Castle of Heart from Polish-based 7Levels is a new take on the platforming action games of old. Think Mega-man, but with an aesthetic of European Fairytale. You play as a cursed knight, slowly turning to stone. If you slow down too long, you’ll harden completely and that’s game over. The players take control of a cursed knight, turned to stone by the evil sorcerer’s spell, but ready to prove that love and courage can conquer even the darkest magic. The brave hero must travel all the way from the petrified village to the dark ruler’s castle, mastering 20 levels set in 4 distinct environments. Something about it feels off, but there’s no denying that Castle of Heart is fun side-scrolling adventure and at a mere $15 well worth the price of entry.
The animations in Castle of Heart are probably the thing I liked least about the game. Visually, it’s actually a pretty striking game, with some great depth to the levels, solid lighting, and so forth. But the animations of both the hero and the enemies are so stiff that there just doesn’t seem to be impact or weight to them. As a result, the action of the game feels lacking, and just passable too. Compared to recent platforming stars like Kirby Star Allies or last year’s Cuphead, the animations just pale in comparison.
That said, the gameplay makes up for the most part. Levels are a mix of evasion, platforming timing, enemy combat, mixed with some rudimentary puzzle solving. It’s all weighted by the fact that the Knight slowly loses health as he stands still. And while there’s plenty of health to pick up, and it’s recharged at every checkpoint, this does sometimes mean you’ll be fighting the clock as much as the enemies and makes for some tense moments in the game’s many levels.
The levels get harder as they go on, as they should, and thankfully 7Levels has made enough checkpoints placed throughout them that you’ll never really have to redo too much of a certain level. There are no lives, just “go back and try again” like the classic Prince of Persia side scrollers. You’ll miss jumps, get impaled, and so forth enough but it never feels like it’s the game being cheap – just that you messed up and need to try again. That’s a mark of smart, challenging level design, and Castle of Heart fits that bill.
The levels vary too, from the mythological to real life places based in Poland, where the devs call home. I’ve never been, but I appreciate this sort of tie-in that grounds the game in history. I mean, we’re not talking Kingdom Come: Deliverance here, but there’s something to be said about a historically-based action platformer. There aren’t too many of those going around, you know? There are loads of weapons to pick up and use – from the long-ranged spear to the crossbow, and several shorter-ranged melee options as well, and the Knight will always have his trusty sword too. By the end of Castle of Heart, you’ll feel satisfied that you undertook the journey, and while there’s no real reason to replay the adventure, you’ll still be glad you saw it through to the end. I was.
Final Castle of Heart Review Score: 7/10
- Solid level design
- Beautiful world
- Unique stone mechanics
- Stilted animations
- Little replay value
- Combat is simplistic