Portrait of Ruin tried to change the formula of the metrovania-style Castlevania’s a little bit by letting you play two characters who have to work together to solve puzzles along the usual monster killing and exploring of a castle. While there are initially a few minor puzzles and occasionally you have to switch between the characters to advance, in the end that aspect is pretty underdeveloped.
Another new aspect of the game (for the Castlevania series at least) is that the castle acts like a hub for other levels, which can be entered via paintings. You have pyramids, Victorian England, a haunted house in the woods and so on. Even an extra-hard dungeon that is basically an very-long boss-rush mode inside the game (different from the real boss rush mode).
Story-wise the game references lots of characters and plot points from the Genesis Castlevania Bloodlines (which wasn’t a metrodivania-style Castlevania, just an old-school but still very good Castlevania), as the Belmont’s are notoriously absent in the game.
Despite the attempts to change the gameplay a bit, the game doesn’t feel all that different from all the other metroidvania-style Castlevania’s. And yet it still manages to establish its own style and feel and reminds me of the old adage – if you have a good thing going, don’t shake it up too much – which is something that definitely applies here. Some different bits here and there, but the core-experience is everything I wanted from the game.
[way to beat Belmont to unlock the whip – equip holy mail and nebula whip, keep away from him and attack out of his range, takes a while but is actually not that difficult]
[tip for Dracula – don’t use any of the health and MP refreshing items that can’t be bought from Vincent, once you reach Dracula you should have enough of those to beat him easily]