Darkestville Castle (Switch) Review
While the Switch is still sadly devoid of the Monkey Island point and click adventure series. There have been plenty of games to pick up the slack, yet the cruel fates still fail to return us to the cursed Monkey Island. While I persevere on my futile quest there is a game that likens itself to the Lucasarts classics. Can Darkestville Castle live up to its own lofty ambitions?
Something falls to earth, crash landing in Darkestville. Turns out it was a demon, a demon called Cid. A giant grinned prankster that terrorises Darkestville, Cid torments the townsfolk with annoyances and goofy schemes. While the village doesn’t exactly live in fear, local do-gooder Dan Teapot constantly tries to put a stop to Cid’s antics. This time Dan is playing for keeps and hires Demon Hunters – The Romero Brothers. After evading capture, Cid unleashes a new and actual threat to Darkestville. Now it’s up to Cid to save the day and get his castle back and be the pest everyone tolerates.
Inspired by the classics, especially The Curse of Monkey Island in ways that aren’t subtle, Darkestville is a traditional point and click adventure for better or worse. You use your cursor to move around and interact with the items and characters within each area. You get three options to interact, either looking/inspecting, talking or grabbing.
There aren’t many brain-teasing puzzles per se, no sliding blocks and no mirror reflecting puzzles. Darkestville boils down to fetch quests and try using every item on every point of interest (not really a puzzle, just a process of elimination). There’s one or two quite clever moments that will require you to really have a good think over what you need to do. More often than not you’re going to be running between locations to pick up one item or talk to someone before having to go back again, which feels even longer when the objective to move forward isn’t so clear.
It is truly 90s gaming to have you pixel-hunting for items while keeping solutions obtuse. I found myself having to hit the highlight interaction points button frequently. Thankfully there is a highlight button, as too often smaller items just blend into the background making them easy to miss. Some situations also involve strange combinations of your items, it gets a little too nonsensical and obtuse. Too often the combination only makes sense after the fact, demonstrating that the solutions aim for the more silly alternative for comedic effect. It’s great when you’re going for laughs, but it does make it a little harder to enjoy as a point and click game.
As a throwback to the classic games of point and click adventures, Darkestville captures the spirit of them, although it can lean a little too much into those games. It’s inescapable that The Curse of Monkey Island was a big influence on the developers. From the colourful cartoon backdrops to the music and some of the dialogue, it feels very inspired from the Lucasarts classic. The last section of the game feels so inspired by the Monkey Island games to the point it forgets to be its own thing. To their credit, the style works with the environments they’ve come up with in the later half. It’s a shame there isn’t a bit more scenery, with the majority of the 7ish hours spent running around only a handful of locations.
When one of your key points is being very funny, you’re setting expectations high. Worse is that comedy is so subjective. Darkestville often leans into nonsensical humour, often in the form of wacky combinations of words. It has its moments, usually when it stops trying so hard. At the very least it isn’t offensive and I could see it appealing more to younger audiences than this tired and jaded reviewer.
Moving the cursor around the screen by stick is cumbersome. Fortunately having already ported the game for mobile devices, the game is also playable via the touch screen. It was nice to have the inventory items accessible without having to bring up the inventory screen. With a press of the Joy Con bumpers you can scroll through your items. It works well enough, no interactions require you to be too quick.
For a first go, developers Epic Llama have done a decent job with Darkestville Castle. If you’re after a point and click adventure game that harkens back to another era of gaming, Darkestville Castle isn’t bad. There is definitely the feel of older adventure games, fans of the Monkey Island series, in particular, will find plenty of nostalgia here. While it does take you back to some of those 90s games, too often it feels like it could’ve left some of it behind. Darkestville Castle will keep busy for a few hours and it’ll make you smile along the way, something that’s become very important this year.
+ A decent point and click adventure
+ Wears its Monkey Island influences on its sleeve
- Tries too hard for the laughs
- A little too stuck back in the 90s