A sorcerer with extreme narcissism is demanding tribute from residents of a village near his castle. He’d been at this for a very long time and his thirst for more and more started to take a toll on those villagers. When the people could take no more, a man who is described as a knight stands up against this douche bag to protect the woman who was the object of his affection and earns a body made of stone for the trouble. The douche bag was upgraded to a douche canoe when he then took the woman captive and locked her away in the deepest dungeon. Honestly, pretty much overkill since depth doesn’t increase misery. Well, the joke was on the sorcerer! A single tear from his lover restored his heartbeat, and although he still harbored a body of stone he dashed after the kidnapper. Never underestimate the real power of love.
Castle of Heart is a side-scrolling action/platform game that will test your skills at the genre. While I don’t feel that it’s as difficult as Slain, it’s damn close. The developers at 7Levels have set up an adventure that will leave you with a satisfying feeling at the end of each stage. When you boot the game up for the first time the most notable thing will be the incredible detail and impressive graphics. Tie this fact to the extremely low price of just $15 and you really can’t go wrong right from the start. It’s a beautiful game, but all that means nothing if it’s garbage to play. Am I right? Yes. Yes I am.
During my lengthy play of this title, I really put it through its paces. I absolutely hate sluggish controls, horrible level design, and imprecise jumping and collision detection. Here’s the thing, for the price I really thought I was going to experience all of those things. Instead, the stages are extremely well thought out and the difficulty creeps up to expected levels. In fact, I would argue that they get extremely difficult especially around the first real boss battle. I cursed at myself when I died again and again and again. Why at myself? Because I knew that it could be defeated. I just needed to “get good”. Is it the game’s fault? I would love to blame it, but I just can’t.
In fact, I was really torn on whether or not I could truly take all the blame for this inability to defeat this thing. Well, I enlisted the help of our esteemed editor (brownie points +1). I asked Craig to give it a go and tell me what he thought of what I felt were sluggish controls. After playing for a while he brought up an excellent point. I’m controlling a knight. A knight made of stone. He made mention that the character felt heavy. That was an excellent point. In all these years of playing as nimble lead characters like Alucard in Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, this was a character that was made of stone. The fact that they were able to translate that heavy feel of the character gave me a whole new respect for the thought 7Levels put into this game.
I do have to get a little critical of the game when it comes to the sounds though. It seems like the enemies that make a groaning sound all make that same guttural bellow when you fight them. Whatever, they’re all under the spell of the same sorcerer right? Maybe he just didn’t give maximum effort. Also, of note, is the eternal question of why birds are the most difficult of enemies to defeat in almost every game I have played. Well, let’s stretch that out to bats as well since I did mention Castlevania. I also had some trouble with the ability to swing on ropes. Sometimes your knight just didn’t want to carry his momentum enough to reach the next ledge. I would have recorded video of my plight but this feature is not available on my copy. I don’t know if that will continue after the release of the title, but something to keep in mind.
One unique feature of Castle of Heart is that your character is constantly losing the ability to hold himself together. As you walk, your health will constantly decrease and you must find red orbs scattered throughout the level (some in plain view and others hidden away) to replenish your energy before you die. Of course, plowing through enemies and sending them to their graves also nets you more red orbs and the energy to keep chugging along. Checkpoints will refill your gauge as well, so this gameplay mechanic is really in place to keep you moving forward at all times, and sort of replaces the old-school countdown timers found in classic games.
Combat is rather fun as well. There will be times where it’s better to jump on top of the enemies and hold them down so you can fight the second one coming up right behind them. I mentioned earlier that there are extra weapons that you can use, which are often either found on a weapon rack or dropped by a defeated enemy. You can also pick up items like knives or grenades to throw at your adversaries as well as other things in the environment, such as ropes and platforms. This creates some awesome opportunities to shoot an item hanging above an enemy, causing it to drop on top of them and deal some major damage. New strategies emerge as you find ways to overcome waves of enemies that seem irritatingly difficult to take down. But here’s the rub – if you get really low on health one of your arms falls off, just like the black knight from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, “‘tis but a stone flesh wound”. Problem with that, though, is you no longer have that extra arm to use the secondary weapon so you drop it as well! You definitely want to try to keep your health bar filled to have a better chance at success.
Overall I enjoyed this game on many levels. I got frustrated a lot, but I also felt a sense of accomplishment by keeping at it and finally making it through some truly difficult spots. My complaints about Castle of Heart are far outweighed by the good points and the most amazing feature, which is the awesome price point. For $15 you just can’t go wrong.
Castle of Heart was reviewed using a final retail Nintendo Switch download code provided by the publisher.