Nukezilla Review: PLATFORMANCE: Castle Pain (Xbox Live Indie Games)
PLATFORMANCE: Castle Pain is (you guessed it) a platformer recently released by Magiko Gaming. Drawing on simple game mechanics and the nostalgia of 8-bit graphics and music, the overall feel hearkens to the Super Nintendo era. You, the heavily armored knight, must navigate pixelated pits, poop and pointy objects to rescue the imprisoned princess. Can you escape the maze of deathly horrors that await you in Castle Pain?
Probably. But it may take longer than you think.
Before I get into the details of how the game works, one thing you will need to understand about this game is you will die. A lot. Due to carefully placed walls, ceilings and other obstacles, don’t be too surprised if it takes you more than one attempt in each area to reach a checkpoint. While under normal circumstances this type of game would drive me crazy, liberally-placed checkpoints make this whole process less frustrating than it could be.
While there is no stop watch timer on this game, quite early in the castle you activate a large and rather goofy looking ghost who slowly trails behind you as you travel through the castle. The speed of the ghost depends on what difficulty setting you’ve chosen. Easy mode gives you roughly half an hour to complete the castle labyrinth, while hardcore…well, I haven’t gotten far enough to find out. If the ghost touches you, it’s a game over — you won’t respawn at your last checkpoint and you’ll have to start from the beginning.
The game takes the typical platforming genre and gives it a bit of a twist: three different levels of zoom. These allow you, most obviously, to see the entire level as it winds its way through the walls of Castle Pain. Each level of zoom (full screen, medium, and close-up) is necessary to navigate different areas. Full screen zoom-out also allows you to see how much space lies between you and the tissue-shaped ghost of death.
One of the main annoyances I felt within the game was the physics. There’s a little bit more slide in landings than I like to feel in a platformer. Many areas of the castle require perching on rather tiny platforms, and too much extra slide will find you plummeting to your death. Jumping over rows of spike-covered flooring also will sometimes end with our hero exploding into a pile of blood after slipping a few pixels too far.
Jumping on special items also has its quirks. Magic smoke can carry you higher but only if you press A while floating in a specific spot. It’s not impossible or even difficult, but whether or not you hit the smoke correctly feels a little too inconsistent. Jumping on the yellow springboards feels just as random: no matter how hard I try to correctly time hitting A with landing on the spring, whether or not I actually jump higher seems arbitrary.
My other big complaint is that I wish there were more than one level to play through; I’d gladly pay 240 points for three castles. While the difficulty settings change up what (and how many) obstacles lie within the castle, it still can feel a bit repetitive after a few rounds. It’s both a good and a bad thing: I love the art so much in this game that I feel disappointed there isn’t more for me to look at.
Playing through the game on easy (depending on your skill level) could take anywhere from 10 minutes to maybe 45. As I personally am horrible at these type of games, my best time getting through the castle was roughly 20 minutes… after 4 or 5 “game over” screens. You get “awards” after completing the game based on how many times you died. I must say, I couldn’t help but laugh when I viewed the end screen: Bronze Medal, 85 deaths. Try dying less than 30 times.
Castle Pain, while punishing and frustrating, manages to also be charming and addictive. The price point (80 Microsoft Points) is reasonable; even inexpensive considering the time commitment to beating the game on each difficulty (plus the rewards system for perfectionists). While some of the physics might add some unnecessary frustration, it isn’t enough to mar the experience. It’s well-polished and cleverly designed, two attributes that don’t often describe Indie Games at this price point.
Disclaimer: Magiko Gaming gave us a free copy of the game.