A cinematic platformer in 2019? What could possibly go wrong?
This year is going to be big for indies, I just know it will be. We have Blazing Chrome, Blasphemous, Kharon’s Crypt and many others. But hey, that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy some remastered versions of older titles in 2019, right? Well, that’s why we have today The Eternal Castle Remastered. And trust me when I say that this one is… Hard to talk about. So, without further hesitation, sit down, grab some sunglasses (you are going to need them) and take a look at The Eternal Castle Remastered review.
Total eclipse of the what is this game
Let’s start this mess with a rant; What is The Eternal Castle? And this is not a question that I’m making just to sound interesting, but instead, I’m asking this to the people reading this. Why? Because this game doesn’t even f*cking exist! If I’m going to review something that is a supposed remastered version of an older title, you can bet I’m going to make some research about that game. And guess what? The original Eternal Castle is like my girlfriend: it’s not real.
I looked it up, and you can do that too: The Eternal Castle doesn’t exist. It just doesn’t! The first thing that appears on Google is this page talking about how this “ahead of its time” title is just probably fake. You go to Archive.org and the only thing you see about this game is this:
An original action packed revolutionary sidescroll adventure set in the post future. Very ahead of its time.
What the f*ck is this? This website doesn’t write its entries like a damn haiku, just take a look at the Prince of Persia DOS page. See? That makes more sense! Then, you go to other websites talking about the Remastered version, and even they address the incongruencies of the developer’s claims! This small writing about the game in Zero Lives says the following statement:
According to its developers, “The Eternal Castle” was originally released in 1987, but there are no significant details to be found about the game online. The game was supposedly released for the 486 PC, but Intel did not start producing the 80486 microprocessor until 1989.
And this one from Rock Paper Shotgun makes you say “why are the devs even trying to fool us”:
This game is a big ball of anachronisms. The CGA aesthetic […] is pure early DOS, but the animation far outstrips anything seen in the famously rotoscoped Prince of Persia or beyond. The music is brooding modern synthwave with a movie soundtrack bent, but the effects are a mixture of harsh noise and wildly over-compressed digital samples. It feels less like a game from the 80s and more one from the peak of the DOS CD-ROM era.
And even if the developer wrote this about why he’s making this remastered version, there are no copies of the original game!
Listen, if you want to make a cinematic platformer with CGA graphics, be my guest. If you want to create something unique with a side of retro feeling on it, please do it! But don’t tell people this is a remastered version of a game that nobody heard of before just to make an excuse in order to create a game with outdated controls and visuals. If this game was a real thing back in the 80’s, I can assure you that people would be talking about it even nowadays. But this is the “remastered” version, so let’s just get on with it already.
Clash of the controls
The Eternal Castle is a game that doesn’t know its identity. It wants to be a horror title, a cinematic shooter, and a platforming beat em’ up. And, as you can guess by my tone, it fails in mostly every single area. But first of all, let’s address the elephant in the room: the controls.
The first rule of a cinematic platformer game is that it has to be precise. You pick Flashback or Blackthorne nowadays and you feel how heavy your character moves, yet you also notice that every movement feels precise. You need to position yourself in the place the game wants you to be in order to make the jump, otherwise, you will fall and probably die. This is… Well, just plain clunky, yet the moment you master them you feel like nothing can stop you. As a player, you learned and earned to master the controls. Then you go to The Eternal Castle and you wish this game was a real cinematic platformer.
If you want to play this game, DO NOT PLAY WITH A CONTROLLER. I repeat: DO NOT. PLAY. WITH. A CONTROLLER. The stick will make you run constantly and most of the time the running animation delay is so heavy that you will fail stupidly easy jumps because of this (playing with a pad is almost the same thing for an issue you’ll see in a moment). Playing with a keyboard can fix 95% of the problem, even if you cannot set custom keys due to the lack of overall options. Oh, and hope you like pressing the Options button on the menu, because every single time you die or move to a new area, the Forced Walk option turns off, and constantly running on a cinematic platformer can be worse than playing Agony while someone shoved molten salt down your throat. And speaking about horrible things to watch, let’s talk about the visual section of the game.
Hope you like seizures
Before anyone tells me that I hate games with simple artistic style, keep in mind that I put Lucah Born of a Dream in my Top 10 games of 2018. As long as something feels unique and stylish, it can even be a bunch of turds plastered on a wall as long as it feels interesting to see. The Eternal Castle, again, does not always look good. In fact, sometimes it even hurts to watch it.
The moment you start the game you will feel impressed by its artistic design. Only using 4 colors, CGA-style, the lightning feels good, and so the animations of the characters in general. Heck, some areas even make you feel tense, like the graveyard (which granted, is actually really good with its dark tone and grim atmosphere). But many other areas will feel… Awful to watch (hence the stupid joke about wearing sunglasses at the start of this review).
