An action adventure game with a stunning visual style, The Eternal Castle [Remastered] isn’t to be missed.
I never played the original The Eternal Castle, supposedly an 80’s computer game, and I am unsure of whether this updated version of it is actually [REMASTERED] or not. I found some folks who did some research into the matter, and did not look very much into that research because I was just so excited to play the dang game. It popped up on my Twitter feed a few days ago (luckily just before release) and I got the higher ups at B3 to track down a last minute Steam key for it… Jeez, am I blown away by this stellar game.
The Eternal Castle [REMASTER] has some of the best shadow and shade work in a pixel art game that I have just about ever seen. This is the most three-dimensional a 2D side-scroller has ever, ever looked to me. Sometimes the visuals will be a mass of surreal shapes. Sometimes they will be more defined portraits. Sometimes they will be a complex gobbledygook of fragment and color. But regardless of what is going on, even if you sometimes have no idea what you are looking at, you always have a gut reaction that pulls you in an emotional direction. It pulls you because Eternal Castle is a big picture game, full of little, wonderful, grim details.
This focus on visual storytelling continues with the plot as well. I generally, really, have no idea what is going on in this game, moment by moment, but I do know that SOMETHING is going on. And I want to know where that “something” goes. The game opens up with some semi-unreadable text (upon looking back at the Steam page, I think I found it in accessible form) that has something to do with some sort of grim sci-fi space future with, war, or something. Okay, check. Then you are given the choice between “Adam” and “Eve”, which is basically choosing between a male or female protagonist.
Now, as I said, I don’t know much about this game’s narrative, but I do know it’s about going “somewhere” and saving “someone” who is referred to as “her”. I don’t know if this is going to end in a weird romance angle or not, but I slam the button down on the “Eve” choice to play as a female hero without a second of doubt, because everything in the universe is unabashedly better when it’s queer. And the best part of these anomalous plot video games are that you can kind of do a little bit of your own storytelling. So off I go and crashland my gay ass on some random planet to save my fairy space girlfriend from —what I, so far, have found to be— a whole legion of gritty space punks.
And this game is very gritty: it paints a picture of an apocalyptic world with cars hanging from the sky, a blood red landscape, demolished cities, and a desert haze of unlivable environments. The characters you meet along the way (whom you mostly shoot and get shot at by), all seem to be dangerous: a crumbling society on the brink of survival that is tearing itself apart. I usually do not go for the dark and violent games, but Eternal Castle somehow teeters on a balance between being agonizingly brutal but not wading into ‘shock-horror for shock-horror’s sake’ territory. This might be because of the art style that was chosen: the use of shadows and silhouettes means that there can be gore but it isn’t shoved in your face, or really seen in any real way. Which makes it easier to complete, considering how hard it is.
And it is hard! Or I might just not be good at video games, but I certainly died a lot. The fun thing about Eternal Castle though, is that you will die what feels like a hundred times trying to complete a task, and then realize on the 101th take that it was just a simple lever you had to pull, and the path opens. This is an amazing game, with lots of areas to explore and game mechanics I haven’t even had a chance to get to yet. There seems to be so much to explore, and the visuals, music, and gameplay are all beyond rewarding enough to keep you going through it all.
Eternal Castle feels like the perfect mix of dark and hopeful, of weird but familiar, and all that with a killer soundtrack. The narrative seems to be mostly told through visual storytelling, but what actual text that is there manages to be both poetic and simple, much like a destiny being read to you. Everything about it is so tight, intentional, and on track that I could cry.
Eternal Castle is available now for Mac & PC.