Castle In The Darkness: Review

Everyone’s experienced the headshake.  It’s a subtle thing, a sharp sometimes even unnoticeable sidewards shift of the head, a gentle snort of air exhaling from the nostrils, a quick glance downwards and a knowing smirk. It’s the gesture that every gamer has enacted at some point, a sign of almost humorous failure as the game you’re trying to beat has, in fact, beaten you once more. Most recently Dark Souls will have drawn such humbled admissions of defeat, but give Castle In The Darkness a try and you’ll be sure to suffer it more than once.

This is how Nicalis’ latest retro throwback draws you in: it’s in the accidental misstep into a passing enemy, the failed reaction time for that all-important double jump or the unfairly positioned roof spike that drops in the exact spot you chose to stand when activating that switch. It’d be right to call Castle In The Darkness  difficult, perhaps even cruel, but so finely tuned it is that it never borders into anger territory.

It’s the sort of praise lumped on the already-mentioned Dark Souls before, but where Castle In The Darkness often employs equally nefarious tricks to force your death, it doesn’t suffer as the Souls series can for feeling cheap. Checkpoints are common (though sometimes your desperation may make it feel like they’re never common enough), and the gameplay so quick that replaying a section with your newfound knowledge takes a matter of seconds; it’s a subtle shake of the head, a click of the retry button and off you go once again.

It doesn’t make quite as much use of its varied items and equipment as you’d like to hope from start to finish there is rarely much to necessitate backtracking but that just makes the game all the more fulfilling. Remembering there was a character to revisit, a place you can now access or even the niggling feeling that you might’ve missed something early on gives you a secondary compulsion. It’s
an intriguing approach to such a familiar sort of game, where the linear desire to move onwards and destroy bosses is equalled by the more adventurous belief that there could be more to see.

Your selection of weapons and spells will affect the way you play, and there are times when you’ll hit a brick wall trying to overcome a certain set of obstacles only to discover that a change in equipment will help matters vastly. And as the surprisingly long runtime rolls on, you’ll find the game continues to offer up more interesting challenges and varied boss battles; that, in itself, should be cherished.
Truthfully, though, Castle In The Darkness doesn’t offer much in the way of originality, and it’s only going to appeal to a nostalgia-riddled audience looking to relive the glory days of 16-bit sidescrollers but it’s super slick mechanics are reminiscent of an era where perfecting the gameplay was all that mattered, and in that sense this game can’t be beaten.


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