4.5 out of 5. Takes common RPG tropes and turns them into a deep narrative experience. Very much a niche game, but it's good enough that you owe it to yourself to find out if you're in that niche.
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How Metroidvania is it? Low Fit. Creepy Castle is more of a turn-based RPG overall, but the Metroidvania elements are definitely there since ability gating is a primary feature of its various chapters.
Primary Challenge: RPG Style Battles
Time to beat: ~11 hours
Review Info: This game was played on Steam

More Info

Developer: Dopterra
Publisher: Nicalis
Sub-genre: JRPG Hybrid
Features: Map System, No Jumping, Story Rich, Narrative/Cutscenes Story Telling, Resource Management, Level-Based, RPG Style Combat
Difficulty: Medium
Linearity/Openness: Linear - No Handholding
Platforms: Windows, Steam
Release Date: 2016/10/31
Available Languages: English

Store Links

    Steam    

Buy Creepy Castle if you like…

  • Story driven games
  • Mature themes wrapped up in a child-like innocence
  • Warioware Microgames
  • Artistic use of graphical and gameplay limitations
  • Cute animal-based characters

▼ Review continues below ▼

Story and gameplay are often at odds with each other in video games, as both elements must compete for the player’s attention. Because of this, the normal case is that you’ll have games that you play for the story, and games that you play for the mechanics, with the former using the gameplay to service the narrative and the latter using the plot to service the challenges. Creepy Castle sits firmly in the “story-based” category of games, as it sometimes makes concessions to the narrative in lieu of better game design, leaving that narrative’s quality as the make-or-break factor in judging it as a whole. In my opinion at least, whatever concessions it made are completely worth it as it tackles some common themes with more maturity and grace than many of its similar competitors.

The gameplay itself is very good overall, however, just a little unusual. If you’ve ever played Nintendo’s Warioware, the concept may seem familiar. Creepy Castle functions like a regular Metroidvania RPG outside of combat. You wander hallways on a 2D plane, finding powerups that make you stronger – including tools that let you access new areas. Once you enter combat, instead of the normal platforming action or even the typical turn-based dice and math war, you’re shifted into abstract micro-games to represent the violent struggle. There are about six different microgames you’ll be facing throughout the game, ranging from quickdraw reaction games to speed rotation puzzles. Every single one of them has many variations, and sometimes twists, to increase difficulty or add personality to a given fight. That personality is the greatest advantage to the system, since it allows Creepy Castle to weave character development into the combat mechanics. The only issue I have with the combat is that once you’ve been introduced to all of the basic variations, fighting the regular enemies can get a little repetitive. A good argument can be made that this repetition is merely a matter of practice before you face a boss – and trust me you’ll need the practice – but that kind of tutorialization could have been handled with just a little more novelty.

Actually exploring the castle can be really satisfying too. Finding new tools to cross gaps or climb to higher places is as fun as it is in any Metroidvania game. Since movement is on a grid, with your hero moving exactly one space per button press, it leads to situations where I had to really use my head to figure out how to get to where I needed to be. However, there are also a lot of instances where you’re tricked into a one-way passage, having to slowly wander back to where you were to get back on track. Two of the game’s chapters required for the story’s progression are also exactly the same, making you effectively repeat a majority of the chapter twice. Because of the repetition, I developed something of a love/hate relationship with Creepy Castle.

Creepy Castle is divided into multiple episodes, or chapters. Each one runs between 1-4 hours long, and each of them has a particular theme where it emphasizes the combat, the exploration, or the narrative. Since it’s broken up this way, you can easily take a break for a while between chapters and let it rest for a while – though I don’t’ recommend that with the final two chapters, you’ll want to be well-practiced moving into the final challenges.

The first episode – the pilot of the game’s series of events – is thankfully one of the strongest, and represents most of the best of what the game has to offer, without being fully realized. It’s the second and third episodes that really emphasize the gameplay weaknesses. The map is just not quite as interesting as the first chapter in the first place, and having to do it twice makes it that much more dull. It all pays off in the end though, and I feel like doing it twice is part of the point when the moral of the story is revealed.

With the final two chapters, things really pick up. You still have to deal with the gameplay loops and repetitive combat, but the mystery and eventual weight of the mission drove me forward. It’s especially in these chapters that the advantage of the micro-games combat becomes very apparent. Every combat encounter is an exchange of HP contingent on your ability to conquer the micro-games presented, and every failed attempt dials up the tension dramatically. Ultimately Creepy Castle is a game about loss, struggle, and depression, and it manages to convey so much of this with its unique combat system, bringing the player in on the experience.

I think the thing I appreciate the most about Creepy Castle’s story is that while it has some great comic relief and very surreal situations, the primary themes are grounded in reality. Even when the inevitable message of “Friendship is Magic” comes up, the moral is accomplished with the characters applying actual principles that can be used in real life, rather than simply weaponizing the concept in a fantastic way. Because of this, I think that if you’re like me and start to become bored of the gameplay, if you can push past it there’s a great chance you’ll find something that really resonates with you – and may even improve your life. Though, I can at the very least guarantee that the gameplay won’t remain boring for very long.

Creepy Castle is a game that definitely deserves attention. Because of its weirdness, I think some people will have a lot of difficulty getting into it, but I think you deserve to find out whether this game is your niche. Buried beneath its faults is a shining diamond, and you may even find that you had been digging through gemstones the entire time after all.


Final Score

4.5/5

Scoring system overview


Metroidvania Breakdown

Combat
– 4

Using combat as in a non-traditional way. Can get somewhat repetitive but it keeps the tension high when it matters

Platforming
– 2

Basically non-existent unless you count slowly creeping over gaps as platforming

Exploration
– 4

Easter eggs and lore hidden throughout the world add a bonus to exploring beyond the normal requirement

Puzzle
– 3.5

Some puzzles loop you around in a meaningless circle, while others really make you think

Story
– 5

Tackles heavy topics like Depression and Loss with a good dash of comic relief, while using its gameplay magnificently to enhance the stroytelling

Graphics
– 3

While many of the CG scenes are gorgeous there are times the monochromatic presentation can be confusing

Music
– 5

Extremely catchy 8-bit style tunes well worthy of the best of that era's music

Replayability
– 3.5

There is a speedrunning mode and a few chapters that are designed to be replayed, but no big incentives besides these challenge modes


Want a second opinion? See what other reviews say:

Steam Reviews
All Time: Very Positive
(89% of 146 Reviews)


82 Metacritic
Read critic reviews