PC, Mac, LinuxThe Count Lucanor
, from Baroque Decay Games
, is the result of blending The Legend of Zelda
and survival horror. It's a combination that's intriguing enough to support the core gameplay, but its execution is only effective for a couple of hours.
The set up for The Count Lucanor
is very reminiscent of a fairy tale or young children's adventure story. You play as Hans, a young boy who can't stand his life of poverty any longer. On his tenth birthday, he asks his mother if she has any presents for him. When Hans' mother says that she has nothing to give him, he proclaims that he's tired of being poor and jealous that the other kids can celebrate their birthdays in ways he can't. Hans is ten and has become a man, so he says, and with that, he leaves home in search of riches and adventure.
As Hans explores his rural village, he meets other townsfolk who are in some sort of dilemma that only Hans can solve by giving away items he received from his mother - items that might prove useful later. There's an elderly woman in need of a cane and a goatherd who forgot to pack a lunch. Whether the player decides to help these characters determines how they treat Hans in later events in the game. Eventually, the game will bring Hans to a small graveyard with a headstone that looks oddly familiar. A raven knocks Hans unconscious and when he awakens, things become very creepy.
The world Hans wakes up in is a dark, sinister place with rivers of blood and demonic goats. Naturally, Hans is frightened and decides to return home until he comes across a kobold who leads him to a mysterious castle. Once inside, the kobold tells Hans of the ageing Count who has no heirs to inherit his wealth and that he can claim these riches if he's able to guess the kobold's name. This is where the actual gameplay of The Count Lucanor
Within the castle, Hans meets the villagers from earlier that day, but now they are dead or ill-tempered toward the boy. If you chose to help these characters, they will treat you more favorably and offer you valuable items or hints. Conversely, if you ignored them, they will make sure Hans remembers that he chose to be selfish. The castle itself consists of the courtyard containing the aforementioned NPCs and series of rooms containing the letters of the kobold's name. This is where the game fails to do something more engaging and thought-provoking. When I was told that I'd have to guess the kobold's name, I expected to piece together clues; instead, solving the puzzles in each room reveals a letter and I had to play what was essentially a game of Scrabble once the time came to solve the kobold's name. This could be due to the team's previous experience with
, but it was disappointing for the climatic moment to be presented this way.
The main reason this let me down is because everything else in the game is actually quite good. Evil servants roam the castle and encountering one of them will more often than not result in a game over. Fortunately, Hans can hide under tables and behind curtains to avoid being seen. These stealth systems are very simple, but they effectively create tension in what would otherwise be a very dull experience. The puzzle rooms are also well done, but not very challenging. The pixel art and soundtrack redeemed The Count Lucanor
, if only very slightly. The artwork is gorgeous and expressive. Monsters look terrifying and characters have fine detail, especially in the few cutscenes. Even the soundtrack, which is made up of short chiptune renditions of Bach, supports the game's setting and tone.
Unfortunately, all of this only contributed to a couple hours of interest. The ghostly whispers which fill the castle halls are faded into the background and the creatures became more of an obstacle than a threat.
Baroque Decay claims that the games is a four hour experience, but it only had my interest for a little over three. I'd be wrong to call The Count Lucanor
a bad game, because it isn't. There's potential and many good ideas, and it's a decent attempt at survival horror from a 2-D perspective. In short, the sum of its parts is greater than the whole. However, the effort of the developer is very noticeable in the game, pulling off a 2-D survival horror isn't easy and I applaud the attempt. Despite some late game things that didn't work for me personally I would still recommend The Count Lucanor