[Review] Ritual: Crown of Horns – Nintendo Switch

Written by Stephen Hunter
  • Developer: iFun4all
  • Publisher: Feardemic
  • Release Date: 07/11/2019
  • Price: £17.99 / $19.99
  • Review Code Provided by Feardemic

A Cult of Personality

Set in the USA sometime in the 1800s, you play as patriot Daniel Goodchild, the best of the best, a government employed bounty hunter. His latest assignment? Takedown a witch found to be practising rituals that could destabilise the entire country.

However, upon finding the witch she tells you it is not her you should fear, but the swarm of cultists around you. Almost defenceless to the onslaught of these cultists, you are left barely alive, hanging on to your last breath.

You awaken to the witch’s voice surveying your condition in the underworld. It is here she gives you the truth and a choice. The cultists that slaughtered you we’re actually government agents like yourself, belonging to the cult of the horn, and were sent to ensure both you and the witch were
killed. The choice is simple. Give her your heart and soul, and she will give you the power needed to carry out your revenge against those that wronged you. Refuse, and simply die like a dog. Of course, you take the witch’s offer. She rebuilds your body, making you superhuman and stronger than ever before. Time to take on the cult.

Be Weary

There is very little gameplay variant to speak of in this arcade-style top-down shooter. Your witch companion will be carrying out a ritual that frees tortured souls, cleansing the surrounding land, and thus kills all enemies within your vicinity. Your task is to protect this witch from the mass number of incoming cultists and supernatural beasts for a certain amount of time whilst she carries out this ritual. The only real variants are the stage layouts, time limits, and challenges added in. Sounds easy enough right? Wrong!

Be under no disillusion, this game is brutally difficult. Armed with your trusty revolver, shotgun, and a spell granted to you by the witch, you must ensure every bullet and action counts to avoid being overwhelmed. You will eventually be able to swap between 3 weapons on the fly, and have 3 spells at your disposal, but for now you’re stuck with 2 guns and 1 spell. The game is simple; Aim, shoot, spell cast, and survive. But this isn’t like a twin-stick shooter where you aim countless bullets in every direction, or like other top-down action shooters where you can aim, shoot, and instantly kill. There is more strategy needed here.

Practise Precision

For starters, shooting if done incorrectly will take each enemy multiple hits to go down. That takes far too long with this number of enemies. To shoot correctly, you will need to hold your aim on an enemy for around a second or so, then a red skull will appear above them. Shooting when you see this skull ensures instant death. Mastering the timing of shooting as soon as you see this skull then moving onto the next enemy is crucial if you want to progress in this game! But take some solace in the fact the games auto-aim feature does work very well. Then we have reloading. Each gun has a
certain number of bullets to fire, and then you will need to reload. Reloading takes around two seconds. This can easily be the difference between success and failure here. The reloading mechanic requires you to make it part of your strategy, to keep track of your bullets and reload with every second you can spare before the onslaught begins to surround you or the witch. Spells are a handy tool but work a little differently. To use a spell, you must amount a certain number of souls, gained through killing enemies. One enemy regardless of size or speed equals one soul.

With all that said, I’m sure it has painted the picture of how much you need to keep track of in this game. Your position, your health, the witches’ position, the enemies, your aim, your bullets, your souls, when to use a spell, when to reload, it all feels so chaotic and hectic! From the second the enemies start to approach; it feels like your eyes don’t stop darting around the screen trying desperately to keep up with everything. This is relentless until you either die or succeed. Dying can feel unfair with how much you have to keep up with, but you also feel that sense of euphoria when you do finally beat a stage. The issue here is the game offers nothing much to entice you to keep trying, other than the story.

Lock and Load

Fortunately, there is help at hand, and rewards for persevering through each stage. After battling through the first two stages, you unlock further allies; The gun god, and the trickstress. With the witch and these new allies alongside you, they offer upgrades to your gear, weapons, and spells respectively. The trickstress whilst offering upgrades to your gears and weapons needs demonhorns to do this. How do you earn demonhorns? Well in one of two ways. Firstly, beating stages and progressing through the game as normal. But secondly, she offers challenges for stages you’ve already beaten. These challenges are things such as ‘beat the stage without taking damage’, or ‘beat the stage using only this weapon’ etc. There are usually 3 challenges per stage, each challenge worth a certain amount of demonhorns, and can all be completed simultaneously. I highly recommend doing these before moving on, you will need upgrades for all the help you can get, and you do feel the benefits. Simple things such as improved ammo capacity, reducing the amount you need to reload go a long way. Unfortunately, as you become stronger with these upgrades, the game continues to ramp up the difficulty and the difficulty of the challenges. You end up feeling like you’re working your behind off, simply to keep up with the game.

Beautiful Yet Bland

From the get-go, you see this game has such a starch contrast between its story and cutscene art style, to how the actual gameplay looks. Story arks and cutscenes are presented in this beautiful and colourful horror-western style, lots of crimson and black that really bring this dark, supernatural revenge story to life. Dialogue between characters is solid and thematic, presented in a graphic novel style which really works. The gameplay itself however looks like your typical mobile game. There’s enough detail for the environments and enemies to feel somewhat thematic, but it looks blocky. The character and enemy models are also a little basic looking. A hand-drawn art style closer to that of the cutscenes and dialogue would have made a world of difference to how the gameplay both looks and feels.

Almost There

The game, for the most part, runs smoothly, I’ve had no issues with frame rate drops, or overall performance, and from a technical standpoint, it all works as it should. Only thing worth mentioning is that load times can be lengthy, but if it means the game runs perfectly, I can live with this. The
soundtrack is brilliant, matching up with the feel and theme perfectly. In the menus and dialogue scenes there are these slow ambient distorted basslines blended with country vibes fitting to the wild west. It really helps capture the essence of the overall tone. Then during the gameplay, you have much the same keeping the tone, but they add metal influences slightly speeding up the tempo that matches up with the chaos happening on the screen. Only nit-pick is that in the last 30 seconds of stages, enemies really start to pile up around you, and the tension racks up as you fight to hold out for those last few seconds. Increasing the tempo of the music here, or adding more accompanying instruments making it feel even more chaotic would have really brought that tension to the forefront, making it feel more exciting.

Final Thoughts

The story premise and style of this game should have made it desirable. A pick-up and play with a bit of substance. But its overall gameplay with its looks, repetition, and very high difficulty, makes this game hard to recommend. If you’re a fan of this genre and fancy a real challenge with some interesting ideas thrown in, you may find some enjoyment in this title.

Pros

  • Interesting story
  • Beautiful Artwork
  • Great soundtrack

Cons

  • High Difficulty
  • Sub-par Repetitive Gameplay
  • Unrewarding Upgrade System

Verdict

Could have been a great pick up and play game. But its lack of variety, tedious gameplay, and high difficulty will turn people away.

2.5/5

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