Pixel art seems to be the go-to style for a lot of indie developers, and it's his past success doing just that on The Binding of Isaac
which has lead Matt Kap to build an entire game, Castle In The Darkness
takes the form of a reasonably straightforward action platformer- troubling you with little more than movement, a jump button and an attack button, the latter of which can be held to charge a special attack.
However, it's the Metroidvanias of the world that CitD
has its eyes set on more than anything- the resurgence in 2D platform games driven by indies tends towards superhard point-to-point traversal challenges, like Super Meat Boy
, or puzzles and story, like Braid
, but here it's about finding new powers in places that let you explore other, previously inaccessible places you've already been past.
This isn't to say that the game is devoid of challenge. Despite the inclusion of modern difficulty concessions such as save points and infinite lives, Castle
has absolutely no qualms about murdering the player at every given opportunity.
Slow-moving early-game enemies soon give way to projectile-spewing plants and various things that explode into more enemies when they're killed, flanked by sheer drops and collapsing platforms over instadeath spikes (and the occasional switch puzzle)- and that's without including any of the bosses.
Likewise, level design itself soon turns from reasonably empty rooms to elaborate death traps- which themselves go from thoughtfully-navigated, delicate operations to almost muscle memory-driven twitch platformers after multiple plays.
The game's devotion to all things retro also comes at a price- the game can on occasion be a little too referential in its humour, and one boss appears to be almost entirely lifted from another game wholesale.
The game's world, for all its cleverly-hidden secrets and side areas, is also too simplistic and lacks the naturalistic shortcuts which arise from revisiting areas with different weapons and powers. This also has the effect of making the distance between some save points a greater challenge than any of the traps.
This shouldn't- and doesn't- detract from the overall package, however. As a game made by a small team, this would be impressive. For a near enough one-man show, it's even more so.