by Jason Parker (Ragachak)
As it happens, I’m a pretty big fan of side-scrolling platformers/beat ’em ups. Castlevania is one of my favorite franchises, and that’s probably because I’m a child of the 80s and was fortunate enough to grow up with an NES and that was a dominant style of game at the time. This was a title on the Wii-U also, but I did not own a Wii-U, so I did not get to try Citadale until it was on Steam. So what is it? It’s a side-scroller, a’la Castlevania, and has a lot of things in common with titles like Castlevania III and Symphony of the Night. You play as a member of the Dorleac family (depending on which chapter of the game you play, the character changes) on a quest to slay a variety of demons, monsters, and the undead. Now on the outset, I love this game. It’s definitely got the difficulty and the look/feel of the classic games from my youth. But there are some issues I had that are worth noting. I play most of my games with a PS4 controller and it seemed like every time I played it with a controller I had different buttons. One day they made sense, the second time my buttons were all warped, and my Attack was on R1 instead of one of my face buttons! I imagine this would be different with an Xbox Controller. Perhaps I have no choice but to buy one and see for myself. Using a Keyboard was okay, but games like this don’t feel right on a keyboard.
It’s very much in the vein of a Castlevania: You wander a series of platformed areas, destroying Skeletons, Demons, other undead as you reach towards a boss where you have to figure out their pattern then defeat them. It’s standard fare, but for a Castlevania clone, that’s what to expect. And “Castlevania Clone” is definitely not an insult; it’s a popular style of game. You go through the stage, kill stuff, fight a boss. You can save anywhere at least, but don’t save mid-boss and fail. That’s the worst. I did not find a whole ton of challenge in the game, but maybe that’s because I played absolute tons of Castlevania 1 and 3 as a younger man (and found myself playing Super Castlevania IV before I went in to review this). There did feel like there was a bit of minor delay on the attack though and most of the time I would take damage, it was due to stuff like that, having a delay. Or if an enemy happened to be in the background layer (like the bone-throwing skeletons on the first stage, that did happen).
For the most part, the bosses were pretty easy to me. But I learned a fairly harsh lesson that I would have known if it were in the game in a place I could see it: There appeared to be no save function! I learned later (after browsing their Steam Profile) that you use F1/F2 to Save/Load. If you don’t do that, you have to start allllll over! Which I was knee-deep in the game and to say that I was frustrated is an understatement. I’m fine with it, but it should be in the game somewhere. The Wii-U was able to just resume where you left off, but that’s not a part of the Steam release. That was, from what I read, hard-coded into the Wii-U’s infrastructure. I definitely think it could have been added for the Steam release, or at least a menu to show me that button is there. The gameplay is solid overall, and each character feels a little different. The sub-weapons (another Castlevania staple) are pretty standard, like an Axe, Holy Water, et cetera. I didn’t feel like I needed them, but they were nice to have around. The sword attack is very reminiscent of Alucard from Symphony of the Night, which is fine; I loved SOTN.
What A Horrible Night to Have a Curse: 3/5 (Good)
On a graphical/audio scale, I love this. It’s a visual tribute to the games of old. It’s not terribly long, either. You can probably get through a chapter in an hour or so if you’re savvy/skilled. And there are two other chapters as well as alternate endings. I’m still plugging away at all three, but I do very much enjoy the game. The problems with it are minor, like having an R/L button at the top of the screen to swap Chapters, but that’s with or without a controller. Occasionally that worked on my PS4 controller, but sometimes it wouldn’t. And I have no idea what button that is on my keyboard. I do genuinely think that fans of this style of platformer/Castlevania style game will get what they want out of it. It’s definitely not for everyone. But if you’re seeking a challenge and to also destroy the forces of darkness, Citadale: The Legends Trilogy is definitely for you. The dev does listen on Steam though and offer his thoughts and explanations, which is lovely. This is a fun game if it’s the style of game you’re seeking and you’ll definitely get your money’s worth. But there are some quality-of-life things I’d like to see in it, like knowing what buttons are what, especially for saving. The sound effects are amazing (and some do very much sound familiar), the music is terrific, and the gameplay is exactly what I expected it to be. If you’re looking for some fun, frustrating gaming and love the Castlevania games of old, you should give it a whirl. You know where I’d like to play this? On the DS or the Vita. I think it’d be right at home on a portable.