Crypt Stalker (Switch) Review

Clearly inspired by classic 8-bit Castlevania, Crypt Stalker is essentially a new NES-style Castlevania game right down to the overall interface, spritework, gameplay, and plot, but with some welcomed editions.

Instead of being a descendant of a long line of professional vampire killers, you play as a stalker – one deemed worthy enough to save the world from monsters and demons. Armed with a whip, like that of the Belmont clan, Gladys uses it as both a weapon and a tool as it can be used to swing across gaps. While there are no changeable sub-weapons, she is also armed with a pistol for long range attacks. Just remember, ammo is limited so the player never becomes overpowered.

In fact, the difficulty is just as high as in classic Castlevania titles. Even though the player has a controllable jump and moves much faster, do not let these player friendly features mislead judgement. This is still a tough game. In fact, I wasn’t unable to beat the boss in Level 6 because the one-hit kills do not compensate enough reaction time. And the checkpoint system harkens back to the NES era too, sending the player back to the mid-stage checkpoint instead of right in front of the boss door. The damage knockback can also be brutal, forcing those dreadful one-hit deaths by enemies conveniently placed in front of pits.

Although enemies and assets repeat, each stage usually has a simple gimmick to separate it from the last. For example, one stage features water which can hinger movement while another messes with the lights, in which you need to smack light switches and move before it goes dark. The chiptune soundtrack is no Castlevania, but still feels good and fits the mood of the game.

Here’s my complaint though – Crypt Stalker shouldn’t be this artificially hard. The thing is, there is no option to adjust the controls and it doesn’t take advantage of the Switch controller. Meaning, “A” and “B” jump and attack, like a classic NES controller, but I would much prefer to use “Y” and “B”.  Further, to use the pistol, the player needs to press the weapon switch button, then attack, then press the weapon switch button again to use the default whip attack. Why can’t I just shoot with the “R” or “X” button? This would make many stages much more playable as it takes too long to switch between ranged and melee attacks. So there is some needless frustration that doesn’t fully respect the player’s effort.

Even though the difficulty is unfair at times, it is hard to knock it too much given the low price and the amount of content available. You see, Crypt Stalker isn’t just a new NES-style Castlevania game, it also includes a Gameboy-like port! Sure, the Gameboy inspired version is shorter and not as detailed, but that is by design. But getting two completely different games in one package, all for the low price of only a few bucks, means there is plenty of excitement to be had. There is even a built-in Achievement system.

While I personally wish the difficulty was loosened a bit and it is unfortunate there is no control customization option, Crypt Stalker is easy to recommend. Getting two versions in one, at a low price, with a retro experience that neatly hits the gameplay and presentation firmly on the head, is not only an outstanding value, but also one of the more entertaining Switch eShop games to release in a good while. Fans of classic Castlevania must download this immediately. 

SCORE: 8/10

Not As Good As: The Castlevania Advance Collection

Better Than: the Lords of Shadow games

Wait For It: the Castlevania DS Collection

By: Zachary Gasiorowski, Editor in Chief

Twitter: @ZackGaz

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