What happens when an evil sorcerer comes to town, steals your maiden and carries her off to his fortress while leaving you a constantly disintegrating pile of stone ? An amazing adventure through vibrant and dreary landscapes all while trying to save your lady and reverse the stone curse placed upon you. Castle of Heart is a 2.5D platformer with stunning visuals, intuitive controls and a pretty rewarding secret gem system. The Stone Knight has constantly depleting health which adds an element of haste some platformers lack. Standing around assessing a particularly tricky jump or taking a few seconds to try and route an abundance of angry townsfolk is usually the difference between making the next checkpoint or falling just short. While the health depletion isn’t substantial it is enough to force forward movement through these more troublesome sections of the game.
Each area contains health orbs that replenish your ever diminishing health, orbs that will increase your maximum health level when enough are collected and 5 hidden crystals that are scattered throughout each level. The crystals add a level of exploration to the game and are cleverly hidden throughout. The satisfaction of sniffing one out or stumbling upon one in your travels is pleasantly delightful and a big reason I will be diving right back in to try my hand at uncovering them all. As you traverse each area you quickly figure out that each area although similar is truly unique and requires a level of deduction when it comes to puzzling out how to navigate through to its next checkpoint. Tactics that work in a slower less enemy heavy area will not translate to a confined space while being pincer attacked by multiple enemies. Standing and fighting is also not always your best course of action. Your ability to identify when to stand your ground or run for the next checkpoint can dictate your enjoyment in many particularly difficult stretches of the game.
The platforming is intuitive and responsive. I never felt put out during a particularly tricky stretch of jumping or through a stretch of auto-scrolling portions of the game. I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention how brilliantly I think Castle of Heart has incorporated this platforming stable into the game and never having it feel forced or out of place. The combat does feel a little slow but I do believe that’s by design. The isn’t a side scrolling beat em up so having the ability to rail off a flurry of attacks with no rhyme or reason would feel out of place. Instead it is replaced with a more tactical approach to combat using the objects around you to your advantage alongside the wide array of weapons at your disposal. Stronger swords, maces and axes picked up along your journey will make your close combat more of a breeze while long range weapons will handle airborne and long range weapon touting enemies with very little trouble.
From the first area Castle of Heart has a great visual aesthetic. The medieval setting with the realistic 3D backgrounds is just stunning. Every stage has its own flare and nuances but it shares the setting tying it to the area of each area. Continuing forward awaiting the unveiling of new architecture in the castle area or slogging through the swamp/caves area carefully waiting to see what dark and dim cesspool of filth you will be trudging through next is a delight. Enemies are just as intricately designed as the surrounding landscapes. Although most share similar features in each area, each specific type of enemy has its own nuanced design to set it apart from the rest.
Castle of Heart takes a tried and true genre and brings a fresh take on it. Traversing new areas, uncovering hidden crystals and puzzling out how to reach the next checkpoint in your quest to rescue your maiden and reverse the stone curse is sometimes frustrating but always satisfying and enjoyable. This game is highly recommend for Switch owners.