Have you ever wanted to put Dracula on a dating show with all your favorite horror monsters? For some monster lovers, that’s their dream game. Enter Romancelvania, which aims to deliver on that exact concept but with a twist — the game’s also a castle-bound metroidvania, inspired by the classic Castlevania itself. Unfortunately, though that all sounds like a blast conceptually, Romancelvania’s disjointed juggling of genres makes the game suffer right when it should be its most fun.
Love Island featuring Drac and Co.
From the first scene, Romancelvania excels at setting the tone for its game, in good ways and bad. The broody Dracula monologue about his fatal romance is wonderfully cheesy and endearing. At the same time, the game’s disjointedness pops into focus the second you see the game’s design, a sometimes charming, sometimes jarring mix of 2D and 3D art. Logistically, it makes sense why they’d choose 3D models over 2D pixels when the former is a lot easier to use. Also, it does set the stage for smashing together a metroidvania and a dating sim. Just as you’ll learn while playing the game, that uneven mix of charming and awkward follows Romancelvania throughout its runtime, with elements not meshing quite smoothly as they should.
The charm takes center stage. When you travel to the Dark Lord Cabal’s hideout (A Halloween store of course) and get roped into the main plot — you’re going to be the “Bachelor” of a dating show run by the Grim Reaper. Gameplay consists of exploring the castle to find new love interests, from a misanthropic genie to a stone-cold ex (Medusa).
Highlights of the game include the hijinks-riddled Grim Reaper himself, the commitment to the gaudy reality TV mansion style, the wide variety of comedic characters, and the boss fights. Romancelvania is chock full of creativity and a clear love for monster movies and trashy reality TV that inspired it. The boss fights are actually some of the best gags in the game, from a Ghostbusters-inspired accountant named Dick Moranis, as well as a BDSM fruit named Pumpkink. And while the love interests do tend to lean a bit too comedic for my tastes, there’s objectively a lot that works in this game.
It’s just Romacelvania’s execution that doesn’t always work.
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For example, it feels like the developers chose the wrong starter dates. Vess has her charms as a distant and detached genie, but Medusa just feels like a comedic but shallow ex and Brocifer is a meme more than a contestant.
I understand not wanting to pigeonhole players into loving the first three characters off the bat, but more universally attractive options seem to be stuck near the end, like Nefrit, Leira, Robert, or Sol – I mean, who doesn’t love a handsome sad boi vampire? It makes getting into the dating aspect of the game hard in the beginning because it’s not easy to motivate yourself to go on dates with an uninterested genie, an ex who laments the man you used to be, and a devil whose dick’s always out.
The comedy is fun, but for a game marketed as half dating sim, it doesn’t start with its best foot forward on the whole “dateable” aspect.
Outplay, Outwit, Outlast Romancelvania’s Flaws
Another hurdle is the map itself. While it makes sense that this is a metroidvania and that means platforming and exploration, it gets tiresome to have to keep walking and platforming through multiple spaces just to talk to a romance option — especially when the game makes a point to tell you to check in on the characters from time to time. You’re forced to keep wandering back and forth or risk missing out on some dialogue. It just feels like a lot of wasted time wandering. If you’re here for the metroidvania first, the balance might feel more reasonable — putting the game to its highest difficulty could just feel like a B-grade metroidvania with a funny “Bachelor” style storyline. The game mechanics are very in-line with typical metroidvania fare. But if you’re playing Romancelvania mainly for the dating sim, be prepared for fun concepts bogged down by tedious wandering.
A fast travel option to the various monsters’ rooms would be very useful for the “low difficulty, here for romance” version of the game. This is especially true considering – true to dating sim form – gift-giving is a huge part of the romantic game mechanics.
Is it a Game Changer?
Overall, Romancelvania’s still lots of fun. I giggled with glee throughout the Dick Moranis fight and all his Slimers, and am truly impressed with the Switch Witch’s many sex jokes. Moreover, once you find a character you vibe with, it really helps take the story to the next level and motivates you to fight on. Given the game’s set-up, though, that might, unfortunately, mean you don’t meet your favorite character until a few hours into the game. I think Romancelvania’s story and characters are worth playing through some of the game’s uneven elements, but I’d also understand if some of the more frustrating imbalances ward other players away. Particularly if they’re just looking for a fun dating sim romp and don’t love the more traditionally metroidvania aspects getting in the way.
If you’re looking for light-hearted rom-comming and a little swordplay, Romancelvania’s a lot of fun. But if you’re looking for a seamlessly-paced dating sim or a challenging and innovative metroidvania, you won’t find either here.
Romancelvania was played on the PC with a code provided by The Deep End Games. It is available on Steam now.