Cursed Castila review for PS Vita, PS4, Xbox One

Platform: PS Vita
Also on: PS4, Xbox One, PC, 3DS
Publisher: Abylight Studios
Developer: Locomalito
Medium: Digital
Players: 1
Online: No

One of my big problems with most retro-inspired games is that they seem to be unreasonably difficult. Too often, it feels like developers heard that old games were sometimes “tough as nails”, and they use that as an excuse to make games that are unrelentingly, sadistically hard, that seem to exist solely to punish players for daring to try them out.

This is what makes Cursed Castilla such a breath of fresh air. It is, to be sure, unrelentingly difficult. I died more times then I could count, in more ways than I could count.

At the same time, though, it never feels unfair. I had to grind my way through each level, but rather than sending me right back to the beginning of the game the first time an enemy touched me, Cursed Castilla offered a fair compromise — you get three hearts in each level, and if you run out, you go back to the beginning of the level with your score reset to 0. While this means that you’re not likely to rack up huge scores (at least, you won’t if you die as often as I tend to), it also means you can progress through the game with a little bit of persistence.

Similarly, Cursed Castilla seems to be better designed than many of its peers. The levels are laid out in ways that make sense, and the controls — while no more complex than “jump” and “use weapon” — are intuitive and work exactly the way they should. This may not sound like much, but compared to so many of its peers, it’s impressive how Cursed Castilla knows how to give players the tools they need, without it ever seeming like the game is holding your hand.

It probably says as much about its competitors and peers as it does about Cursed Castilla itself that things like fairness and non-sucky controls are considered points in its favour. But given the state of retro-inspired gaming, that’s where we are. Cursed Castilla shows that it’s possible to recreate the vibe of 8- and 16-bit games without making those games feel like a chore to play, and for that, I’m incredibly grateful.

Abylight Studios provided us with a Cursed Castilla (Maldita Castilla EX) PS Vita code for review purposes.

Grade: A-