Reviewed On: PC
Developer: Epic Llama
Publisher: Buka Entertainment
Review code supplied free of charge by the publisher.
Oh, adventure games! As a colossal part of my childhood, their modern resurgence has done my heart good. Suddenly we’re back to the days of witty dialogue, fun puzzles and mad stories complete with modern graphics. The downside of this comeback, though, is that it also shows how little adventure games have really come over the years. Darkestville Castle is a prime example of this, a point and click title that has the witty dialogue, fun puzzles and mad stories complete with modern graphics, but that doesn’t ultimately feel any different from something like Monkey Island released all those years ago.
We pick up the story of Cid, Darkestville’s resident demon and force for evil who spends his days trying to come up with elaborate schemes to make life worse for everybody. The townsfolk are surprisingly patient with Cid, though, mostly because they’ve all known him since he was a kid and partially because his schemes never tend to get anyone seriously hurt or they outright backfire. It’s a fun mixture of dark humour due to the fact that some of Cid’s plans are genuinely dangerous, and complete daftness. Cid’s voice actor imbues the character with a lot of charisma and the writers manage to juggle the difficult task of making Cid a troublemaker while also being likeable to the player.
As for the story itself, Cid’s pet fish Domingo winds up getting taken by a trio of demon hunters, and in his quest to get the fish back Cid accidentally ends up unleashing a bunch of demons on the town and wants to wrestle control back because he reckons it’s his town to cause chaos in, and also because, well…it’s his town. Cue a pile of daft scenarios and the usual 4th wall breaking that has become prevalent in the point and click genre, although thankfully the game never uses it too much. Arguably more could have been done with the premise, like Cid getting a bigger chance to reflect on his own behaviour toward a town that has looked after him, but then again adventure games rarely get too deep or heavy with their subject matter. By time the credits roll you’ll likely have already forgotten a lot of the details of the plot, but you’ll still have enjoyed every moment of it thanks to the witty dialogue.
What we do get is some rather tasty visuals, even if the game doesn’t come with proper 21:9 support. The hand-drawn art style occasionally has clashes where a character doesn’t quite look like it belongs in the same game or was drawn by a different artist, but overall it’s a style I like.
The audio is no slouch either as we get some nice background music that doesn’t intrude on the puzzling but that still sounds good to the ear when you’re just sitting with a frown on your face because you can’t figure out where to find a digestive for a demon pig. The voice acting isn’t going to win any awards, yet it’s still perfectly serviceable and actually downright impressive once you watch the credits and realise that one person voiced a huge swathe of the characters.
One hiccup is the subtitles, though. There are a lot of typos and errors to be found, although they don’t cause much of a problem.
When it comes time to get clicking it’s fair to say that developers did not have any ideas about breaking the traditional adventure game mould. You’ll be ambling around the two main environments (Darkestville being the first, with a second one popping up later) picking up everything that isn’t nailed down, and in some cases things that are. You’ll then use these items to solve the various puzzles, like persuading a member of a trade union to shift a massive chest for you, figuring out how to beat a cheater at dice and, my personal favourite, dealing with demon customer services in order to reset the password on an interdimensional gateway. Like a lot of the old adventure games the threads of thought pervading these puzzles can sometimes get a tad fuzzy, like they’ve been translated through the brain of a drunk, but for the most part there’s just enough logic to stop you feeling irritated by the solutions. That isn’t to say you won’t get stuck a couple of times, though. A few of the puzzles had me stumped, although one of them was due to a potential misunderstanding as the solution called for a digestive, which as someone from the UK is something I know as a type of biscuit. Still, as long as make sure you pay attention to dialogue and examine every item in your inventory you shouldn’t find yourself stuck for overly long.
To make sure you’re never left idly moving the cursor around the environment in order to discover what can be interacted with Darkestville Castle employs one of the adventure game genres few innovations in the form of a button that highlights everything of interest.
It’s also nice to play a game that runs smoothly and that doesn’t have any glitches or major issues. It’s sad that in 2017 games are often released with severe problems hampering them, so I tip my hat to developer Epic LLama for creating something that feels like a polished product, aside from its subtitles.
Yet another solid entry in a genre that’s currently benefiting from something of a revival. We’re getting good adventure games all the time right now, and Darkestville Castle easily sits among them due to its strong humour, characters and fun puzzles. With that said it doesn’t exactly do much to further the genre, nor does it have any truly memorable moments that could let it stand with the titans such as Monkey Island. There is never that one amazing puzzle or amazing sequence. With that firmly in mind I can recommend Darkestville Castle to point and click fans looking for their fix and who aren’t seeking anything that tries to explore new ground. It’s a safe game, and therefore isn’t going to be the one shining example of the genre that we can hold up and tell all the non-believers to play. If you’re like me, though, and have a deep love for point and click adventuring then go ahead and click the buy button. You aren’t going to regret it.