Besides covering the torrent of new releases that comes at us at the end of every year, we also keep a keen eye out for games that get re-released on other platforms. Today we’re sharing three that we think fit in great with the season, as Halloween is just behind us and the days grow shorter. Here are looks at the new console versions of Saint Kotar, Darkwood and Doomed To Hell.
Saint Kotar review (PS5)
Although most of our reviews are done on consoles these days, we have a fondness for the home computer and PC adventure games of the past, and always like it when a new one manages to go cross-platform. That just happened when Saint Kotar, previously released on Steam, was launched for consoles by Soedesco. It was developed by Red Martyr Entertainment, and we checked out the PS5 version.
The title of the game refers to the (we believe fictional) town of Sveti Kotar in Croatia and the ties it has with its religious past – dating back to the point where it has its own patron saint. It’s not a happy “want to go there on a pilgrimage” kind of place though, and the game does a good job at painting an unsettling, foreboding atmosphere full of fog and shadows with plenty of creepy locations. It’s not just the town itself though – it’s also filled with strange people who live there, like a prophet who is followed by blind men and a cult of cannibals. Our protagonists may not be quite that odd, but their background seems to make them a good fit…
Starring are Benedek and his Brother-in-law Nikolay, who are looking into the disappearance of Benedek’s sister, who is connected to the murder of the local mayor. See, not a happy place at all. During the story you’ll regularly swap between the perspectives of the two, but religion and faith are constant factors. Both men have developed serious doubts regarding their religious background – which makes sense when you see what’s going on around them – and express this in different ways. It’s an interesting setup that should make for some interesting character development.
Unfortunately the quality of the writing doesn’t live up to the intriguing premise, which mostly shows in conversations when you compare it to the likes of Life is Strange or other multi-platform adventure game releases. Granted, this is a smaller scale production, but fans of the genre will definitely notice. There’s also the fact that, despite the moral struggles they have to deal with, the characters can be hard to relate to and show little growth in relation to the events around them. Perhaps it doesn’t help that some of the voice acting is below par as well, though this mostly apply to secondary characters in the story.
Surprisingly, Saint Kotar doesn’t follow the modern Telltale formula of not being able to reach a ‘game over’ state, and being able to meet your demise raises the stakes – though most ‘puzzles’ are super generic and most of the stress will come from conversational choices you make and quests you accept. We had a fun playing through this completely original new adventure game despite its rough edges, but if you’re a more casual fan of the genre then there are better examples out there.
Darkwood review (PS5)
This one launched on PC way back in 2017 and even had a console launch already, but the very well-received Darkwood from Acid Wizard Studio was recently ported over to next/new gen consoles as well, giving PS5 owners the chance to play a version that was designed to take advantage of their powerful new hardware.
Ever since its launch (which was preceded by an Early Access phase), Darkwood’s been well received by critics and players alike. All we’d seen was a haunting promotional image though, so we were very curious to see what the game was like. What we quickly found out is that it’s not trying to be like other horror games, as there’s a near-constant sense of dread without having to rely on any jump scares. If you’re looking for an original horror experience, Darkwood might be the thing for you.
The game instead leans heavily into creating a dense atmosphere and psychologically tormenting the player by obscuring what might happen next – and again, it does so without relying on jump scares. You find yourself trapped into a forest, and after a prologue/tutorial you encounter an abandoned house that will serve as your nightly hideout from the terrors that like in the Darkwood. During the daytime, you’ll head out for supplies, which help you create and gather barricades, traps, health items and fuel for your generator – essential as the light keeps the monsters away. You’ll have to venture further and further away though, and if you’re not back before the night hits you’re in real danger.
Viewed from a top-down perspective, the danger in Darkwood is made palpable by its use of a vision cone – anything your character isn’t looking at, you can’t see. You can hear it though, and the sound design is truly excellent and one of the most effective examples in the genre – it’s especially haunting when you’re being chased and can’t afford to look behind you. It’s a horror experience that works great on a big screen with the lights turned down and the speakers turned up – like all good horror games, and that’s rare for an indie production.
Because Darkwood isn’t pushing the envelope of 3D visuals, the console port works very well on a PS5, though the user interface can take a bit of getting used to – inventory management on a PC (with a mouse and keyboard) doesn’t always translate comfortably to a gamepad, and this is no exception. As Darkwood is a very challenging game, this means there’s a bit of a learning curve to those controls, but stick with it and you’ve got a great survival horror game on your hands that’s different from the ones you’re used to playing.
Doomed To Hell review (PS4)
Originally developed and published for PCs by Gagonfe, Doomed To Hell is being brought to consoles by QUByte – who aren’t just focusing on the Classics range but are also porting over smaller indie productions. This one’s now available for all major consoles, and we tried out the PlayStation version.
With its top-down shooter gameplay and retro-inspired pixel art visuals, Doomed To Hell certainly feels familiar – we’ve seen a few of these come our way through publishers like Ratalaika over the years, and there’s always that sense of “I’ve seen this before” to them. But although a tad generic, this one’s competently designed and fun to play, although it does have that familiar mark of being on the short end with under two hours of playtime.
Doomed To Hell has a story premise of sorts, in which you have to battle through hell in order to reclaim your place on earth, but the real fun lies in the roguelike mechanics through which you face the wave-based attacks that keep coming your way. Throughout different biomes there’s a good variety of enemies, you can upgrade weapons, spend money on skill upgrades and change up the buffs you’re equipped with. Sure, you’ve seen it before, but if you enjoy this genre then you’ll have fun with this one as well – and at its super low budget price point, it’s a good way to find an evening’s worth of entertainment.