Sunday, December 26, 2010

Review: Platformance: Castle Pain

Game Title: Platformance: Castle Pain
Developer: Magiko Gaming
Platform: Xbox Live Indie Games
Price: 80 MS Points ($1)

After playing so many large, 70-hour epics, one can get tired of drawn-out journeys and perhaps take pleasure in short, condensed experiences that are equally entertaining. Magiko Gaming demonstrates the condensed adventure with Platformance: Castle Pain, perhaps the beginning of a series of short-but-sweet platforming adventures for Xbox Live Indie Games. The ultimate question is whether or not the comparatively minuscule game time can match up against longer games currently available.

Platformance: Castle Pain is an adventure that takes place on a single screen. Players control a little sword-wielding knight who must save the princess located within a castle on the opposite side of the world. In order to get to her, though, the knight is forced to encounter a number of deadly traps, including bats, birds, and an evil spirit. There are no power-ups, save points, shops, or other things. There is only platforming toward a princess to save.

This is the game. That pixel near the bottom left is you.

The adventure begins by selecting a difficulty level, and the knight starts immediately at the far bottom left corner of the world. You will be quick to notice that Castle Pain is filled with torches which act like checkpoints, and you will need them, as you will die plenty of times against particular traps and creatures. Without health, one hit will send you to a swiftly-built grave. Thankfully, you have no lives, so death appears to do nothing but slow you down and add another tick to the “Death Counter” at the end of each adventure. There is still a way to truly die in Platformance, however. A Game Over appears once an evil ghost, awoken at a given point, makes contact with the knight. Do not assume that the ghost remains stuck at a single point along the adventure; the ghost will follow you throughout the entire adventure until either it gets you or you get the princess.

Here the ghost begins its chase!

Graphically, the game utilizes a pixel art style, and the main theme’s chiptune melody further echoes a faux-retro style. A couple of the sprites, such as the ghost, seem to lack detail for their relative size to the knight, but the background is vibrant and quite varied throughout the adventure. From dark caverns to a large, monster-filled moat, the environments are nicely done, even if they are so short that they only exist on the game’s path for a few seconds. Overall, it is a nice, retro experience that does a good enough job to accept.

The retro experience is uniquely short, however. There is short, and then there is Platformance short. On Easy difficulties, players will probably complete an adventure in less than ten minutes, though first-time players might take a bit longer at significant parts. Even so, the harder difficulties will most likely take more time than a game trial can offer. The Master difficulty especially will take multiple playthroughs for many gamers to endure.

Speaking of difficulties, the game does not play around once you progress to the harder modes. Enemy patterns change into more maniacal, faster movements. More traps are applied with each difficulty level, and the number of creatures also increases dramatically. To make matters worse, the Ghost moves faster along its path, resulting in a more tense adventure, especially with all the game’s additional traps.

If he fails the jump, it's okay. Knights have a habit of re-spawning.

Once the knight finds the princess, the game shows you how many times you died and how long the adventure took to complete. The game also provides a crown depending on how you performed: Bronze for completing it, Silver for dying less than thirty times and Gold for not dying at all. The scores seem entirely meaningless, however, once you realize that the game lacks a leaderboard or any save feature whatsoever. The game is fun for multiple playthroughs, but for a game as arcade-focused as this one, a leaderboard, even offline, seems pivotal.

The game has other shortcomings in the otherwise fun adventure. When the knight collides with the ceiling, he clips harder than he should, and while I have not personally had this experience, other reviews have noticed that the knight’s momentum is too much when jumping onto platforms. The steam clouds and cloud platform are the glitchiest parts of the game, and frankly should not have been released in that state. These issues do not damage the game beyond repair, but the game does lose a bit of its luster for having them.


Platformance: Castle Pain is short and, yet, delightful for a game concept. The graphics and atmosphere are catchy and unique in a world of Avatar games. The difficulties do add to the experience, but the lack of any means to save or show off previous runs through the adventure leave the game to be less of an entertaining product. If Castle Pain is the first of what will be a series of Platformance titles, I wholeheartedly recommend leaderboards (which may have already been confirmed) and a little more meat to the adventures in order to make the series even better than it currently is.

While the game is missing some expected features, Platformance: Castle Pain offers a unique, retro platforming adventure which is recommended to those on the lookout for a super-quick and altogether charming journey.

[NOTE: The game is also available on Windows Phone 7 with added content including leaderboards. This review is specifically tied to the XBLIG release.]

Disclaimer: As with all Xbox Live Indie Games, this game is not rated by any official electronic entertainment board but is rated by peers before release and given specific ratings on sexual content, violence, and other mature content. Furthermore, all Xbox Live Indie games require an Internet connection to Xbox Live in order to play the games.

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