Lance A Lot
HIGH Teaming up with AI friends for an unexpected cart ride.
LOW The ‘five keys’ requirement is an unappreciated sucker punch.
WTF Oh, and these keys just happen to be extremely well hidden? Gah.
Arthur, famed protagonist from Capcom’s Ghosts ‘n Goblins series has a problem. For one, he’s not called Arthur any more. He’s now known as Don Ramiro, beard-sporting protagonist of Cursed Castilla and undoubtedly the sexiest, bravest knight in all the land.
However, his problems are pretty small compared to those of Tolomera del Rey, an area currently occupied by undead demonic hordes that take pleasure in massacring the local populace. What’s poor Don Ramiro to do but head on over at the behest of the king and lay waste to all the devilish bastards that stand in his way?
This setup to Cursed Castilla (Maldita Castilla EX) is a tribute to arcade games of old, and in this particular case, anyone familiar with Ghosts ‘n Goblins will have a pretty good handle on how it plays already. Sure, Don Ramiro doesn’t wind up in his underwear every time he gets hit, but the basic platforming and controls are much the same. As one might expect, he can chuck out a few of his trademark lance-shaped weapons, hurl them above or below him, and also find new weapons and upgrades tucked away inside chests. From rapid-fire scythes to magical boots that allow for double jumping, there’s an option in his arsenal that should work for just about anybody.
Given the general difficulty of the game, these power-ups will come in handy. Like many classic arcade titles, Cursed Castilla can be tough and unforgiving, practically demanding that players learn enemy patterns if they want to succeed. While it’s possible to brute force through, using more than four continues causes some angel of death-looking bastard to appear and locks players into a bad ending. So that’s great.
Also, anyone who doesn’t find five ‘Moira’s Tears’ items hidden in devious places along the way (such as behind breakable walls, Castlevania style) will be cut off from being able to play the final section. This was maybe one needlessly harsh punishment too far there, guys.
The level of variety in each area is seriously impressive. Many enemy types only appear for a short while after being introduced and then rarely pop up later on, if at all. From exploding skeletons to headless suits of armor and the unexpected spectacle of a handless, headless corpse running around with its man bits hanging out (no, I’m not joking) the monster design is diverse. Occasionally, little changes to the core gameplay spice things up as well, such as a breakneck horse cart ride through the forest with some friends hacking away at aggressors, or following a tiny flying demon lighting up a pitch black area with its flaming torch.
Thankfully, the controls are nice and tight throughout, so while it can be an unforgiving game, it’s rarely an unfair one.
While Cursed Castilla is a well-crafted homage to old-school quarter-munchers (amazing CRT scanlines and all) it has to be said I’m not quite convinced that the core loop is as strong as it could and should be. I can appreciate a return to arcade basics from an intellectual standpoint, but it never managed to get its hooks into me and only managed a certain level of mild enjoyment throughout.
Ultimately, it’s telling that after finishing the game and getting the lousy ending where I was essentially told to bugger off after not finding the five hidden keys, I just shrugged my shoulders and felt completely fine with calling it a day. Perhaps I’ve gone soft in my old age, but mustering up the enthusiasm to jump through additional hoops to get to the ‘real’ ending was beyond me. I just watched the final chapters on Youtube instead.
I’ve no doubt that there’s a hardcore segment of gamers who will appreciate what Cursed Castilla is going for, and for these players, it will certainly do a great job of bringing back a late-’80s sort of arcade experience in a way that few retro-inspired projects accomplish. For most players, though, I feel that it’ll be viewed as a cute little oddity and little more.
Disclosures: This game is developed and published by Locomalito. It is currently available on Xbox One and PC. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PC. Approximately 2 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed with the worst ending. There are no multiplayer modes.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is not yet rated. There’s some old-school mayhem as far as imagery goes however, with corpses littered around the place and villagers swaying from nooses. Oh, and that de-limbed demon running around with his pixelated dick out, of course.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: No appreciable problems that I noticed. Dialogue is delivered in text, and sound effects are rarely important accompaniments to on-screen attacks.
Remappable Controls: Yes, this game offers fully remappable controls.
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available in the options.
The chance discovery of a muddy, burnt out copy of '50 Shades of Grey' in a hunting pit gave him an appreciation for complex plots, characters and overarching narrative, and the unexpected gift of a Spectrum 48k allowed him to indulge in these newfound sensibilities with intelligent, highbrow games such as 'flee from the badly animated spinning turquoise dolphins' or 'avoid the deadly glowing bricks of doom'.
The fusion of both these interests finally culminated with Darren teaching himself how to write by basically guessing at what words might look like when jotted down on paper as opposed to being howled inarticulately at the skies.
Now others occasionally get to read his scribblings. Lucky them.