By William Haderlie / November 14th, 2016
|Release Date||October 31, 2016|
|Age Rating||General Audiences|
Possibly the most impressive part of Creepy Castle is its development history. I’m not sure how much capital Dopterra received from other sources, but creating any game for a Kickstarter pledge total of just under $9000 is truly impressive. Yes, as you can tell from the screenshots, this game is decidedly old school in its graphics. But that does not mean that it was easy or inexpensive to make. Ask any developer why they don’t create massive pixel art games (such as Final Fantasy VI or Castlevania: Symphony of the Night) anymore; it’s a very labor intensive process. So even if the game did not turn out to be good, I would still be impressed. Fortunately, that was not the case, as they really made a solid send up to the classics.
When I checked this game out prior to reviewing it, I thought that the main character was a rabbit. The 8-bit pixel graphics can add a lot of charm to characters, but it also can be really rough to give any details or personality. But it turns out that the main character is a moth (named Moth), and instead of ears those are antenna. The whole game features a wide array of insects as both the friendly characters and the enemies. This made for a very individual aesthetic, and while not unprecedented, the insect angle is still quite rare in games. Unfortunately, I ended up reverting back to rabbit every time there was not a story reason to consider him a moth, because it baffled me so much why you would choose a moth when he cannot fly. That aside, there was a surprising amount of character to him in the dialogue. So he’s definitely not a bad character at all, just a bit puzzling as to the species choice.
By the aesthetics this is very much an ode to the games of the NES and the GameBoy. One aspect makes this feel much more in line with the PC/Apple games of that period, though, and that is the sheer amount of text lore scattered throughout the game. While common on computer games of that era, console games did everything they could to not have walls of text in their games. Even the console RPGs of that era tended to have very little dialogue or books to read. Computer games were where you would typically find RPG and adventure games that involved a lot of reading, and it was generally assumed that more adults were consuming the computer titles than the console ones. One other aspect makes this more than a NES or GB game, and that is the fact that it uses more than two buttons. Granted, there are only 4 buttons that you need, but it does allow for a little less hassle than we would have been presented with if this was created for a two-button controller.
The story itself, and the character interactions, were a strange mix of serious events and humor. Once I got used to it, the mix worked out pretty well. But sometimes the change in tone is so rapid that it almost gives you whiplash. I settled into just treating everything like a parody, even when someone claims to have killed someone else. One thing that helped set the lighter tone was some of the humorous lore books and the fun comic strips that you can find throughout the castle. In fact, there is such charm in the design with these books that it makes me hope for a sequel which would have slightly upgraded visuals, maybe the 16 or 32-bit eras, so they could make use of their prowess in creating cute characters.
That artwork is also on display when you have a full screen fight transition. When you punch an enemy they will have a chance to counter punch you before you can get your next punch in. However, sometimes you will have an event scene (like you see above) that will transport you to a mini-game which will determine whether you or the enemy can get a free hit in. The mini-games reminded me a lot of Warioware or Undertale in their design; just short games that are usually a test of reflexes. Not all of them are designed to give you an advantage, however. One example of this is the snake enemies that will swallow you and you will need to mash your directions in order to take less damage over time. Some enemies will use this same mechanic while trying to push or crush you, but the idea for that type of mini-game is the same. However, there are a decent variety of these different games, from timed button presses to holding the correct direction. The farther you get into Moth’s adventure the more mini-game types will pile up. This does add some fun variety in the first half of the game, but the fact that the later enemies and bosses will use multiple games on you makes the difficulty ramp up pretty drastically.
Other than just punching the enemy, and the mini-games, you can also find special use items such as bombs to make your fights a little easier. Best of all, and the rarest, are special moves like the above Hurricane Slice. They allow you to do more than one heart of damage without being attacked in return. Unfortunately they are single use, so make sure you are certain you want to use it on an enemy. I would advise that you try any enemy first, even a boss, without using your special and just reload your save game if you end up needing it. The reason for this is that those special moves are very rare (at least that I could find in my playthrough) and the enemies in the last half of the game get quite a bit more difficult. When you find the bag, your inventory doubles in size, so I never ran out of space. Of course, part of that is that I was never able to hold onto food for very long. Because the enemies can counter you after every hit (unless you totally succeed in a mini-game), there is a lot of unavoidable damage in the game.
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