MALDITA CASTILLA / Locomalito / PC
The corporate game companies with the big budgets certainly don't "make 'em like they used to" ... but it's nice to know the indie/freeware scene is still capable. Independent developer Locomalito gives us what is easily the best Badass Platformer released in years. Maldita Castilla is a tribute to mid-80s dark-tinged arcade sidescrollers, with the most obvious inspiration being Capcom's whole Ghosts and Ghouls and Goblins franchise. But the gameplay here is a lot more manageable, and the level design a lot better thought out than any of those games ever were.
Six levels ahoy as Don Somethingorother and his knight posse go forth to cleanse 1080 Spain of a demonic invasion. There's no saving, but there's infinite continues (on a checkpoint system), and the game as a whole takes maybe one hour from start to finish. Aside from the 80s influences cited on the download page, the game really put me in mind of King of Demons for the SNES, I wonder if that was an uncredited inspiration. There's a bunch of little hidden secrets and optional bits, some of which are necessary to suss out to get the best ending (four total, mostly dependent on how many continues you use.)
The aesthetic sense as well as the play control and level layout of an old arcade game are nailed here, but more enjoyable as this was designed as a freebie for nostalgic entertainment purposes, and thus is much less brutal than the games of yore. In those days, any moment where the player was not being threatened with death was basically a loss of overall profit for the machine operator, here there's a number of places where you can catch your breath.
The only fault I can really find here is that, even with the more forgiving nature aside, hard arcadey platformers aren't everyone's cup of tea, and I wonder if the newer generation of gamers who don't understand the references will even "get" this. If you do, though, it's wonderful to see the Badass Platformer spirit alive and well.