Dracula’s never been one to have a large amount of light in his dastardly castle, and it’s from this idea that developer Ratloop has crafted one of the most devilishly compelling titles on the iPhone. Helsing’s Fire takes you through three layers of the famous vampire’s spooky abode, throwing you 90 randomly generated levels of razor-sharp wit, impeccable manners and impressively trimmed moustaches.
Opposing you, an especially gentlemanly Van Helsing, are Dracula’s usual cohorts -skeletons, werewolves, vampire bats etc. – but the idea is not to vanquish these monsters by simply stabbing them with piercing blades, decapitating them with enchanted swords or boiling them to death with holy water. Instead, you must illuminate them with the light from your torch and then evaporate them with special coloured tonics brewed by your humble assistant Raffton.
It’s an inventive and unique puzzler, with you viewing each stage from the top down. Touch the screen and you’ll place a lit torch in that location, the idea being that you shine its light through various obstacles to illuminate a certain amount of enemies at any one time. Then you neatly tap one of the assorted coloured tonics at the bottom of the screen and watch as your enemies pop into a merry assortment of coins.
Douse an enemy in the wrong tonic and they’ll be covered in a crafty shield, which usually means you’ll have ruined everything and will have to restart the level. There’s only a very limited supply of tonics, you see, with you almost never having more than is required to clear a stage with no mistakes. Vanquish all the nasties and you get a particularly dapper animation of the duo fist bumping, high fiving or finger pointing. Classy.
The challenge becomes expectedly fiercer as you progress through the castle, forcing you to out think assortments of Mummies, Cyclops, and Werewolves, amongst others, whilst shielding fair Maidens from your potent light and tonic combination. Most foes are also more than happy to extinguish your torch if you dare plonk it down too close, encouraging you to work with a few brief and precise taps rather than prolonged drags.
It’s an absolute treat, partially because of its spiffing presentation (it manages to capture a gothic charm while being bright and colourful) but also because it feels like something distinctive that has an excellent grasp of the iPhone as a platform. Levels are short and punchy, but moreish enough to demand you knock them off in whopping great chunks at a time – which is exactly how a good iPhone game should be.
Helsing’s Fire has inventive levels and immediate charm, making it an instant iPhone classic you’d be a fool not to pick up post haste.