One certain place that I don’t want to go again (not even in order to take some screenshots because it REALLY hurts to watch at times) is the Pyramid ruins. This place has a section that reminds me of the Disco scene from John Wick because you have to eliminate a bunch of enemies while strobe lights constantly flash the action. I don’t have photosensitive epilepsy but holy hell my eyes were starting to hurt after playing that level. These things happen in some other areas of the game, so be warned, and no; there are no options to turn them off. Just like the good ol’ 80’s, right? Remastered version, remember? Anyway, let’s get into the biggest issue of this game: the internal issues.
A bug’s life
If this is actually a true remastered version of a game from 1987, I don’t want to know how the original title played because bloody f*cking Nora this game has bugs. From minor things like animations not colliding properly with the enviroment (stepping into the air after climbing something) and punches not hitting anything to bigger stuff like taking leaps of faith only to die, repeat the same sequence and not dying this time because the loading transition didn’t triggered and climbing things you are not supposed to climb. Again, this is a REMASTERED version, the least developers could do is improving these problems.
The problem about these issues is that it can make the experience less wholesome, and it’s not like the game is demanding a lot or something like that to make these problems less relevant. If you go and play something like Flashback (I quote this one a lot because I really like it, don’t judge me) you see that the animations of the characters are fluid and realistic, and so are the cutscenes as well. Outdated controls? For 2019 standars, pretty much. Is the game less polished for that? Not at all! You can play it today and, in terms of visuals and things you see and do, this game holds up decently enough. But The Eternal Castle feels like a mess in some areas, and that’s something that you can’t accept in a game labeled as a Remastered version. And as you recall, I said this game doesn’t know what to be, which leads me to the final point; the lack of focus and the dreadful level design.
Running in the 80’s
I don’t give a crap if this game is old; many games still hold up after all these years and they can be enjoyed even today. The Eternal Castle? The best example of dullest trial and error I’ve ever seen in this genre.
If you can’t tell what is that thing in the pic above, well, that’s supposed to be a cave. What you won’t see, however, is the trap. Come on, try to find where’s the trap. Granted, you are not even aware of this particular trap up to this point, and this is actually the only level you’ll find this trap. This game tries to play with old techniques of teaching the players by kiling them first (if you played Limbo this is almost the same) which is a shame, because at times this doesn’t happen.
And now, I get back to the point where I said this game doesn’t know what it wants to be. You have HP and stamina (because it seems you can’t make a platformer without useless stamina bars nowadays), yet some bosses can kill you in two or three hits and some can even kill you with one. And the stamina bar is just there to be annoying, because you can literally punch your way through 90% of the game. I’m not kidding: your best bet is using your fists. The guns you can find are not that useful when you realize that you need to find the same gun in order to “reload”, yet this mechanic is so buggy that most of the time you’ll grab another weapon only to realize that you have LESS ammo. Oh, and they are COMPLETELY USELESS against unarmed enemies. You read that part right: UNARMED. Where is the sense about having a shotgun that you can’t use neither against enemies that shoot you from afar nor against foes without guns?!
This game is a constant failed opportunity after failed opportunity, and that’s the saddest thing about a game: lack of focus. You can find upgrades, sure, but those doesn’t feel relevant or useful at all. I have a cape that boost my stealth. Why?! There are no stealth areas in this game at all! In fact most of the upgrades are obsolete the moment you find them. For example, I found a vest that reduces bullet damage. Too bad you find this item on the last part of the ONLY level in which enemies carry guns.
Game over man, game over
What are my last thoughts about The Eternal Castle Remastered? That I don’t know how to approach something like this. As a remastered version of an “old” game, it has plenty of flaws, bugs and issues that makes this game something that you play and you forget in less than 2 hours (even if you have a New Game Plus mode with Permadeath but, come on, with these controls you are not going far). As a standalone game, this doesn’t make justice at all to older cinematic platformers of the era. At times, this game looks quite amazing, but for the most part you’ll have trouble trying to separate a platform from something part of the background.
At the end of the day, The Eternal Castle Remastered is another game that you’ll see, you’ll play and you’ll forget the moment you finish it. Was this game the worst experience I had? Not really, I had an overall decent time playing it. Is it a masterpiece that will make you remember the good old days? Far from it. The only thing I can say about this game is that it’s another game. Not everything has to have incredible mechanics or be amazing in order to make me enjoy it (I’ve been playing this game the entire day and you only press one button), but at least, it has to feel fun to play in order to make me say “this one is worth taking look at”. And The Eternal Castle Remastered is just that: another small fry in a sea full of games.
The Eternal Castle Remastered
- Visually creative areas
- Good Sprite work
- Bugs can taint the experience at times
- Some areas look too chaotic to know what's going on
- Controls doesn't feel precise enough for a cinematic platformer game
- Devs don't seem to understand the meaning of "Remaster"