Review by Bouchart
A quality platformer with erratic difficulty.
Wolfchild is a conventional action platformer with a gimmick where the player character transforms into a werewolf creature. It would have been a great game were it not for a somewhat erratic difficulty curve.
Unlike the Super Nintendo and Genesis versions of the game, the Sega CD version begins with a short introductory cartoon explaining the plot. The protagonist is Saul Morrow, whose father Kal has been kidnapped by a terrorist group named CHIMERA led by Karl Draxx. Kal was a scientist who was experimenting with human-animal hybrids. Saul uses his father's research to turn himself into a part human, part wolf hybrid so that he would have the strength and power to rescue his father and defeat CHIMERA. Interestingly, this hybrid is never explicitly called a werewolf anywhere in the game or in the game's manual, likely because it is considerably different from the werewolf in folklore and popular culture.
On starting the game Saul is in his human form, and attacks with a simple punch attack. While it is short ranged, colliding with most enemies doesn't cause damage, so it typically isn't difficult to get in range with a lot of the game's common enemies. Whenever Saul's life bar is above half full, he transforms into his hybrid form. As a hybrid, Saul's default attack is an energy projectile that shoots out in a straight path across the screen. Various powerups can only be used as the hybrid form. Each of the powerups have limited ammunition. They allow multiple projectiles to be shot at the same time, or are larger and deal more damage, or home on to enemies, or have a trajectory like a boomerang. The hybrid form is also heavy enough to destroy some blocks by jumping on top of them, which can either open up an alternate path through a level or reveal some powerups or extra health that wouldn't be available otherwise. When Saul's life bar falls below half full, he will return to his human form and lose any acquired powerup.
In addition, smart bombs can be used in either the human or hybrid form. A smart bomb will damage or destroy all enemies on screen. Smart bombs are limited in number and can be found in a number of places in each level. While they are powerful, they are largely ineffective against bosses so they are best used where there are large groups of difficult or hard to reach enemies.
Wolfchild consists of nine levels, where the objective is simply to reach the exit. Levels do not have a time limit and enemies are always in the exact same place every game. Five of these levels also has a boss fight right before the end. Early levels are more linear than later levels are. The stages, for the most part, are more difficult than the bosses. The boss at the end of the first level is arguably the hardest in the game since it behaves somewhat erratically. The other bosses, including the final boss, have more predictable patterns and have attacks that are easier to avoid.
Because of the way the transformation feature works, the game's difficulty can vary wildly. Certain areas are significantly more difficult when in human form because of where enemies are placed. Bosses can be considerably harder to defeat when only a punch attack is available Fortunately, health powerups are reasonably common and it is possible to increase the size of the health bar. While it is possible to enter the hybrid form in the first level and remain in that form through the entire game, a new player will more likely bounce back and forth between the human and hybrid form frequently.
The options menu has three difficulty settings, and a setting for the number of lives that the player has at the start of the game. Extra lives are very uncommon and a new player might not get a single extra life anywhere in the game. There are also two continues for when all lives are lost. The difficulty setting changes the amount of life that enemies have. The Easy difficulty is very manageable, but the Normal and Hard difficulties become extremely challenging in the sixth level. In level six, there are two sections where the player rides an elevator and a number of enemies fall from the ceiling. There isn't any cover from enemy projectiles or extra health during these segments. They are by far the hardest areas in the entire game. Wolfchild doesn't have a save function but a cheat code can be used to play an individual level.
The Sega CD version of Wolfchild has an excellent CD quality soundtrack. The game sounds significantly better than version on other consoles. Loading times are brief, only slightly longer than the SNES or Genesis versions. Overall, Wolfchild is a quality platformer that deserves consideration from anyone who enjoys the genre, even if it is occasionally frustrating.
Rating: 3.5 - Good
Product Release: Wolfchild (US, 01/18/93)
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