- Developers: Leonard Mechiari, Daniele Vicinanzo, Giulio Perrone
- Publisher: TFL Studios
- Release Date: 21/08/2020
- Price: £14.99 / $14.99
- Review code provided by TFL Studios
Introducing: The Eternal Castle [REMASTERED] Switch Review
If you’re reading this, chances are, you never played the original The Eternal Castle. Don’t worry, neither did I. And neither did the developers. And neither did anyone else. The Eternal Castle never existed. And yet this is a remaster of it. Suffice to say, upon learning this, I was already very intrigued. But is there a great game hidden behind this mystery?
A Mysterious Endeavour
Upon starting The Eternal Castle, two things greet you: the wonderful aesthetic, and a massive wall of text which, frankly, is extremely hard to read due to the font used (thankfully every other font in the game is just clear enough, not sure why this one is so difficult to read)… though maybe that’s for the best. While there is a story here, it’s pretty confusing.
When reviewing games, I go out of my way to not learn too much about it. I usually like to see what genre the game is and maybe look at a couple pieces of marketing material for it, and that’s pretty much it. And despite having finished the game now, I feel I know as much about the story as I did when I started!
What I did understand was that your character wants to enter the titular Eternal Castle in order to rescue somebody. Along the way, the ship he’s (I chose to play as Adam, but you can also play as Eve) piloting crashes, and so you go around trying to get collectible doohickeys to get it up and running before you can enter the castle. It’s a basic premise sure, but the world building, small bits of dialogue every now and then and overall mystery that the game (and its marketing!) has about it lead to an interesting narrative.
A Stunning Journey
I definitely wasn’t playing it for the story, though I enjoyed what’s there (despite my confusion). The reason one would play this – or at least, one of the reasons, is the gameplay. The Eternal Castle is a cinematic platformer, along the lines of Prince of Persia (1989) and was actually my first one!
All your actions have weight and require time, whether it be climbing up a ledge, picking up or interacting with an object, or even the simple act of jumping. On that note, I never got used to the small delay with jumping (and as such I failed a fair few platforming sections…), but I’ll chalk that up to my unfamiliarity with the genre. Barring the opening, there are 4 main levels – one focused on gunplay, another on puzzles, another on platforming and hand to hand combat, and of course, the Eternal Castle itself.
Something I really like about this is the fact that it’s non-linear; to reach the final level you need to beat the other 3, but what order you do it in is up to you. You can even leave a level midway through and go to another, but you would lose all your progress, so that’s a pretty inadvisable strategy. Now, when it comes to the actual gameplay itself, The Eternal Castle is equally as great as it is frustrating.
Watch Your Step
Let me use an example to illustrate my point. In one level, upon chasing somebody to the top of a rooftop, a helicopter comes down and starts blasting everything. Considering in a level I had played earlier, hiding behind cover was a mechanic used to avoid enemies, I thought I could do the same here… only for the screen to keep moving right, and kill me. Turns out, it’s an auto-scroller. Okay, the checkpoint was close by at least, and maybe that was a dumb assumption on my part. Let’s just continue.
The autoscroller is a lot of fun, it speeds up when you have stretches where you can run, and slows down when you’re climbing, so you’re never waiting for the screen to catch up, unless you make a few good jumps. This happened on one occasion, and I caught up to the person I was chasing, attacked them, and lo and behold, they fell to the ground, but immediately got up, essentially accomplishing nothing, and leaving me for dead since all my momentum was lost. Then there’s the camera, which at certain points forces you to make blind jumps since it’s too high and it all leads to the most memorable part of the game (in my eye) having several caveats tie it down.
These caveats are everywhere. The gunplay in the shooter level is punchy and satisfying, but enemies can shoot you from way off screen (to be fair, you can do the same, but you have to essentially go in knowing your first few attempts will end in failure as a result). The platforming-focused level is fun, but the close quarters combat in it is extremely repetitive. The puzzle-focused level is pretty decent, but occasionally they’ll force you to simultaneously solve a puzzle and deal with combat.
The Very Short Castle
There are also several points where they have checkpoints right before traps that instantly kill you, which, sure, thanks for the checkpoint, but surely there was a more organic way to teach you? If anything, this game strikes me as a game that would be fun to replay. It’s only a couple of hours long, meaning it could be fun to see how quickly you could beat it, how many collectibles you can find, or even try your hand at the permadeath mode you unlock after beating it. But I’m afraid my patience has its limits for that mode.
I do think its length is perfect, but I would not have minded it being a bit longer simply so I could look at some more of the artwork. Seriously, if the screenshots somehow did not tip you off, this game looks phenomenal. Smooth and realistic looking animations, a beautiful art style with bright and vibrant colours, and creative and detailed environments are all the standard in this game, and it’s the one aspect I almost cannot fault. There is one occasion where in a combat encounter the background is constantly flashing and in this one specific scenario the game was painful to look at, but apart from that, no complaints here.
The sound design for the game is also pretty excellent. Don’t go in expecting groovy music tracks, this game definitely leans into horror (heck, the pause menu showing your health like Resident Evil and not actually pausing the game is a dead giveaway of this fact). Its sound design also reflects that with a dark and moody atmosphere in quieter areas, and loud and sudden sound effects when a gun is fired or when a boss/chase starts.
The Eternal Castle has actually been out for a solid year on PC. I have not played that version, so I am unsure of where these issues originate from, but unfortunately, this game has a pretty bad stutter problem. When a gun is fired for the first time, when a new enemy is loaded in, and upon death, the game freezes up for a moment. It’s not jarring enough to ruin the experience, but just about every time I forgot the stuttering was a thing, the game would stutter again. This is coupled with occasional framerate dips which, while rare, strike me as being very surprising considering the art style this game goes for.
Thankfully, it seems the gameplay itself is not burdened with any major technical hiccups or oversights. Occasionally the camera zipped by when respawning, a person chasing me got stuck on top of a fence once, and a couple of short but unskippable cutscenes appear right before bosses which is a bit annoying, but apart from the stuttering, this is a relatively polished game (barring a long initial loading screen, I suppose).
There is also a multiplayer mode which I unfortunately did not get the chance to try (it’s a bit tricky starting a local multiplayer game currently!), and a new mode unlocked upon beating the game which sees you playing as a different character. I did attempt it, but it too has permadeath, so it’s a fun extra for those who enjoyed the game enough, but is certainly not for me.
The Eternal Castle unfortunately feels like a game that is better to look at than it is to play. What’s here is a good game marred by occasionally frustrating choices. It’s not particularly difficult considering there’s always a checkpoint around the corner, and because of this there even were moments where I decided to just run and ignore the combat, hoping I would reach the next checkpoint just so I wouldn’t have to deal with it.
If anything, I would recommend this game if you want an interesting experience. I mean, it being a remaster of a made up game should have been a telltale sign! It’s a shame that the Switch version is just about 3x the price of the PC version considering the weird stuttering issues, but with its lovely art style, confusing but engrossing story, and gameplay which occasionally shines, there are moments where this game is truly engaging, if you can look past the frustrating little niggles.
- Jaw-dropping art style
- Simple but fun puzzles
- Easy but engaging boss fights
- Occasional stutters
- Bare-bones combat
- Frustrating level design
Beautiful artwork and sometimes great gameplay unfortunately do not make up for the several frustrations this game has.