While a lot of indie releases are characterized by their original approach to gaming, the indie scene is also a great place for ports – (re)introducing games to new audiences. Today we’re looking at four of them, with The Eternal Castle [Remastered], Dungeon Escape, Arkan: The Dog Adventurer and Pretty Girls Klondike Solitaire.
The Eternal Castle [Remastered]
Originally released on Steam at the start of 2019 but channeling the MS-DOS games of the 1980s, The Eternal Castle [Remastered] is out now on PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5, with a limited edition physical version coming later this year. A distinctly retro approach to cinematic platformers, this is one for those who fondly remember games like Another World and Flashback from when they first came out.
The story behind the game is perhaps just as interesting as the narrative in the game, as the 1987 game The Eternal Castle that this release is based on never actually existed. But while it’s said to be based on a “long-lost classic” even when it’s not, the retro influences here are still undeniably strong, in terms of gameplay but especially when looking at the visual style that the developers have created.
The Eternal Castle uses CGA graphics, which is a term that no one under 40 probably remembers. It predated the VGA era of PC graphics and used a very limited color palette, so you’re looking at a game where no more than four colors are on screen at any given time. Given that limitation, it’s remarkable how atmospheric and detailed the game is, with impressive animation, visual effects and cutscenes all adding to the cinematic nature of the gameplay – in a game that plays like it could have been an inspiration to the games mentioned earlier, had it actually been released in 1987.
While a lot of that could be due to the striking visuals, the fact that they’re being used as a piece of interactive storytelling is what really leaves an impression. The Eternal Castle tells a story about a future in which humankind has colonized other worlds, but sends probes back to earth to harvest resources. When one of them goes missing, you get sent to earth to investigate – exploring a surreal post-apocalyptic earth while you look for the missing parts of your ship after a crash landing.
The gameplay itself is a familiar mix of action platforming, simple combat and the occasional weapon to pick up – it reminded me a lot of Another World in terms of gameplay elements, even down to somewhat sluggish controls, which feel like a design decision rather than a flaw. With well-realized environments, tons of atmosphere and a great soundtrack, The Eternal Castle [Remastered] is a steal for those who enjoy early cinematic platformers.
Originally released on Steam over five years ago, Dungeon Escape is a challenging platformer that is still receiving regular post-launch updates from the developer, Roenko Games. Eastasiasoft took note, and has now helped bring the game to consoles as well, with versions for the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.
Dungeon Escape is a fairly typical challenging platformer with single screen levels and all the usual suspects – spikes and saw blades to jump over, keys to collect before opening the exit and enemies patrolling certain sections of the level. For additional challenge, there are optional coins to collect as well – it’s a proven and recognizable formula and fans will instantly recognize something they like.
The visuals in Dungeon Escape are minimalist in nature, with simple retro 2D graphics and little in the way of backdrops beyond a background color that changes after every ten levels. With its blocky sprites and platforms this one evokes memories of the 8-bit era, though the smooth action and responsive controls are definitely modern conveniences. They game sticks with retro for its music though, with catch chiptune-like music.
If you enjoy challenging platformers, then this one’s budget price gives you access to fifty levels of challenges and frustration – though if you enjoy games for their trophies you won’t even have to complete half of them to get your new platinum.
Arkan: The Dog Adventurer
Ported to consoles by Sometimes You, Arkan: The Dog Adventurer has one of those crossover gameplay ideas you only really get within the indie domain. It combines your typical retro-style platformer with Arkanoid-like gameplay, something many will know are ‘brick breaker’-type games.
While the title suggests some kind of platforming adventure, Arkan: The Dog Adventures is much more arcade-like in nature, with single screen levels that are horizontally oriented. That makes sense from a platformer perspective, but it’s also “Arkanoid flipped on its side” because of it, which takes a bit of getting used to.
As you hit a ball from left to right, you slowly break down the destructible blocks and get rid of the enemies each level. They’ll also fire at you though, so a lot of your platforming involves dodging out of the way of incoming enemy fire. In other words, Arkan is a challenging test of your ability to multi-task, and completing the game – even on its easy mode – is no walk in the park.
The game has a PS4 and even a native PS5 version, but its visuals are obviously ‘retro’ in nature. They’re lovely though, if you enjoy pixel style graphics – and the soundtrack is a fitting collection of retro-style tunes as well. If you enjoy your games to be original and retro-flavored, this game’s 60 levels should keep you busy for quite some time.
Pretty Girls Klondike Solitaire
There are a few genres you don’t really expect to see on consoles, but Eastasiasoft has just released Solitaire for the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5! Pretty Girls Klondike Solitaire can also be purchased for the Switch, and was originally released on PC through Steam.
If you focus on the gameplay, this is the same solitaire most of your will know and love – the game that’s been around since the early days of the Windows operations system that even the least videogamey person you know has probably played. In reality there are a bunch of variations on the game, but the Klondike rules are the most familiar ones and they’re what’s being used for Pretty Girls Klondike Solitaire as well. Expect very few surprises here!
The one thing that’s different is that this particular version of Solitaire uses an official license that adds “sexy” school girls to the proceedings – although the developer is keen to point out they’re all 18+. There’s no nudity either, so it’s nothing that’s too shocking, although it’s clear that the game caters to a specific niche.
You can still play and enjoy the game for the solitaire action, but fans of Pretty Girls will probably appreciate seeing familiar characters and unlocking additional characters and content. The voice over work is very sparse though, so don’t expect too much beyond your typical solitaire game with a touch of anime girls thrown in as fan service.