Whenever indie developers bring gamers back to the past with authentic experiences, good times will be had. Maldita Castilla is definitely a genuine 16-bit title but does it carry too much retro baggage as well? Unsheathe your steel and let's find out.
First of all, is this game called "Cursed Castilla", "Maldita Castilla EX", or "Cursed Castile"? I'm not entirely sure but one thing I do know is that it's a remake of the few year old Maldita Castilla that was released on PC and Ouya. For the uninitiated, you play as a knight who goes on a journey after monsters start appearing across the land. It's a typical 2D action game that is unashamedly inspired by Capcom's classic Ghosts 'n Goblins. Its simple gameplay is complemented with solid controls as all you do is run around, jump, and attack. Along the way, you'll discover a variety of weapons that can drastically change your strategy. For example, knives can be thrown to cover a wide area while axes are launched in an arc (just like in Castlevania). Similarly to its inspirations, Maldita Castilla EX is extremely challenging so make sure you're ready for tons of controller-throwing moments before you give it a download. Overall, the simple yet tough gameplay may be occasionally frustrating, but there's no denying how satisfying it is once you become a master swordsman.
It goes without saying that Maldita Castilla EX: Cursed Castile is an authentic 16-bit game. It looks and sounds like a long-lost Sega Genesis game. The pixel-perfect environments, 4:3 aspect ratio, and distinct Mega Drive sound will feel right at home for anyone who grew up in the early '90s. That being said, the music isn't very good. I can think of many actual Genesis games that have much better soundtracks which is quite disappointing. After playing it for hours, I can't even remember one tune.
Maldita Castilla EX's most impressive aspect is the fact that it contains loads of memorable boss battles and stage segments that are incredibly fun to take on. Each boss is unique and requires a different strategy to defeat. Such foes include a teleporting wizard, a two-headed vulture that attacks you as you ride on a horse-drawn platform, a doppelgänger, and a flying heart with wings. If all that craziness isn't enough, the stages themselves are full of fantastic moments such as having to fend off oncoming harpies and even a segment that roughly emulates the gameplay of Buster Bros. where you throw daggers up at multiplying bubbles to pop them.
Unfortunately, along with the satisfying amount of variety, there are also plenty of unfair moments that'll surely get your blood boiling. Although there are many checkpoints, you don't get to keep your equipment upon perishing so having a surprise enemy end your life only to respawn far less powerful than you were a minute ago is very frustrating. Speaking of which, it's almost impossible to navigate through new areas without something unexpected popping up and hurting you. Therefore, you basically have to restart every new scenario multiple times before you have a firm grasp of how to progress. On top of this mandatory memorization, most tricky segments go on for far too long and become tests of endurance rather than pure skill. In other words, the challenge can be satisfying at times but it will also frequently feel too unfair since you get punished for not knowing what lurks ahead as you try to memorize every hazard.
Maldita Castilla EX: Cursed Castile is undeniably a must-download for any retro gamer who loves a challenge. However, the difficulty is also its biggest hurdle to overcome. Either way you look at it, you have to admire the old-school authenticity in all its glory.
- + Solid, simple, and challenging 2D action
- + Authentic retro visuals and audio
- + Awesome boss fights and a variety of interesting stage segments
- - Many tough parts go on for way too long
- - Music isn't particularly good or memorable
- - Frequent unfair moments force you to memorize every detail in order to proceed