Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Cursed Castilla (Maldita Castilla EX) (PS4)

I don't know how to say this without echoing every other review of 'Maldita Castilla', but it is definitely inspired by Capcom's "Ghouls & Ghosts/Ghosts & Goblins" games. It looks, and plays very much like those arcade-like retro gaming experiences. You have the basic platforming, the scoring setup, the simple back story, the map screen traversing, and even the weapon and item system used in those types of games. Everything from the onscreen displays to the 32bit pixel construction screams inspiration from said sources. Even the playable protagonist comes off as being inspired by Capcom's character, Arthur. While the game definitely has it's similarities it also has it's differences though. In the way of story, for example, this game takes place after the events surrounding the fall of a princess's love interest, and the unlocking of the demon realm through her tears which were turned into a magical key for the demon's loosing. Ultimately as one of the four named knights of the kingdom of Castilla you are ordered by the King to go out, and slay the demons that are bringing ruin to it's people. Thus freeing the kingdom from it's curse. Through short lived stages divided by multiple areas you must effectively fight off the demonic creatures while looting treasure chests, finding key items, and advancing to the final battle.

Included in the somewhat straightforward playthrough scheme is the usual power-up setup that allows for changes of weapons, and a single support ability. All of which are wielded by the game's main Arthurian character. In the way of weapons you start off on your perilous journey with a lance or sword, and can upgrade via an RNG based power-up to things like Bolas, Holy Fire Bombs, Sickles, and Daggers among other things. Each of which has their own attack patterns for use against in-game baddies. The assist power-ups, on the other hand are more akin to the mythological/historical premise of the game, and aid you with things like a fairy, a shield, or even items such as the invincibility rosary meant to help you unlock secrets within the game. The weapons, and additional power-ups you can gain from striking chests with your current weapon are what allow you to either advance with ease, or struggle as you try to get through each stage's areas.

Something else that sets "Cursed Castilla" apart from the utilized inspiration other than the previously mentioned plot is the inclusion of mini-games, and a sort of Metroidvania level design that keeps it from being a straight up clone. You'll find that the developers like to keep things interesting with each stage, and that not everything is based on the simplistic land/environment layout of games like "Ghouls & Ghosts". One level in particular will have you fighting off swarming harpies as you ride along in a horse drawn cart with your comrades in arms.

I do remember reading somewhere (perhaps the press release) that 'Cursed Castilla' incorporates creatures from Spanish/European mythologies. This can be seen in the boss battles, and through the lesser demons within the area by area playthroughs. Things like a Two-Headed Buzzard, and an oddly named worm with a human head give the game a more ominous feel typical of the tales told in European mythology based on the afterlife or underworlds in question. Stage details like hanging, and gored corpses also add to the harrowing nature of the environments and lore while giving substance to the evil's associated religious symbolism. Speaking of boss battles the game plays the encounters out much like a 'Mega Man', or 'Castlevania' game would. Once you reach the end area within a stage a brief, and somewhat cinematic boss intro will ensue leaving you to fight off the beast or humanoid creature within a given space. Sometimes this requires that you use platforms to gain an advantage or that you simply dodge and attack until the boss's hearts are all depleted by landed weapon strikes.

You'll find that both the bosses in each stage, and your character are governed by a heart health meter. With yours only containing three refillable hearts, and the boss's containing several. Unfortunately for you, you also have to mind your lives which start out at three, but can be increased if you can find a crown which gives you an extra life. Supposing you die all of your lives in the process of trying to beat the game you'll be given the option to continue, but it will cost you all of your earned score up to that point. The main goal, as it were is to play through each stage (hopefully completing the game without dying) within a given time limit (99 sec.) so that you can retain your high score, and end with said high score listed as the top score within the game. Of course it helps if you upload, or stream your playthrough for proof as I don't think there is a global leaderboard included. If you are one of those hardcore gamers you might also think about doing a speed run to prove your prowess.

As far as screen size goes the game scales down to a 4:3 full screen ratio past the fully widescreen title menu. It's the type of display you'd associate with older tube style televisions. On an HDTV the game actually looks very good though, and is vividly shown in an HD manner regardless of it's oldschool appearance. The graphics are definitely from the 32bit era of gaming, and have a sort of retro 2.5D animation at times, especially when it comes down to certain bosses. While the game is more of a retro experience it is probably good to note that it does harbor some darker imagery that includes both blood, and gore. These are visual effects that were absent in Capcom's games back in the day. If you don't mind the bloody bits, and the violent depiction of death scattered here, there, and yonder you might actually like what this EX version of 'Maldita Castilla' has to offer. Speaking of that this is an "EX" version, and some stages, and features have been tweaked and added for this console version. For that reason it might even be a good enough buy for the early PC adopters who experienced it before it was released on the PSN. For $11.99 the game is not bad at all, and I strongly suggest getting it to any retro gaming enthusiast, or streamer who might want to take further advantage of the game's high scoring opportunities. It's not only a nod to gaming days gone by, but is also a proper reworking of a genre that could have used such an upgrade. It gets the Inferno's seal of approval!

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