Castle of Heart Review
Reviewed on Nintendo Switch
You begin the game having been turned to stone due to an evil sorcerer's spell, you know that you must end the curse and so begins Castle of Heart. Over the course of the twenty levels you will face a variety of enemies all of whom you can cut down using your trusty sword, the weapons you find on the way and a few other abilities like bombs and throwing knives. Your stone body is constantly failing and as a result you have to defeat enemies or pick up health items in order to stop from falling apart.
So let's start here, with your health and what the curse does to it. Your health bar constantly depletes which helps it serve multiple purposes, not only is it your life force, it is also effectively your time limit. There are lots of things which make this manageable, health pick ups are plentiful and at each checkpoint your health is fully replenished. Two of the things which stand out most about this system are the loss of your arm at a certain threshold, limiting your arsenal greatly and the fact that you can use a special attack but at the cost of your health. There are some paths which can be unlocked using this attack which makes managing your health all the more important.
The levels themselves are a mix of platforming, combat sections and sliding down the side of rooftops. The platforming has all of your standard tropes including disintegrating platforms, moving platforms, rotating spike traps and swinging ropes. All of these are a welcome addition and change the pace of the level every time you hit them which is essential as the levels can feel rather drawn out at times. The levels definitely suffer a little with the pacing, while the breaks are nice due to the length of the individual levels it can feel like a slog to power through to the end of each one.
The combat has some great ideas too but is sloppy in it's execution. None of the attacks feel as though they any weight and more often than not the combat devolves into mashing the attack button until the enemies are down. If you jump on an enemy they are forced to crouch and you are safe from their attacks for the most part, this allows you to jump up and use your downward slash to eventually kill off the enemy below. Enemies with shields take slightly longer to kill because you have to break the shield first but that is about it. Granted there are other enemies as you venture further into the game but it never feels particularly inspiring. The weapons and items you pick up add a little bit more strategy but more often than not mashing the sword attack will get the job done effectively.
The main issue with the game however is that the controls feel unresponsive at plenty of times where you really need precision. It is incredibly hard to nail some of the more complex platforming sections when you are never one hundred percent sure if the cursed knight will actually jump when you ask him to or where you will end up after jumping off of a rope. If the game was primarily an action game this might not be as aggravating, however it is definitely an action platformer and the imprecise reactions of your character rapidly go from a minor inconvenience to a rage quit inducing.
Graphically the game is quite pretty, with the 3D levels being nicely rendered and the various environmental effects looking quite slick. The fire effects in particular look good on the Switch's screen and really help give the game the life it sometimes lacks in other areas. There is also a wonderful use of the HD rumble when you die, which is good because it will happen a lot because of the control issues.
Overall the game has a lot of very interesting ideas, some of which are really well implemented and some of which are not. Unfortunately everything is overshadowed by the the levels going on for too long and the controls acting like a cat that has been fed and not really paying attention to you. This may be up your alley if you are after a game in this genre but it is hard to recommend compared to some of the other games the Switch has to offer.