Only Pairs Need Apply
HIGH Teaching that boss a thing or two about projectile weapons.
LOW Trying to fight literally any boss without a ranged weapon.
WTF Why is my alternate attack throwing a piece of bai- SHARK!
The developers of Lost Castle have good taste. They obviously love Dark Souls, The Binding of Isaac, and Rogue Legacy. They’ve taken elements of those games, blended them together, and poured out this 2D roguelike brawler. However, in doing so they’ve made several key mistakes that keep the game from becoming the sum of its parts, and it’s a long way from transcending them.
The premise is simple and catchy. Demons have taken over a castle full of treasure, enticing fortune hunters to swarm the place in the hopes of prying some gold away from the monsters who have no practical use for it. Players start each run-through as a generic thief with a random weapon. Better equipment and weapons will need to be taken from monsters that fill the randomly generated hallways. Monsters also drop ‘souls’, which can be exchanged at the end of a run for upgrades that allow the player to have a slightly more powerful character for each subsequent run. The game is stingy with souls, though, and once five or six upgrades have been unlocked, everything becomes frustratingly expensive.
Art design is one of the Lost Castle‘s high points. It’s lush and cartoony, with an expansive roster of foes. Each of the five worlds has distinct types of enemies, and each class has a wide enough set of variations that I saw new types of creatures for the entirety of my fifteen hours with the game. The bosses are particular standouts – whether it was the pet dinosaur, Audrey 3, or a tenacious landshark, they all manage to be threatening enough to impress, while never edging out of the cartoon cuteness aesthetic.
So the visuals are great, but they’re better than the game underneath it deserves. There are a number of fundamental flaws in Lost Castle‘s design, but the biggest one is that it’s not marketed as a co-op only experience. Every area is filled with too many characters who do too much damage and have too much health. Even with a level 30 character after beating the game, I still managed to get myself killed in the first world.
Combat here is fundamentally wrong — enemies don’t telegraph their attacks or exhaustion clearly. All of the player’s strikes are so slow it’s basically impossible to take advantage of pauses in enemy attacks. Enemies with deadly charging attacks are so good at moving up and down the screen that they’re almost impossible to dodge. Also… welI, I could go on for paragraphs about all of the things wrong with the combat mechanics, but for sanity’s sake, I wont. They’re bad.
Despite how poor the combat is when playing alone, everything works fine when playing co-op. With two players, hordes of enemies will have their focus split and suddenly become manageable. Bosses that are nearly unbeatable become a breeze when a second player can hit them in the back while distracted. It’s possible for a solo player to beat the game if they find a good bow and get lucky with the item drops, but everything about Lost Castle is tuned for two players. Somehow it never occurred to the developers that they should dial back the difficulty if there’s only one thief present to challenge the tower of demons?
The most puzzling thing about Lost Castle is that it makes mistakes it has no reason to. The games that obviously inspired it have already solved its design problems — Rogue Legacy showed how to do an upgrade-based economy perfectly. Dark Souls‘ enemies have weaknesses and the player can defend. The devs rival Isaac‘s dizzying array of items and weapons, but nailing one out of three aspects isn’t enough to recommend it. There’s some quality stuff in Lost Castle and I genuinely hope it gets fixes for its flaws. But, as of right now, it’s a decent-ish co-op title that’s borderline unplayable alone. Rating: 6 out of 10.
Disclosures: This game is developed by Hunter Studio and published by Another Indie. It is currently available on PC. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on PC. Approximately 8 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed. 3 hours of play were spent in multiplayer modes.
Parents: The game is not reviewed by the ESRB, but it’s basically a T. It contains blood, fantasy violence, and alcohol use, although it’s pretty safe, even for younger teens. It’s all very tame, and the fact that it’s a co-op focused experience could actually be a good way to get kids to share the computer.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: The game has no audio cues that don’t have obvious visual counterparts, and all story is subtitled.
Remappable Controls: Yes, this game offers fully remappable controls.
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available in the options.