Developer: Ratalaika Games / Baroque Decay
Publisher: Merge Games
Release Date: 19 October
Price as of Article: £10,79 USD, $13,49
You’re a 10-year-old boy named Hans who lives in a little house with your mother. Your father has gone to war. Mum does her best to look after Hans but she can barely put food on the table. On Han’s 10th birthday he loses his temper because his mum has not bought him a present or made the day special for him. Hans decides he has had enough and decides to seek his own fortune. He tells his mother he is leaving. His mum while a little upset decides to let Hans go and gives him some cheese, 3 coins and a walking stick. Off you go on your adventure and this is where you find just how little Hans knows about the world. Naïve is kind! Honestly, I am disappointed in the way his mother just let him go.
When you set off on your adventure the music consists of chirpy chiptunes and as you explore green woods it’s all about the sound effects which win the day. From the chirping of the birds to the sound of Hans footsteps. The wind as it blows and rustles the trees. As you begin to explore and get deeper into this games things start to take a sinister turn. The music changes and you start to feel uneasy. It’s all really eerie and it’s what you don’t see that really makes you feel uncomfortable.
The visuals have a really cool retro feel to them and are pixelated. The view is top-down and everything looks quite pretty from you exploring the woods and the little squirrels running around to the friendly donkey and goats. Everything is drawn really nicely and fits this type of game. The game’s visuals change nicely and make you feel really uneasy when events start to turn for the worse. I did encounter slow down both in handheld and docked mode in this game which was really disappointing especially as this game would not be pushing the power of the switch at all. This is just poor optimisation and I would expect the developer to patch this as it happened a little too often for me.
Essentially this game is about exploring and solving puzzles. It’s all very minimalistic and everything is simple to do. The controls are easy to use and moving your character around is all very simple. You will come across a number of NPC’s where interaction is key. You will see early on that items will serve specific purposes and while you may not have any clue what a plank of wood will be good for you can bet that you will need it later.
Much like point and click adventures, this is more or less what you get here. There is an added element where you will have to avoid traps and monsters. You cannot combat these monsters so unlike in a Zelda game you cannot carry a sword or anything to take them down. You are a 10-year-old boy, seeking adventure and all you are able to do is hide! This part of the game is what I probably had the biggest issue with. It tries to combine an action adventure game with a point and click one but the character moves super slowly and it borders on frustrating. When you eventually get to the castle you will need to figure out the name of a blue floating creature in order to inherit the Count Lucanors fortune. It’s all interesting enough and it gives you the motivation to figure it out.
You will have a number of coloured keys given to you which will correspond to coloured banners above rooms. Each puzzle figured out will usually reward you with a new letter to put towards figuring out the creature’s name. In order to save your game, you will need to speak to the Raven at the castle garden which is handily placed. A warning here, if you save too many times you will end up spending too much cash and later on, you will not be able to purchase the gold key to complete the game. You will have to start again and lose 2 hours of progress. Rage inducing to say the least.
Each time you wish to save you end up using a coin by chucking it in the fountain. The Raven is there to save your soul! Make sure you do this because you can be taken out by a goat or a frustrating trap at any time. This game feels to me like it wanted to be the jack of all trades but didn’t quite master any of them.
I enjoyed figuring out the puzzles and the story and the game is solid enough in terms of the controls but because of this mixture of genres it felt as if this was meant to be more of a point and click adventure. Instead, it has elements of classic Zelda but not executed well enough, you can’t fight but then again you move so slowly that it just feels really odd. If you have ever played Alien Isolation the mechanics were similar in that you were always looking to hide from the alien. Here it’s similar but you will be hiding under tables and behind curtains and even if the monster spots you it’s easy enough to hide. The AI is not too clever that’s for sure.
There are 5 endings in this game so it does offer some replayability but being honest the story nor the pace of this one would make me want to complete it again.It is £10,79 or $13,49 on sale but I think it should have been cheaper still. Once it goes back up to its original price then I think it will be too expensive to compete with the current games on the system. Although this is one of the only horror games so has that in its favour.