The Eternal Castle is a 2D cinematic action-platformer from Leonard Menchiari, Daniele Vicinanzo, and Giulio Perrone where you play as either Adam or Eve on a journey to save someone (or something) they care deeply enough about to risk life and limb to get there. You are fighting through a post-apocalyptic abandoned Earth after their ship is shot down while entering the atmosphere. Your destination is the Eternal Castle, and nothing will stop you from getting there. The game describes itself as a remaster of a long forgotten game that never released.
The game is presented in an incredibly unique pixel graphics style with a limited color palette that gives the whole presentation a minimalist approach. This is both a great benefit and detractor to the game. There are moments where this team will pull off fantastic set-pieces and animations with such a vague approach, and other times (though much fewer than the former) where the game fights against you to figure out for long stretches of time how to progress. That being said, a great deal of care was put into the animations and visual presentation of The Eternal Castle, to the point that when the character moves it seems so fluid and real, compared to most 2D platformers that might have a more static animation.
Speaking of static and vague, the controls will take some getting used to, even with the short tutorial level at the beginning of the game. The game never explains how to climb down ledges and this became a point of frustration that took far longer to figure out than it should have. There is also the problem of text, which in specific text boxes you will have to strain your eyes to read (especially the opening backstory, which you’re better off reading on the game’s steam page). There is also a slight delay in the timing of your jumps and attacks, but I peg that to be a visual aesthetic more than a gameplay problem, as it is clearly going for an older era of games.
With that older era comes a much more vague approach to the story that I actually appreciated. It is strange how little you are given to know, but the entire time through the game I always felt like I was progressing towards something and getting closer to my final destination. And each area of the game itself feels like it’s own thing while still fitting with the game’s overall theme, from a doomed lab to an abandoned cityscape, and a wasteland in the middle of a war. That says a lot for a game where there is very little detail given to character models, that I know how the character feels based on the slight reactions in the animation. And to push that only that much further, the game is accompanied by a kick-ass synth soundtrack that only makes your journey feel all the more exciting and important, giving a very specific science-fiction feel to the game. The seamless cutscenes are beautifully rendered and truly surprised me how well the developers were able to pull some of it off given the limitation they put upon themselves.
And with limitations comes the combat. You are afforded about ten different weapons to use, and if you are willing to explore, you can add power-ups to your chosen protagonist. The combat is simple, but effective within the game’s scope. The fights feel knock-down, drag out. A certain brutality comes with them that the game conveys with deathly certainty. It says a lot that for such a limited combat system, it felt incredibly good to swing a melee weapon or fire a gun in-game.
And this seems to sum the game up perfectly well. The developers clearly cared about the presentation of this game, and really wanted to stick the landing for a certain aesthetic (both to its detriment and advantage). The Eternal Castle is a game with self-set limitations, but it seems to shoot through the cracks of those limitations in a way that makes it shine as something unique. While my experience had faults, I can’t wait to see what else this team pulls off, because their first game is something truly unique.