GAME REVIEW: CASTLE IN THE DARKNESS / DEVELOPER: MATT KAP /PUBLISHER: NICALIS / PLATFORM: PC / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
When it comes to modern-day gaming, the majority of what’s on offer is all about the visuals, the storyline and how intuitive the combat is, so finding a perfectly-formed throwback to the early days of gaming is a rare treat nowadays. Castle in the Darkness manages to capture all of the fun and the nostalgia of the original NES and SEGA games, but still offers something a little new and exciting. This is a game that could have you tearing your hair out in frustration thanks to its clever level design and infuriating simplistic yet hard-to-master manoeuvres, but it’s one that’s hard to give up on – even after a few hundred deaths.
Castle in the Darkness is a fast-paced platformer, complete with retro graphics, a charming soundtrack and lots of little bonus rewards to discover – most of which you unlock as rewards for dying a certain amount of times. You play as a Royal Knight of the Kingdom of Alexandria, seeking to save the King from an illness which has created monsters in the land. It’s a nice twist on the traditional saving-the-princess storyline you might expect with a game like this (thanks, Super Mario), but it’s clichéd enough to really throw you back in time in the best way possible.
There’s a lot more to this game than might appear on the surface. Although it has that wonderfully retro style and simplistic controls, there’s still elements of more modern gaming, like being able to switch out your weapons and armour, or unlocking bonus content. The fast pacing makes the game pretty tricky in some places, and many pitfalls, traps and deaths are going to be waiting for you along the way. However, this isn’t just your typical rage-quit game – there’s an element of childhood affection and a refusal to be beaten that really keeps the drive going, and being rewarded for hitting fifty or a hundred deaths is somewhat satisfying – after all, unlocking an achievement can’t be a bad thing.
Without the elements that are now considered to be the cornerstone of a great game, this might not be one for a modern audience, but for those who fondly look back on the original games from franchises such as Kirby, The Legend of Zelda and even The Prince of Persia, this is definitely one to play. This highly addictive and thoroughly enjoyable ‘80s throwback perfectly captures the adventure, the exploration and the pure joy of early gaming.