Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Holotz Castle

The internet seems to agree that Holotz Castle is a Lode Runner clone. I can't really remember Lode Runner, though I'm pretty sure we had a copy of Lode Runner Construction Set on my XT back in the day. Therefore, I have no idea if it utilizes the amazing mechanics of that classic game or not. It certainly didn't amaze me.

It's one of those 'beat the room' games where you have to collect a certain number of somethingorother and then make it to the exit. In this case, you play the part of two people who "touched that stone" and were transported to another world. Woot. One of them has to collect keys, and the other has to collect stones. You don't get to pick, it just arbitrarily decides which character you are for each level. And it has no meaning whatsoever. The two characters play the same.

The rooms are littered with beasties and traps which must be avoided. Examples: slugs, firepits, acid/lava puzzles, dissolving floor spaces. Pretty par for the course, really. Getting to some places requires doing things like swinging across on ropes, which is fun, or would be, if it weren't for the fatal flaw in this title...

... Namely, the fact that the jump button must be held down to complete long jumps to ropes and platforms, but also automatically re-jumps as soon as you hit a platform or rope. So you immediately launch yourself off of the thing you're trying to land on nine times out of ten. The one time you don't is when you're jumping onto something close by, that doesn't require you to hold the jump button down.

The fact that jumping - the only mechanic in the game outside of walking left or right - is hopeless broken makes what would be an enjoyable bit of beat-the-clock action gaming into a frustrating 'I'm going to throw this ever-lovin' keyboard through my monitor' experience. Normally this is where I say something along the lines of "And it's a shame, because if it weren't for that, this would have been a great game."

That's not really true, in this case. It would have been a passable, dare I say mediocre, game. Which is almost praiseworthy in the open-source community, but honestly, even if the jumping worked, it would just make the game easy enough to complete in a few hours max. In a way, the broken controls kind of extend the replay-value like the cut n' pasted levels in F.E.A.R. The graphics are cute but unimpressive, and the sound is basically the same.

There's some attempt to have a story, with semi-cutscenes playing every few levels where people say things like "I told you not to touch that stone. What are these keys? I think I should collect them." It's not exactly engrossing material. I don't think the developer speaks English, however, so it's possible that in the native Spanish it's a gripping epic of a thriller.

If the jumping thing got fixed, this game would be good for a few hours of fun. With additional levels and a level-editor available for download from the website, you could theoretically extend that fun, but the core mechanics are so limited that I suspect it would get old rather quickly, and so broken in their current state that I can only view additional levels as additional torture.

I have to suggest passing on Holotz Castle; if you crave LodeRunner gameplay, you can probably find some console ports of LodeRunner that play fine in an emulator, have more levels, and aren't broken. They all probably also support using a joystick, which this one doesn't.

No comments: