Every good fairy tale has a princess, a hero, a castle and a wicked villain to top it off. Holy sh*t, does that make the entire Mario series a FAIRYTALE?? Okay, I totally have to consider that, but not right now. Today's focus is Castle of Heart, a side scrolling action brawler that follows those very metrics. When a wicked wizard comes strolling into town, everything quickly goes bad. People are being turned into stone left and right, including the Princes’ lover, a local knight. While the wizard is busy kidnapping her (as they tend to do), a single tear from her eye hits the stone knight. Moments later, he is alive once more, but still covered in stone and decaying with every second that passes. There is not time to waste: Get A Sword, Get A Grip, and Get the Girl.
Castle of Heart is a solid but rough around the edges game. Aside from the aforementioned fairy tale tropes, it is essentially a side-scrolling action adventure game, much like the original Prince of Persia. There’s a variety of weapons, landscapes, and secret passages to try out and explore which is great, but the core gameplay leaves much to be desired. Upon watching the trailers, I was hoping for some intricate combat, but this was not the case. One of the selling points of Castle of Heart is that you must keep moving, as your health is constantly decreasing due to the curse placed on you. So while there is time to explore, it all depends on your health management. This is not the reason the combat is held back though, but rather by sloppy mechanics and brainless AI.
Enemies are plain dumb in Castle of Heart. They do not think with the slightest hint of intelligence, but rather follow some poor bland parameters and stick to them. Hell, you can literally jump on enemies backs and stop them from moving. The general combat is not really smart either, coming off as some basic hack and slash which does not pair well with the "impending doom via health bar" factor. The game gives you options to do blocks, heavy attacks (which drains health), and dodges, but I rarely used these due to how rough they are. Using them will either still result in health loss or just waste time. Hell, I essentially speed ran the entire last chapter, avoiding enemies in almost every scenario I could, because I was done with the combat. There were some cool new elemental weapons to play with, but it was too little too late to be fair. You are provided a bag of various consumable weapons which were more helpful than the base mechanics. Various bombs like smoke, fire, and ice as well as throwable daggers were all available to find and use, mostly located off the beaten path. I wish the game had a more dire, “Dark Souls” sense of things where the urgency of the Knights health made dodging and blocking key to survival, but alas the combat was about as smart as a rock.
All is not bad though, as the variety and level designs were actually pretty good. From the village you will travel through the woods, up a mountain side, and end your journey in none other than a castle. The level designs were pretty detailed, and some of my favorite parts of the game came from exploring the hidden sections, uncovering chests with items or the collectable “heart fragments”. While I do not know the significance of collecting all 100 of these (perhaps an alternate ending?), I was still intrigued to snag them none the less. 7Levels also did a great job at incorporating some sections where you see the Knight having to keep moving and avoid obstacles, which made it more of a platformer in these portions. But right back to the “bad” parts is how each of the four chapters ended: Poorly tuned boss fights. While I liked the idea, the bad and basic combat made for some frustrating boss fights, especially when you consider they have some pretty unfair projectiles most of the time (I say unfair because the dodge rolling is not polished, making it hard to use in combat.)
I will say this about Castle of Heart: I played it until the credits rolled, which means it is palatable. For everyone, maybe not, but for general audiences with an appetite for the old-school or some simple minded adventure, sure, go for it. But, it is rough around its rocky edges, and could use some polish without a doubt. The story is simple and as old as time itself, but it gets the job done. Overall though the game is weighed down by its heavy, bare bones combat and mindless enemies. If you have a hankering to save a princess and are already done with Mario Odyssey, maybe, just maybe, Castle of Heart could be up your alley, but as of now, a better game is most likely in another castle.
Note: A copy of this game was provided for the purpose of the review.
Final Score: 6/10
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