Darkestville Castle Review

Richard Walker

Darkestville Castle is a welcome rarity. A throwback to the halcyon days of LucasArts in its pomp. Epic LLama's point-and-click adventure does a fine job in aping its inspirations, right down to the off-the wall humour, quick and witty dialogue, and sometimes deliberately obtuse puzzles. There simply isn't enough of this kind of game – particularly on consoles – these days, and that's a shame. There are fewer still with the clear love of the genre and its history that Darkestville Castle has.

You play as mischievous skeletal demon Cid – a lovable, nefarious dandy in a tricorn hat and cape, who wears a permanent shark-toothed grin on his silly face. Darkestville Castle picks up as the village locals, living in the shadow of your ominous, demonic fortress, have turned on you. Resident busybody Dan Teapot, hiring a gang of three demon hunters known as the Romero Brothers, has decided to put an end to your evil pranks.

Locked inside your castle, you'll soon venture out into the world, encountering a cast of oddball characters, gathering a collection of random items that seemingly have no use (or rather, you're not quite sure what they're for yet). Like any good point-and-click adventure worth its salt, Darkestville Castle is good at making you scratch your head, particularly during the game's latter half, where only lateral thinking will see you through. You'll need to combine seemingly unrelated objects, deceive certain characters to ensure your progress, and put your grey matter through its paces when you inevitably hit a roadblock. Sometimes, the solution can be staring you right in the face, even if it's not always obvious – and when the penny does drop, connecting the dots to solve the game's various brainteasers is consistently gratifying.

And although the hand-drawn art-style can seem a little crude, there's a certain life, colour, and vibrancy that recalls classic graphic adventures like Day of the Tentacle and (to a slightly lesser extent) The Secret of Monkey Island, or Full Throttle. It's a hackneyed thing to say, perhaps, but Darkestville Castle has bags of charm; protagonist Cid is an evil-doer whose evil-doings only ever extend as far as feeding laxatives to pigeons, releasing mutated chickens, tormenting his nerdy nemesis Dan Teapot, or being late to pay his bar tab (granted, he does also burn down someone's house for laughs).

Naturally, the narrative keeps tongue lodged firmly in-cheek, and the sly, knowing nods to the LucasArts oeuvre never fail to raise a wry smile. There's a clear warmth and passion for Darkestville Castle's genre influences, and they shine through practically every square-inch of the game's bizarre and wonderfully idiosyncratic world, from the peculiar folks you'll interact with, to Cid himself, and his pet fish Domingo.

Even frequent spelling and grammatical errors in the game's subtitles can't detract from the overall experience, although they can occasionally cause a raised eyebrow, especially since the game has previously appeared on PC and mobile devices. You'd have thought that by the time the game reached consoles – almost three years on from its initial release, no less – that the developer might have found the time to correct at least some of the more glaring typos and grammar mistakes during the process of porting it to console.

Regardless, there's a lot to like about Darkestville Castle, from the streamlined console controls to the jaunty soundtrack, and energetic voice acting. But it's the quality of the point-and-click puzzling and its commitment to providing an injection of nostalgia that makes the game such a memorable experience. Its daft characters and storyline are the most enjoyable aspects in what proves to be a relentlessly humorous romp. The gentle pace and brain-squeezing conundrums are a joy, and, across the course of the game's 5-7 hours, you're never anything less than thoroughly absorbed.

Perhaps the greatest compliment you could pay Darkestville Castle, is that it almost feels like a lost adventure from the LucasArts archive – one you might have found in a dusty old warehouse, sealed away in a crate right next to the Ark of the Covenant. For that reason alone, this is nigh-on essential for anyone yearning for the heady reign of the now defunct LucasArts – as an homage, few games will prod the nostalgia glands or the funny bone quite like Darkestville Castle does.

Darkestville Castle

A loving throwback to the grand old days of defunct adventure game masters LucasArts, Darkestville Castle wears its influences on its sleeve, and as such, it's a beautifully orchestrated tribute. Fortunately, it also happens to be a fun and engaging point-and-click yarn in its own right.

Form widget
75%
Audio
80%

A suitably lighthearted soundtrack and strong voice acting ensure that not only does Darkestville Castle sound like a LucasArts adventure, but it's funny like one, too.

Visuals
70%

The hand-painted backdrops are fantastic and the cast of strange characters are bright and colourful, although the art style and animation can be a mite crude in places.

Playability
75%

Using Cid's inventory can be a bit on the fiddly side, but generally speaking, the interface is fairly slick and intuitive, requiring very few buttons to scroll through interactions and dialogue options.

Delivery
75%

Gleefully entertaining throughout the course of its 5-7 hour runtime, Darkestville Castle is a joy while it lasts, but there's little incentive to go back for seconds. Maybe you'll rediscover it in a few years, though, and fancy playing it again.

Achievements
80%

Coaxing you into exploring every little corner of its world, Darkestville Castle's achievement list offers even more reason to talk to everyone and try everything. Just like it should.

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