Through gaming history Dracula has appeared with alarming regularity to cause trouble to innocent people and attempt to cast his shadow across the world. Normally opting for the Belmont family in the Castlevania series it seems the master of darkness has finally come up with a way to stop from being defeated. All he had to do all along was appear in a game that had no Belmont’s in it! Enter comedy named DR. Ferdinand Social who with the help of his Ouija board discovered something very bad was about to happen in Victorian London.
Making your way through five different areas, each split into smaller stages you must overcome the creatures of the night in what would appear to be a fairly standard platform adventure game that's not a million miles away from a certain other platform adventure game that concerns Dracula. However, though level design may be similar to the Castlevania games there are enough well crafted touches to make Master of Darkness carve out its own identity.
Cosmetically, the game is way ahead of the 8-bit Castlevania games with characters being clearer and better defined. Backgrounds are detailed without being cluttered and the colours never clash with the foreground meaning enemies are always visible and do not disappear into the scenery. Flickering is remarkably low and slow down never really effects what is going on either, so right from the off this has the edge over Konami’s game. However, the Castlevania games on the NES where released between 1987 and 1989, and this title showed its head in 1992 so comparison, although inevitable, is a touch unfair.
Gameplay wise there are a number of nice touches that raise the title above the standard platform adventure game that clogged up the shelves in the late eighties and early nineties. First of all our hero has a number of different weapons to choose. These range from daggers and swords to guns, bombs and even a boomerang, each weapon having strengths and weaknesses meaning you have to pick the one that suits your play style the best. Social is a very responsive character to control and the good doctor jumps around with ease and can even change direction quickly enough to take out incoming creatures. Level design is another notable thing with ordinary side scrolling sections put to shame by some levels containing collapsing floors and floating boats, all helping to keep the action fresh and enjoyable.
Overall, Master of Darkness succeeds in being a good fun title that avoids the pitfalls so many other adventure games of this type fall into. Though remarkably like Castlevania, you cannot get away from the fact that this title came a few years after the NES series and thus has better graphics and game mechanics, however it does lack a bit of soul and the epic feeling created by the Belmont’s struggle is sadly lacking. But if it is a fun game you want, then this could well be it.