Retro games have been making another resurgence in the gaming industry with indie studios creating games that if they released back in the 80s or early 90s would’ve been considered the greatest games of that era with games such as Bloodstained Curse of the Moon, Mighty Gunvolt Burst, Azure Striker Gunvolt, and Blossoms Tale coming out seeing the bar that was set and knocking it beyond any and all expectations. Now enters Digerati (of Bleed 1&2 fame) with two titles for the Nintendo Switch in the forms of Oniken: Unstoppable Edition and Odallus: The Dark Call from JoyMashers of which callbacks to the NES era with inspirations from Shatterhand are and Castlevania respectively.
Odallus stars Haggis, whom is a warrior with similar looks to Simon Belmont of Castlevania and Conan The Barbarian, and starts off with a cutscene recounting the tale of Odallus in style of Ninja Gaiden for the NES. You find out that your son is missing, and your village is engulfed in flames and so you must set off to meet your destiny.
The visual aesthetic of the game looks like it could’ve easily been on the NES with how good it looks. There’s a visual filter that gives the game a CRT like look to it that you have to see when you play it to understand why I see it looks like its playing on a CRT. The backgrounds look good with awesome coloring and parallax scrolling in some levels and the enemies are well designed and animated. Haggis’ character model looks like a Belmont with a cape which makes me thinkg of what Trevor Belmont should’ve looked like in the opening of Castlevania 3: Dracula’s Curse. Haggis moves smoothly with no hitches at all and is very responsive in whatever direction you want to move him in and when you jump you have full control over the direction of your jumps and your attacks, while initially slow, are responsive as well. You’re able to jump and grab ledges and maneuver around easily and eventually when you gain some upgrades you’ll be able to push giant boulders and more.
You have access at the beginning of the game to a standard sword and eventually you’ll gain some sub weapons such as an axe that has a boomerang effect similar to Castlevania’s Cross sub item, a Molotov vial similar to Holy Water, and a javelin which is thrown at an upward arc and then drops directly downwards and is able to destroy upper and lower blocks as well is powerful enough to destroy some enemies in one hit.
There’s also a mysterious merchant (foreshadowing) that sells you restorative health items, 1-Ups, and restocks of your subweapons as well as the option to speak to the merchant where he banters with you in a cryptic way and even mentions the famous line from Castlevania 2: Simon’s Quests’ “What a Terrible Night to Have a Curse” except he leaves out the curse part and says nevermind. Keep an eye on him.
I’ve heard many call this game a MetroidVania and while I know that the term is used frequently in this day and age, I’ll say that it is not a MetroidVania and is closer to the level selection of a classic like Bionic Commando than Metroid or IgaVania’s as the worlds are not interconnected and the game also lacks an ingame map of the level that you are in so memorization is key. The overworld map harkens back to Castlevania 1&3 and to a greater extent Super Castlevania 4 however it offers up a distinct difference by allowing you go back to any previously explored level (which you will need to do in order to be able to enter the last level) and also change your costume or “skin” as it is called in this game for Haggis. The levels are broken up into areas of exploration where you can backtrack to and from anywhere in the level and as you gain more abilities the areas open up more allowing for more exploration as every level has 2 branching pathways similar to how Castlevania Rondo of Blood was so at any point in the levels you either go the standard route or search for the offshoot route to the alternate level.
The skins in this game are basically different costumes which reflect 3 different games that inspired this one being Castlevania, Ghosts ‘n’ Goblins, and Demon’s Crest/Gargoyle’s Quest as you will be able to pick from Haggis’ standard attire which is a combination of Trevor Belmont and Highlander’s Connor McLeod, Vampire Hunter skin which is Castlevania’s “Barbarian” Simon Belmont complete with Belmont Jump (although strangely missing the Belmont Strut), Gargoyle skin which is Demon’s Crest/Gargoyle’s Quests’ Red Arremer complete with the jump animation, and finally the Royal Knight skin which is Ghosts ‘n’ Goblins’ Arthur complete with the jump animation (yet missing Arthur’s run animation). The skins are nothing more than cosmetic changes and homages to these classics and do not affect the gameplay in anyway.
The music is good although nothing stands out as memorable and it easily can fit with any game from the NES error that may have leaned more towards the action and horror style of gaming. Again nothing to write home about yet nothing at all terrible. Some of the sounds do come off as pulled from other games from that era and many I found to be similar to Castlevania’s sound effects such as the jumping fire pits and such.
Ok so I haven’t given this game any downs yet in terms of graphics, art style, presentation, story, or combat yet however there is one area where I am NOT a fan and that is the controls. For whatever godly or ungodly reason the button layout is not customization and your jump is regulated to the A button with the attack being set to Y and sub weapons being set to X and often I am finding myself holding the controller as if I am using an arcade stick because it’s the only way for me to utilize the layout easily and I HATE this layout. I need B to be my jump and my sub weapons to be my L or R buttons. If anything is knocking down this review its definitely the control layout and playing this undocked with this layout is horrendous to me.
There were a few occasions where I ran into some severe slowdown but they were few and far between.
All in all minus the awkward controls layout (which should be patched soon), I find Odallus: The Dark Call to be a solid title to pick up especially if you enjoy retro styled games and are an old-school Castlevania fan. For the price it’s a major Go and even with the lack of options to reconfigure controls I will still say it’s a must buy. Odallus: The Dark Call is KASANOVA APPROVED!!!