By Chris Melchin / November 9th, 2017
|Title||The Count Lucanor|
|Release Date||October 19, 2017|
|Age Rating||ESRB – Teen|
If I’m being completely honest, The Count Lucanor isn’t the kind of game I would ordinarily be interested in. I’m not generally a fan of horror games, and I don’t frequently play this type of adventure-RPG. Nonetheless, I decided to take a step outside my comfort zone and check out The Count Lucanor on Switch.
The Count Lucanor is a game somewhat along the lines of Yomawari: Night Alone, putting you in the shoes of a ten-year-old boy named Hans. Hans runs away from home, and after wandering through the forest until nightfall finds a blue kobold, who leads him to Castle Tenebre. The kobold informs him of a trial in the castle, where Hans needs to guess the kobold’s name and he can inherit the castle and the fortune of its former owner, the Count Lucanor. In order to do so, he must find the letters of the kobold’s name by solving puzzles in each room of the castle, all the while trying to avoid traps and the servants of the castle who are hunting him down.
The main thrust of the gameplay is collecting items and using them to solve puzzles, which lets you find the letters which you then must put in order to spell the kobold’s name. Although the setup is different, the gameplay is how it’s similar to Yomawari; both star a young child navigating a dark environment filled with deadly ghosts and traps. The puzzles themselves are designed well; the solutions are not always immediately apparent, especially the ones that require you to get something from another room, but the solutions are generally pretty straightforward once you figure out what you’re supposed to do. Items are never used in overly counterintuitive ways, and the challenge usually comes down to actually finding the items rather than figuring out how to use them.
However, the biggest difference between this and Yomawari is that in The Count Lucanor you can take several hits before dying, and the game is quite generous with food that can be used to restore your health. This means that there is significantly less risk to confronting enemies; even though you can’t fight, in many cases, even if you get seen, it’s possible to run past and risk taking some damage. The AI also isn’t fantastic, especially in one particular instance where I was able to investigate a room with relative freedom because the enemy I was supposed to be avoiding got itself boxed in against a table and was unable to come after me. This happened twice, and was incredibly easy to do deliberately the second time. Because the enemies are so easy to exploit and don’t always kill you even if they do catch you, combined with how easy it is to find food and restore health, the game quickly becomes significantly less scary than it might be otherwise. You can have all the creepy imagery you want in a game, but none of it means anything if the player never feels like they’re in any real danger. In my opinion the main character is also significantly less cute than in Yomawari, making the entire experience somewhat less disturbing.
The game’s visuals are done in a pixel art style reminiscent of 8- or 16-bit games. There’s a good amount of detail in the environments, although there’s not much to be seen when most of the game takes place in darkness with only a small light created by any candles held or placed down by the player. The character sprites are nice, although not particularly detailed, and there’s nothing about them that stands out. There are also occasional fully-animated pixel-art cut-scenes, which are beautiful but unfortunately few and far between. Most of the audio is ambient noises, although sometimes there’s background music in the form of simple chiptune remixes of Bach, creating a clear retro-baroque feel for the game’s setting and style.
Ultimately, even if The Count Lucanor falls somewhat flat as a horror game, it’s a decent little adventure game. It’s quite short, well under 10 hours, so it can be easily blasted through in an afternoon or a few sessions. There are multiple endings, but they’re based entirely on your actions at the very end, so it’s a simple matter to reload your last save and try different things to see them all. As a result, there’s not a whole lot of replayability, but there’s a decent amount of gameplay here as-is for $9.99 USD. I wish there was more challenge, as well as more to it in general, but it’s still worth checking out if you like adventure-RPGs.
Review copy provided by publisher.
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