[Review] Darkestville Castle – Nintendo Switch

Written by Abbi Smith
  • Developer: Epic Llama
  • Publisher: BUKA Entertainment
  • Release Date: 13/08/2020
  • Price: £11.99 / $14.99
  • Review code provided by BUKA Entertainment

Introducing: Darkestville Castle Switch Review

A quirky, comedic point-and-click that first appeared on PC a couple of years ago, this fun little game is right at home on the Switch.

Comedy Is The Name Of The Game

Meet Cid, the demon of Darkestville. He lives in a castle on the outskirts of Darkestville, along with his pet fish Domingo and his companion, Mr Buttons. He spends his days and nights happily tormenting the people of Darkestville who, with the exception of his arch-enemy Dan Teapot, consider him more of a nuisance than any real threat. One day, good old Dan hires a famous group of demon hunters to defeat Cid once and for all! Unfortunately, not all goes to plan. 

Between fooling the not-exactly-well-named Romero brothers, talking townsfolk out of useful objects, and occasionally arguing with demons, life in Darkestville is certainly colourful! The characters are immediately likeable, having a kind of corny Saturday morning cartoon vibe about them. The accompanying humour is childish and yet still had me giggling like a loon within the first five minutes – that may speak more to my mental age than anything, but it was damn fun! I hadn’t even finished the prologue before I decided to set aside the whole Sunday for it, just to bask in the delightful lightheartedness that was sure to come.

A Classic Style That Never Grows Old

Point-and-click games are exactly what they sound like; objects and people within the world before you are interactive, and clicking on them will present a variety of options. Items can be picked up here and there, that are then required somewhere else to solve a puzzle or open a path to another area. Darkestville Castle handles it like a pro – if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it! The objects you can interact with never stand out, making some areas a real click-frenzy to try and find the one thing you’ve missed, or trying every item in your inventory on something to see if anything will work.

The lack of puzzles means that the point-and-click could easily become redundant, but Darkestville Castle avoids this by making the environmental interactions particularly interesting or sneaky – for example, at one point I had to pick up an item, inspect it to find something else, and then use the 2nd item somewhere that seemed completely bizarre to start with. There’s a decent amount of thinking outside of the box which is fun, but the lack of quest log is a bit of a pain when you’ve been so busy solving little things that you’ve forgotten the whole point.

There were only two things I really took issue with from a gameplay perspective: scrolling scenes, and the inventory screen. The scenes are larger than the screen they’re on, so there’s a lot of moving back and forth to find things. It just feels a little old-fashioned considering how much you can fit on a Switch screen! The inventory screen was kind of clunky in touchscreen mode. Pressing the appropriate button opens the screen, and clicking on an item selects it, but to then use the item in the environment you have to be careful where you click to close the inventory screen as the inventory takes up nearly the entire screen. It’s easy to accidentally click on something, and Cid attempts to use your item on that when you’re just trying to close the inventory. It works fine in docked mode, as moving the cursor out of the inventory automatically minimizes it, but it got annoying quickly when playing in the otherwise more natural-feeling touch mode.

Scooby-Doo, Eat Your Heart Out!

Darkestville Castle is in a classic cartoon style, with 2D environments and navigation that’s reminiscent of point-and-click games in days gone by. Cid does navigate the scenes, moving deeper into a room as well as along it, but everything is done in a very flat way that ends up oddly comical. The colours are vivid, with the various locations being exactly what you’d expect from a corny cartoon; from the spooky, grim, slightly ramshackle castle where Cid lives to the overly opulent Mayor’s house, everything just screams of a typical child’s imagining of such a place. 

The soundtrack only enhances the lighthearted nature of the game, somehow mastering the perky yet spooky vibe that I grew up loving in shows like Scooby Doo (the proper cartoon version, not this new 3D style stuff). Another wonderful thing is the fact that every line is voiced. There’s a giant insect character, and even she’s voiced with appropriate buzzing sounds! Stephanos Rex did a brilliant job as Cid, as well as a whole host of other characters. Check out the credits – he voiced literally half of the characters, making each one feel unique and alive. While Cid is admittedly my favourite, being the perfect level of irreverent, you have to admire the man’s talent.

While point-and-clicks shouldn’t be that hard to translate to the Switch, there are a surprising number that have not-inconsequential performance issues. Thankfully, Darkestville Castle doesn’t suffer from this. The animations flow smoothly, and I never had any issues with responsiveness. Granted, the load screens are slightly longer than I’d like, but that’s a minor inconvenience at most.

Can You Think Outside Of The Box?

Difficulty is a really (ironically) difficult thing to pin down in a point-and-click game. They’re generally only as hard as your mind is inflexible – what one person may solve quickly, another will spend ages trying to figure out. There’s no failure in Darkestville Castle, only how long it takes you to figure something out and collect all the pieces! While the interactive objects don’t stand out from the scenes in any way, there is a button that highlights all interactive objects in a scene so even if you do get stuck it’ll never be for too long, and there are no consequences for trying to use an item in the wrong place. It’s a very relaxed experience, and that’s part of its charm. 

D-Evil-ishly Fun

As a huge fan of the genre, I can easily be too harsh on point-and-click games, but Darkestville Castle had me smiling from the start. A perfect balance of amusing characters, fun sound and graphic design, and well-built mechanics is necessary to make a worthy point-and-click adventure, especially in the current times where the market is saturated with deep, expansive games.

I don’t know if it was intentional, but Darkestville Castle really does feel like an interactive cartoon, and it made a wonderfully refreshing change from what I’ve become accustomed to. The Switch is the perfect home for this comparatively bite-sized beauty, and while it may be a little expensive considering the length and lack of replayability, it’s definitely worth picking up.

Pros

  • Fun characters
  • Fully voiced
  • Childishly funny

Cons

  • A little expensive
  • Scrolling scenes is mildly annoying
  • Needs a better-designed inventory screen

Verdict
While there were a couple of minor annoyances, and it’s a little short for the price, Darkestville Castle is still well worth picking up for any point-and-click fans. Plus it’s family-friendly!

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