Some nostalgia is subtle, a quiet reminder of long-forgotten joys, just a little nudge in the direction of the late 90s to make you all tingly inside. Creepy Castle is more like a 4-bit sledgehammer to the back of the head. The side-scrolling RPG is old-fashioned in all the right ways, a retro mix of sprites and save points and item-gathering, but with some modern design decisions sprinkled on top to remove the most frustrating elements. It’s about exploration and finding secrets, grabbing keys from chests scattered across a level to open doors, and having no indication of a correct path. An AD&D adventure filled with cute animals and ran by someone who understands the concept of fun. Developers Dopterra have taken it to Kickstarter looking for $6,000 (~£3,700) to finish it off.
While the demo I played hasn’t been made publicly available–get it sorted, Dopterra–it was surprisingly enjoyable. Hardcore ancient platformers were never my thing; their style is appealing, the prehistoric design decisions not so much. Creepy Castle avoids a lot of those pitfalls, keeping the look and basic interactions but explaining itself much more. Items have quick, easy to understand descriptions and concepts are introduced via text pop-ups when they become relevant.
The base of the combat is simple, tapping a button to attack. However it is regularly interrupted by “duels”, mini-games that prevent monotony and allow for extra damage if you’re skilled enough. It’s another simple system, but enough of these are built on top of each other so that it doesn’t become dull. The difficulty is more puzzle-like, mostly due to enemies not pursuing you if you decide to disengage and find another route.
Creepy Castle is intended to be just one part of a wider universe using the same mechanics but with differing characters and settings. In the final release, Dopterra want to have eight of these “scenarios”, each with two versions with different main characters.
If all this engorges your crowdfunding gland, get-the-game-tier is set at $10 (£6.21) and scheduled for your home computer in March. If you’d like a sample of the devs output, they’ve released a couple of free games that you can grab on their website.