Castle in The Darkness

“I wanna be an adventurer someday!”

One night, the kingdom of Alexandria is attacked by an evil sorcerer and his dark army. Despite efforts to protect the king and the queen, the royal guard is overcome and one by one converted to the enemy side. A Knight, unconscious but still alive, awakes in the throne room to realize that the worst has happened: the king and the queen are nowhere and the whole city is full of monsters.

With a sword in hand he decides to challenge death in a difficult mission: to restore peace and save the kingdom.

And so it is how the story begins in Castle In The Darkness, title created by Ukranian composer, musician and developer Matt Kapp (The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth, 1001 Spikes and others) A 2D Indie and extremely challenging platformer in the style of Rogue Legacy, Shovel Knight and even Megaman and other titles that were right on top sales and became classics in the genre with RPG elements like Castlevania or Metroid saga. Its fast, it’s hard, it’s full of secrets, items, enemies and bosses. What more can you ask for?

With a sword that is not up to the circumstances and an armor that it provides little more than something to dress, he began exploring the devastated city. Castle in The Darkness makes it clear from the beginning that we will suffer unless we take our work seriously, the most common enemies will kill us in only 2 hits and we will immediately see the kill counter in front of us.

It should be noted again that the game is the result of one person. Both the sounds and music are worthy of all jewels of NES classic titles of the same genre this game was based. And not only the sound part was made by the same developer, but the same programmer designed the plot, aesthetics, NPCs, enemies and more.

The gameplay is not difficult: you just have a button to jump and a button to hit, that’s it. It’s hard to believe that a title with a simple gameplay can become complicated, but it is. Enemies have patterns that are usually random, cooldown between blows you can receive is short enough to die in seconds and the progress system is based on beating up the bosses.

If we want more life, we need to beat a boss. If we get an item to climb walls or better armor, we will have to fight a boss. If we want to save someone, we will go and fight a boss. And if we get a new skill such as a charging super fire ball, prepare yourself. It will only be to fight a boss that would otherwise be impossible to overcome.

The world is not simple: While the game starts being linear, the lack of a map is noted soon. There are many places where we cannot enter for lack of secret combinations, keys, items or skills we need to break a path or climb a wall, keeping us away from the main path more and more and then having to remember where to go back. Castlevania style, remember?

Luckily dying in the game is not as tragic as in others. The save system is quite simple: Some maps have a statue of a goddess where the game is automatically saved when we press the UP key. The very same key we use to enter buildings.

The game features over 100 varieties of enemies with varied patterns and if this were not enough, our sword does not have much range. We will die many times trying to learn the patterns of our enemies that will usually kill us fast enough to not learn anything (or am I that bad..?). Running slowly or too fast, jump very far or very close or even stay quiet for too long or be in constant motion can also be reasons to not dodge environment traps and die instantly.

The game is great, but it has a fatal flaw: The controller support. I love to play my 2D action platformers with a pad because these kind of games were created for them. The game does not automatically detects the pad and we need to bind the buttons manually. That’s the first slap in the face. To enter or exit the menus is also not possible, we will need to use the keyboard to do that. That’s the kick on the floor. And for some reason, if we want to pause the game we will need to press and hold the P key for a while. By now you have been slapped in the face, kicked on the floor and someone spat you because you wanted to play with your controller.

The game is challenging and really fun for everyone who loves the genre. The price is ridiculously low for a game that gives us so many hours of gameplay and such a variety of enemies and bosses, and coming from someone who has worked on titles with large amounts of content as The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth, the result speaks for itself.