STAFF REVIEW of Darkestville Castle (Xbox One)

Thursday, September 24, 2020.
by Adam Dileva

Darkestville Castle Box art Some of my fondest gaming memories growing up were with classic point and click adventure games like Maniac Mansion and Secret of Monkey Island. While the genre isn’t as popular as it once was back in its heyday, there’s been the odd point and click adventure game released in the last few years, which always excites me. Darkestville Castle, developed by Epic Llama, is the latest in the genre and surprised me with its incredibly clever writing, dialogue and joke filled adventure.

If you yearn for classic point and click adventures from the 90’s like I do, you’ll be happy to know that Darkestville Castle has that Monkey Island feel to it with its gameplay and overall hilarious tone. Fully voice acted, hand drawn and complete with extremely odd and obtuse puzzles, you’ll feel right at home if you’re a fan of the genre and made me want more once the credits rolled.

You play Cid, the evil demon that inhabits the solitary castle in Darkestville. Cid is a simple demon, as he likes to prank and commit evil deeds on the town’s residents whenever he gets a chance. As he wakes up and checks his evil to-do list, he tries to leave his castle so that he can go be malicious and, you know, do evil demon stuff obviously. Problem is it seems that Dan Teapot, a local that’s always trying to stop Cid, has barricaded Cid inside his castle so that he can’t go torment the village any longer.

As Cid and Dan talk, it’s made very apparent that Dan is standing on a trapdoor outside the castle gate that seems to be malfunctioning. This of course sets Cid on a journey to fix said trap door so that he can escape his castle and go about his evil day. It’s an obviously lighthearted tone on demons and such, very fitting for the humor and gameplay. It seems that Dan though has written a letter to the Romero Brothers, the most famous demon hunters in all the land, and they are on their way to come capture Cid and rid the town of his annoyance.

Of course, things don’t go exactly to plan, so Dan gets trapped inside Cid’s castle and the Romero Brothers ended up capturing Cid’s giant pet fish and best friend, Domingo. Cid won’t let that slide and sets out to save his beloved pet. This being a hilarious point and click adventure, you’re sure to set out on a silly and obscure quest that changes as new events happen, which I don’t want to spoil. Set across a handful of chapters, the campaign length was just perfect, though play time will vary based on how well you are at puzzles and figuring out obscure and obtuse solutions to wacky situations Cid finds himself in.

Like any good point and click adventure, Cid will be able to interact with NPC’s and objects, able to look, grab and talk to. As with any game in the genre, you’re going to have to be quite diligent at exhausting all your options with everything that you’re able to interact with. Yes, that means event attempting to talk to inanimate objects at times. A perfect example of this that stumped me and had me searching a guide was trying to pick up a crab on the beach, but Cid refused because he didn’t want to get pinched. Turns out I needed to look at the crab first to deduce that it wasn’t a real live crab, which then meant it was safe to pick up afterwards, so you’re going to have to think outside the box at times, as is the case with games like these.

There’s tons of dialogue as well, all of which from every character is fully voiced and done quite well. Cid has a certain malicious yet innocent evilness in his tone where you know he’s more of a prankster than pure evil, for a demon. While not every joke lands, I was laughing more than a few times at some of the dialogue and the humor is filled from its opening scenes until the credits rolled.

Like other games in the genre, you’ll be collecting seemingly random objects across your journey, of which will have a use at some point, though you’re really going to have to think outside the box for some of them. You’re also able to combine items, and will have to every so often, so if you’re unable to progress or don’t know what to do, keep trying to see what items may go together, even if it’s not obvious at first. Dialogue trees have a handful of different options as well, and just like searching and gathering everything you can, you’ll need to exhaust all your talking options as well whenever possible, as this may also lead to new clues or items.

The main hook of games like these are its puzzles, and while there are some difficult to find objects in some of the scenes, I found the puzzles in Darkestville Castle to be quite illogical at times. While I’m not an expert in the genre, I’ve played enough to have a general idea of their ‘logic’ when it comes to solutions. I admit though, more than a few times I had to reference a guide to solve some of the puzzles within, as they seemed completely out of left field for their solutions. This is where your gameplay length will vary, depending on how clever you are at the constant flow of puzzles. Not every puzzle has a logical solution, so you’ll need to really think within the game’s humorous logic many times.

Being completely hand drawn, all of the characters feel unique and have big personalities, even your pet fish Domingo. Animation for Cid’s movement is generally fluid and the backgrounds and each scene is varied and colorful. Never once did I have any framerate issues and everything felt smooth overall. The voice over cast is fantastic as well, as each NPC and demon sounded unique and had a completely believable performance, bringing them further to life.

Darkestville Castle took me a little by surprise, not because of its quality and great humor, both of which I expected, but how authentic it comes across as. It’s as if Darkestville Castle was hiding away all these years, taken straight from the 90’s and only unearthed now for fans to enjoy. It nailed the comedic aspect and gameplay just right, and although I found many of the puzzles a little too obtuse, I was smiling all the way until the credits rolled and should be played by any classic point and click adventure fan.

Overall: 8.5 / 10
Gameplay: 9.0 / 10
Visuals: 8.0 / 10
Sound: 8.5 / 10


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