Originally submitted for the NESDev Competition 2017, Wolfling started off as a collaboration NES project between Matthias Bock (aka Lazycow) and Zoltan Haller (aka Zolionline) which saw the platform game finish in 3rd place.
Following the completion of the NES edition of Wolfling, Lazycow started work to port the game across to the Commodore 64 with the aim to also introduced a couple of enhanced features such as improved player control and a slight larger game world, with the C64 version being formally released in the first week of 2019.
Wolfling is about a young woman, called Ling, who transforms into a wolf like creature whenever she steps out into the moonlight. Baron Baranov is fearful of werewolves and the unnatural powers they possess. So he has Ling captured and thrown into one of his dungeons to rot away for the rest of her life. It is up to you to take control of Ling and help her find a way out of her cell and the Baron’s castle.
The game starts off with a brief scene showing Ling being thrown into the dungeon. It is at this point that you take control and spend sometime familiarising yourself with the control mechanism, including the process of transforming from human to wolf when standing in the light of the moon that shines through sections of the Baron’s castle and back to human again when away from the moon’s illumination.
The two character modes have their own distinct advantages and restrictions. Ling is capable of jumping up at greater heights as a human but as a wolf can achieve a longer horizontal jump distance. While in the wolf form, you also have the added advantage of being able to move around faster and also invoke a ground-roll attack that is used to eliminate or disable enemies and to demolish weakened sections of a wall that will grant you access to areas of the game map that would otherwise be restricted.
As you escape the cell and start exploring the Baron’s castle, you start to come across numerous enemies that will reduce Ling’s health bar when they come into contact with her. Once Ling loses all her health then it’s game over as you only have one life.
As you try to find a way out of the castle, you will need to navigate across myriads of platforms and ledges. This is no straightforward matter as the game incorporate inertia physics which means that your jumping speed will determine the momentum you have upon landing, which at times will result in you falling down over the edge of the platform you have just landed on.
Initially, I thought the game was to reliant on pixel perfect jumps as time after time I would miss my jump only to have to work my way back up again. But through further observation I found that the opposite was true and that you can actually initiate jumps a couple of pixels beyond the edge of platforms. Once you understand this, the game becomes a lot more manageable to play. In saying all this, this does illustrate perhaps the game’s minor weak point, which is that perhaps the game is not as polished as it could be with some slight flickering on screen on the C64 edition and your character at times sticking to the side of landscapes rather than landing on them.
As you make your way through the game world, you will notice that some sections are locked off and that you will have to find the corresponding colour coded keys in order to access the areas beyond. In addition to finding keys, you will also want to collect a number of jewels that are scattered across the game map. Collecting 5 jewels is mandatory if you want to unlock the good ending.
Eventually, you will come across a Boss battle screen involving another wolf (is this the Baron?) which is not too difficult to get through. Defeating this enemy will lead you to being able to unlock the wolf double jump skill, which in turn effectively opens up the whole game world and it becomes a whole lot easier make your way across. Without the double jump skill, it is not possible to complete the game as you will not be able to jump over the Castle ramparts blocking your path to freedom towards the end.
When comparing the C64 version to the NES edition, the following differences were noted:
Overall, both versions of the game are quite responsive, especially when you are in wolf mode. With a little bit of practice, you can seamlessly have your wolf running, jumping and ground-rolling all in one fluid motion.
However, I felt that jumping in the NES version was easier, thanks to having access to 2 fire buttons on the NES contoller, on of which is used to invoke a jump (you need to push Joystick UP in the C64 edition in order to jump) and resulted in far less missed jumps and back tracking.
Visually, the two versions are on par with each other despite the difference in resolutions on offer. The NES graphics are slightly better defined and larger while I felt the the C64 colour display was more dynamic and contained a little bit more texture.
The NES sound is good and has some nice dynamics, but it is hard to go past the C64’s SID chip capabilities and its ability to provide a better separation of each instrument. The music on the C64 sound far more crisp and cleaner.
Whether you elect to play the C64 version or the NES version is neither here or there as they both provide similar experiences and most likely will come down to personal preference around control mechanism and the audio visual style that you are most used to.
Wolfling is a good gaming experience with an interesting shape shifting mechanism that provides a somewhat refreshing and satisfying game play.
For a deeper look at both the C64 and NES editions of Wolfling, take some time to watch the video review below.
Both editions of Wolfling can be downloaded directly from Lazycow.
Wolfling’s shape shifting feature is enough to make the title stand out some what from the dirge of platform games available on both the NES and C64 platforms. It is hard to say that one version is definitively superior to the other. But what is certain is that the game offers a satisfying gaming experience despite being a bit ‘rough around the edges’ in respect to its overall production values.
Retro gaming journalist promoting NEW C64, Amiga, Amstrad CPC & ZX Spectrum games. Contributes to RetroGamerNation YouTube channel, RVG and Vintage is the New Old blog sites, Reset 64 Magazine, The 8-Bit Annual and various other publications.