Castle of Frustration
With gameplay straight out of the 8-bit era, Castle of Heart is a straightforward action game that involves running from left to right, avoiding tedious traps, and killing anything that approaches from a 2D perspective; think old school Mega Man or Ghosts and Goblins for comparison. The gimmick here is the cursed knight is slowly turning to stone and gradually loses health, giving this downloadable Switch title a platformer-meets-runner feel.
Unfortunately, Castle of Hearts frustrates more than entertains due to the unresponsive combat, loose jumping, and overall sluggish controls. Combat is little more than button mashing and attacks cannot be canceled or restarted until the current animation ends. Jumping, rolling, blocking, and platforming in general never feels right, as if this stone knight is walking with ice shoes and moving in syrup. Enemies mindlessly attack the player too, including annoying crows that always swoop to attack at the worst possible times. Instead of button mashing the attack button however, the player can optionally use dropped items similar to the sub-weapons like in most Castlevania games. But like swinging the sword, throwing a spear or firing a crossbow takes way too long and is never responsive as it should be. There are also many times when enemies will magically appear from dead ends, often leaving the player unfairly surrounded. The player cannot simply just run and jump over enemies too; most enemies need to be killed to restore the knight’s constantly draining health meter. Also, when the player’s health gets too low, the knight’s arm will literally fall off, making attacks even slower while removing any chance at using sub-weapons. In other words, the player is just constantly beaten and broken.
Even though environments, enemies, and the overall action repeats, Castle of Heart looks decent enough, as it should due to the larger file size to download. There are 20 levels available in the campaign but most go on for longer than they should, especially with the weak checkpoint system. There are some hidden collectables to be found in each level but some are so well guarded they are not worth the trouble or the time. Also, it is recommended to not play this game in handheld mode as motion blur mars the experience but this is minimized when docked to an HDTV. There are boss fights at the end of each world but these are mostly acts of attrition and go on for much longer than they should. It is frustrating to finally reach the boss, be in the fight for several minutes, only to die near the end because the knight slowly turned to stone. Also, I encountered a horrible bug as I was just about to defeat one boss; the game froze, shut down, and completely booted me back to the main Switch menu. Again, frustrating.
Castle of Heart starts off on the right track and sounds great on paper but quickly falls off the rails. The repetitive, unresponsive gameplay just beats the player at ever turn and stands as an unintentionally difficult game.
Not As Good As: Castlevania: The Adventure Rebirth (WiiWare)
Makes Me Remember: Trojan (NES)
Also Try: Ultimate Ghosts ‘n Goblins (PSP)