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Have You Played... Odallus: The Dark Call?

An alternate '80s platformer

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Have You Played? is an endless stream of game recommendations. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

If you remember a time when character sprites took up what seemed like half of your screen real estate, and action was solid and punchy, Odallus: The Dark Call [official site] will feel like going home, to a simpler place. The first game I played from Brazilian developers JoyMasher was Oniken, a hard as nails retro action affair that reminded me of Battletoads in its willingness to kill me over and over again. Odallus is reminiscent of another series – Castlevania – but its gothic horrors are nowhere near as challenging as the cyberninjas of Oniken. They’re far more rewarding though.

Everything in Odallus feels solid. Even the sound effects, which seem to be snarling from a chipset that your computer has absorbed from a timewarp, are chunky. You could chew on them. It plays like Ghosts ‘n Goblins with a Masters Degree, using a similar damage system that has just the right amount of heft in its knockbacks, but incorporating pacing that is slightly more varied than the ‘go right and then die’ approach of Capcom’s eighties brute.

There are many games that use a retro aesthetic or playstyle but Odallus is one of the few that could actually convince you that it’s a lost artifact from another decade. It reminds me as much of Elite’s old Thundercats game, which is one of the first games I remember completing. I’ve completed Odallus as well and it might well stay in my memory for twenty years or more. Even when the enemies aren’t particularly intimidating to fight, or particularly imaginative in their attack patterns, they always look the part.

Grotesque, gorgeous and grim, Odallus is one of the best games from an alternate eighties that I wish I’d been a part of. It’s about a thousand times better than Thundercats, that’s for sure.

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