on the same environment. This means that you can play the game three times and solve each puzzle in a different way. 90 levels in one playthrough ends up becoming 270 levels on all three difficulties. Considering it takes about two hours to complete the game in normal mode, that’s a lot of darkness to be conquered.
Even after you’ve beaten the game, there is the endless mode to pursue. Here you can choose from three maps and play a continuous stream of timed puzzles. Once you run out of time or fail a puzzle, the game ends and you are scored based on how many enemies you killed. There are leaderboards provided by Chillingo’s Crystal network to increase this mode’s replay value.
Lastly, the visual touches in Helsing’s Fire make the experience as polished as it gets. The dark environment, character reactions, comic-esque onomatopoeia, and enemy animation that ensues when they are in the light make the game all the more enjoyable to play. Plus, you’ll occasionally witness some quick and witty dialogue between Helsing, his partner Raffton, and various monsters.
The best part of all is that Helsing’s Fire only costs $.99. At that price, you’ll get hours upon hours of enjoyment that’s hard to find in apps ten times the price. Don’t hesitate to buy this game.