A long time ago, an evil sorcerer ruled the lands. He would come to towns and terrorise the villagers, making their lives hell. One day, a knight defied the sorcerer to protect his loved one. This action came at a cost, as the sorcerer cast a spell on the knight, turning him to stone, destroying the town, cursing the villagers and stealing the knights loved one. A single tear from his beloved landed on the knight, reanimating his stone body. Now he seeks vengeance, and sets out to rescue his beloved.
It’s not an incredibly inventive story, one that is as old as time itself. Even the first Pokemon movie did this one. Mewtwo turns Ash to stone, and Pikachu’s tear brings Ash back to life. So this is the Pokemon movie with knights and vengeance.
Musically Castle of Heart is confusing. Usually filled with ambient noise, there are moments where the music will pick up. The problem is, there doesn’t seem to be a reason for the music to actually pick up, it just does. That creates a jarring experience, as the music swelling up would indicate something of importance is about to happen, yet that more often than not turns out to be false.
Speaking of the music, it is rather dull and unimaginative. It fits the look of the game, but nothing about it stands out, besides how poorly it is implemented. The ambient noises also get in the way. For instance, there are enemies which are crows, and make a typical cawing sound. The ambient tracks also have bird noises, which can make you think enemies are present which aren’t actually there, or vice versa.
The sound effects are fine at best. Sword slashes sound like you’d expect, bows have a twang to their shots, enemies make weird grunts and cries. Again though, none of this stands out. Thankfully none of it gets in the way though either, so sound wise this game gets a pass.
Visuals & Performance
Generic. That is the word best used to describe Castle of Heart. The 4 main areas that each set of levels are housed in get repetitive very quickly. There is little variety in buildings, walls, floors, enemies etc within each set of levels. For instance, the first set of levels are set in town. All 5 of those levels look identical to each other. The forest area, every level is the same. The snow topped mountains, same. The castle, you guessed it, all the same. Same same same.
Character models are pretty decent for a smaller title like this. Each enemy looks menacing, and although their movesets are limited, the game hides that fact fairly well. The knight looks the most impressive, his armour making him stand out as a righteous protector. You also see bits of rock constantly dropping off of his body which is a nice touch.
The game performs quite well too. I never experienced any slowdowns or hiccups, even when there were enemies filling the screen. That said, I did experience a major bug that occurred several times throughout. After a death, when returning to the last checkpoint, occasionally I would lose control. None of the button inputs would register at all, and I would be stuck standing still until I either restarted my Switch or died. Very frustrating.
Castle of Heart has problems. It’s problems stem from its very core, and make this a game that is hard to endure through.
The game is a side scrolling action platformer. You run through a level, battling enemies and passing checkpoints until eventually you reach the end. The catch though, is that your life is continually ticking down over time, and regenerates once you reach a checkpoint. You also get a bit of health back for killing enemies or picking up health throughout a level.
So where does it go wrong? For starters, the combat is extremely shallow, and the games systems does everything in its power to make you not engage with it. Getting health back from killing enemies sounds like a good way to keep yourself alive until you reach a checkpoint. That is, until you engage in combat.
Enemies have a fair amount of health, so you will be fighting for a few good seconds. Sure you regain health, but you also lose health over time, which negates what you gain. You still take damage while blocking, and doing so extends combat, so your natural life drain again negates the damage you didn’t take while blocking. Also, if you are in combat for a while, enemies will approach you from behind, making combat seem like the last thing you should do.
So instead of engaging in combat, why don’t we avoid it and just do some good old fashioned platforming? Well because the platforming straight up sucks. Jumping is so floaty you feel like you will never land on the ground again. It is also difficult to do anything precise, as the controls are just god awful. What’s frustrating about this is that the platforming the game wants you to do is usually precise, which as I just said is something this game does so poorly.
Along the way, the game will start introducing floors that will give way without warning and quick thinking platforming. Because of the poor controls, these sections become a matter of trial and error. This also makes it feel like the game is cheating you, artificially raising the difficulty by hitting you with things you can’t possibly predict.
Each level is a chore, and you will want to just run through them as quick as humanly possible. Doing so will take you about 20 minutes per level, which feels like an eternity. If you engage with the combat, raise that to about 35 minutes per level. Now the game is a good old fashioned grind of the worst variety. There are also 5 gems you can collect in each level if you want to find them. You won’t though, because you would have to engage with the games systems, which is something the game tries extremely hard to get you not to do.
I believe Castle of Heart is asking too much for what you get. It’s price point is set at spot where it’s competition is very stiff, and much better, more complete packages are available. Although graphically the game can look impressive, it feels like it is underdeveloped in terms of gameplay. It is also about 3 to 4 hours long, with no real reason to replay.
Works most of the time
Nice character models
By the numbers story
Bugs take away controls
Games systems at odds with gameplay