It’s almost impossible to talk about Asakusa Studio’s debut game Hyakki Castle without invoking the looming western spectre of Legend of Grimrock. While this particular formula for party-based first-person dungeon crawlery (real-time grid-based movement and all) dates all the way back to Dungeon Master in the 80s, Grimrock is the game that re-launched a genre, and a solid yardstick by which to measure imitators.
Hyakki Castle, then, is Legend of Grimrock – the original, rather than the more open-world sequel – in Medieval, mythical Japan. It’s a pure dungeon crawl with only the most threadbare of stories: a team of four heroes are sent to a cursed castle to stop an evil wizard. Boilerplate, even by dungeon crawl standards. Hyakki Castle has few ambitions of its own and while it comes tantalisingly close to Grimrock at moments, more often than not it feels like a shallow imitation that doesn’t even wear its own aesthetic as comfortably as it should.