Castle in the Darkness Review
Nicalis have made a name for themselves in recent years with their creation and handling of retro-styled titles. Matt Kap, one of the artists in the envoy of Nicalis, has just finished developing and releasing an independently developed title called Castle in the Darkness. As a title that often references the works of Metroid/Castlevania, is Castle in the Darkness one of the next great classics, or is it simply paying tribute?
Castle in the Darkness opens as so many games of the past do: a princess is trapped away in a castle, an unnamed knight ventures off to save her, so on and so forth. It’s a tale retold through centuries each told in different form and Castle in the Darkness is no different.
The cast of Castle in the Darkness is a relatively small one. From the unnamed knight to the princess with a few tricks up her sleeve to her missing father, the king, and even to a frog knight that pops his head in from time to time, there’s not much in terms of interaction with the world beyond the occasional dialogue preceeding a boss fight or an NPC in need of some assistance, aka optional side quests. Much of the supporting cast you’ll interact with once throughout the story and then you’ll never see them again. While this may sound like a negative aspect, I was glad to not have to repeatedly come back to the same NPC over and over for various quests and tasks.
Much like the retro pixel art-style that Matt Kap has created for Castle in the Darkness, there are more than a few subtle nods to gaming culture of the past thirty years. Gags and easter eggs are strewn across the world in all kinds of ways, from little pieces of dialogue to some of the more obvious objects hanging out in the background. If you’re fairly well versed in the gaming classics, you’re bound to crack a smile at some of the references hidden throughout Castle in the Darkness.
To say Castle in the Darkness is like a Metroidvania game would be an understatement. Exploration is a huge aspect of the game and even the most minor of upgrades could easily open new paths. Every time that I acquired a new ability such as a double jump or a secret key, I routinely found myself backtracking through the world trying to figure out where these could best be put to use. Even from behind something mundane such as a breakable wall, there would sometimes be a path that would lead to an entirely new dungeon or area to explore.
Castle in the Darkness Review,