An incredible new game paying homage to yester-year has been created by Matt Kap, who is responsible for a great deal of the artwork in Binding of Isaac: Rebirth (among other titles). Castle In The Darkness is the definition of pristine in terms of polish for a Retro-Inspired Indie Platformer / Action RPG. The Kingdom of Alexandria’s fate rests on your tiny 8-ish-bit shoulders after your King has grown ill with a mysterious horde of monsters slaying every last guard in town… except you.
In addition to Binding of Isaac: Rebirth, the developer has also worked on 1001 Spikes for the same publishing house and this game strikes me as a bit similar at times but in all the right ways. Skills will be put to the test, or if they don’t exist, they will be forged in blood. The controls emphasize precision timing and maintaining a steady flow of motion while allowing for rapid speed at the same time. The result is a very satisfying platformer experience, but it doesn’t stop there. Castle In The Darkness features a great value offering with heart and soul exuding from each and every scene.
As armor and weapons are purchased by collecting gold coins throughout the journey, specialty abilities are acquired such as double jumping, the ability to destroy half-crumbled walls, elemental magic attacks and other spells, fireballs, axes, spears, a boomerang, and more. Experimenting with equipment can lead to unique results, so players won’t just abandon their gear once something new is obtained (yet another well thought out and refreshing mechanic). Levels are progressively more interesting as you go, but the developer has found a masterful formula of balancing aggravation, frustration, fun, and triumph into a package of feelings that is extremely addictive.
Attacks do very little damage to most enemies players will encounter, but can be performed rapidly. Conversely, players can barely handle a few hits from even the weakest of enemies. This causes a situation where dying is so commonplace the game actually counts your deaths in an ascending fashion rather than limiting you to just a few lives. You will literally die more times than succeed no matter how good of a gamer you are.
Precise hand eye coordination is needed to win this game, and it had me on the edge of my seat pretty much the whole time. The only thing we can say that’s slightly negative about the game depending on your taste is that playing on a keyboard and mouse seems highly impractical. Xbox ONE Controller support is solid, and buttons can be completely re-mapped, so we didn’t find too much issue with this. However, if all you had were a keyboard and mouse, the difficulty of this game will be artificially increased ten fold.
Right off the bat, the soundtrack to this game will have you bopping to the beat. If you’ve ever hummed the tunes to a Nintendo NES track then you’ll feel right at home with the atmospheric sounds of Castle In The Darkness. Graphically, the title is perfection for a retro art style that is only growing in popularity in the modern gaming world. Animation quality is a huge part of this game, and without the consistency provided would’ve been disastrous.
The boss battles often hit randomly, and while save spots are well placed they are also not hand-holding. Players will get a bit of the Ninja Gaiden feel when re-spawning over and over again since they need to memorize their plan of attack even before they reach a boss. Exploring around will lead to bosses and areas players might have otherwise missed, and Castle In The Darkness very quickly reveals itself as an adequately sized game world with plenty to explore.
Nicalis has been criticized at times for taking too long to get games published, but I’m going to instead applaud them for excellence in the quality assurance department. Slow and steady wins the race, and I’m pretty sure this game was worth the wait. I have yet to encounter a bug in the game.
Fun factor has been solidified with a perfect balance of predictability and random happenings in the game overall. There are many secret areas (some of which require the collection of keys to access) and nods to the classic games we grew up with such as pipes that lead to spikes of death, tiles that can be bypassed, mid-air double jumps to get specific items, and of course a bit of back-tracking once abilities are gained that can make way to paths previously inaccessible.
With content updates promised and a full, complete package currently on offer for retro gamers and newcomers alike, Castle In The Darkness is one of the most fun filled indie titles of the year. Easily more entertaining than some of last year’s top picks in the genre, this exploratory twitch-paced Action RPG meets Platformer never fails to satisfy. Players are able to pick up and resume where they left off without any stress since the game proceeds in the most logical of manners. In this day and age, there’s something to be said about a game that gets gameplay right, provides charming aura / atmosphere, and knows where its roots are.
Overall Score: 9.5 / 10
RGN Rating: Platinum Game
Developer: Matt Kap
Review Copy Info: A digital copy of this game was provided to RealGamerNewz by the publisher for the purpose of this Review.
Editor’s Note: RealGamerNewZ has moved web servers, some older posts can no longer be commented on and have been preserved without their images. Thank you for your understanding in this matter. This article was written by Jon Ireson on 20150223 and was last modified on 20150223 .