Review | Cursed Castilla

A love letter to the games of your youth.

The (mostly) one man team of Locomalito must really like Ghosts n’ Goblins.

The NES classic and its follow-ups highly regarded amongst gamers of most, if not all ages with good reason.  The solid controls and challenging gameplay hold up well even to this day and the adventures of Arthur are fondly remembered by many.  I mention this game for a very good reason.  Cursed Castilla is hugely inspired by it.  From controls and combat, to setting and enemies, Cursed Castilla shows reverence to a game of yesteryear.  This is no bad thing of course; if you’re going to be inspired it might as well be by something good.  Thankfully, Locomalito has the skills to create something that isn’t just inspired by the classic, but also channels some of the magic that made it into a classic in the first place.

Cursed Castilla
Windmill blades are more dangerous than other games may have suggested.

In the land of Tolomera, a witch cries for her lost love.  Hearing her sorrow, a demon appears before her and convinces her to turn her tears into a key.  This key opens a gate and releases a monstrous horde upon the land!  Now, King Alfonso implores his bravest warriors to defeat the darkness and bring peace.  You take on the role of Don Ramiro and embark on this quest.  Apparently this is loosely based on a Spanish folk story, but I’m no expert on these things so I’ll assume the story is there merely as a simple context for the fighting and not much else.

The gameplay is classic arcade goodness, with your fighting your way from left to right to confront a boss and move on to the next location.  The stages play in a very similar way to the source material, with Ramiro throwing swords to attack (although here he can throw in all four directions from the off).  New weapons can be picked up with different properties, such as dagger for a spread shot or a powerful holy water that flies in an arc, along with bonus items giving you double jumps and additional attacks.  Contact with an enemy or its attack will cause you to lose one of three hearts (no underpants for you, gentle player!) until death.  On the whole, it plays well, with tight controls that reward careful play and learning of enemy placement.

Cursed Castilla
This is probably my favourite level. Holding off harpies whilst hurtling along a road on the back of a cart.

Death comes quickly in Cursed Castilla.  It is a very challenging game, but not unfair.  You will die a lot, but learning the layout of the world as well as enemy placements will make things a lot easier.  It’s likely on your first playthrough you will use a lot of continues (3 lives and your out as you might expect) as you learn the ropes.  Interestingly, you have infinite continues, but upon continuing for a 4th time you are informed you have to trade your soul to carry on, giving locking you out of certain endings.  This is a nice feature that rewards replaying and stepping up to the challenge.  There are also achievements and a speedrun mode should those things take your fancy, so there’s plenty of content here.  This is clearly designed with speedrunning in mind as many levels can be completed quickly with enough practice.

The enemies themselves are varied in design and fit their environments well.  They tend to act in similar ways, walking or flying up to you and occasionally launching a projectile.  The bosses are where the real fun lies, with interesting designs that force you to figure out patterns quickly.  Taking a long time to defeat the boss can make things more difficult, so working out what to do quickly helps.  Giant knights that inch forward as they swing for you and huge birds that swoop towards you act very differently to each other and provide the real variety in the game.

The levels are interesting and manage to keep things fresh.  Without spoiling too much, you begin by traveling through a dilapidated town before defending a cart alongside your comrades from monstrous flying creatures as it careens along a dirt road.  I won’t say more as the surprise of discovering the new areas is part of the fun on your first playthrough.  Each stage has catchy music that fits the environment well, and the sound effects are quite fitting.  Everything has the right sound and look to give you that feeling of a classic arcade style game.  The game is even presented as a screen on an arcade cabinet which is a lovely touch.

Cursed Castilla
Learning your way around stages is absolutely crucial if you want to make it through in one piece.

Cursed Castilla is an enjoyable throwback to to those classic games you may well have played in your youth.  It practically is Ghosts n’ Goblins HD in all but name.  A well made, fun and challenging platformer that will make you feel like a kid in front of your TV again.  Give it a try.

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