Eric Kelly On February 23, 2015 at 2:01 pm

Castle in the Darkness LogoDid you like Volgarr the Viking but found that game unbelievably too difficult to finish? Or any other old-school like platformers from either the 8-bit or 16-bit era? Well thankfully Castle in the Darkness gives players a solid, yet it still is a cruel mistress, as it proves that just because you have an easier time, you still won’t have your hand held.

Castle in the Darkness is like many other games in this retro-fad era, full of old school graphical styling’s, with smatterings of nostalgia about. However, this game manages to stand out as more than other “me too’s”. Maybe it’s just because there are actually few games that use this retro look while incorporating many of the best bits from games of both past and present, while still maintaining its own unique identity. The game’s plot basically apes Ghosts and Goblin’s, but instead of the Princess been abducted, the sick king has disappeared. Of course your squatty looking protagonist has to be a hero and save the day.

Gameplay consists of jumping around, avoiding instant death spikes and other hazards, while destroying enemies from a safe distance. And that last bit is important, as the invincibility time after getting hit is very brief, and continued contact with enemies typically results in a quick death. While the game is clearly imitating Battle Kid and I Want to by the Guy in its base difficulty and how its overworlds are structured, the game is a touch easier than those games. You get a life bar, albeit you typically can only take a few hits before going down. This is much in the same manner as Ghouls and Ghosts. Defeating bosses do grant additional health, but without additional defense from other armors you can find, it’s only a minimal increase. The game really wants players to learn how to play more effectively to minimize damage and deaths. And you will die a lot. In fact, there are achievements for hitting death milestones, and surprisingly not from clearing the game with no deaths. There are a variety of weapons to find which all have their own strengths and weaknesses. You can even get magic to use.

There are some issues though. Despite having a layout similar to Blaster Master, the game lacks a map to track where you are. While levels are small enough that it isn’t much of a problem, it still would have been nice. Other weird things are the need for load times(unless this is an intentional joke, as they are short) for level or menu transitions. Also, you have to manually set up your gamepad of choice, as the game doesn’t auto-detect it by default. But beyond that, the charge time for magic takes way too long.

These issues are largely minor, and the game is just a joy to play. The music is catchy, the reference laden jokes will crack smiles for old gaming vets, and the game will even troll players by subverting their expectations. And if you die too many times, you can always play on Easy Mode, which likely as easy as it claims, seems more like an insult. The control is great, and it feels like the game was actually made by one of my favorite Japanese indie developers, Buster. But it’s actually made by someone else entirely. It’s a short little platformer with plenty of secrets to uncover and challenges to overcome, and it’s totally worth your time.


A hard as nails action platforming game that takes cues from I Want to be the Guy and Battle Kid, along with nods to classic titles.


A low-fi graphic style that captures the feeling of game’s from a bygone era, but it also has its own style.


The music is very catchy and sounds like a game soundtrack that Buster made.


A very fun and addicting, yet extremely challenging little action-platforming game that knows exactly what it is, while still offering skill levels for less advanced players.

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