We have such sights to show you.
With cover art that resembles the good old days of monster-slaying adventures by presenting vibes of Ghost ‘N’ Ghouls, Castlevania and Shadowgate, it was safe to say that Cathedral was an instant eye-catcher for the whiskered wonders at TBG.
It’s no secret that each member of the bearded brethren is mighty, capable of great deeds and heroic actions…. well, we have read Lord of the Rings and at least one of us has watched Willow. But the prospect of facing a realm overrun with evil demons on a quest to save the world is very appealing, so after equipping ourselves with a flask of tea and a packet of hobnobs, we hunched over and assumed the concentration position as we ventured through the latest retro-themed throwback to hit the Nintendo Switch, from the comfort of our own home of course, but how did we get on during our quest? stay awhile and listen.
Adventures? Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things.
After naming our character and firing up a new save file, Catherdral began with the protagonist awakening in a dark location with no idea where they are or how they got there, all we know is that said protagonist was splendidly attired in red armour and wields a hefty sword. The game wasted little time with fancy intros and instead provided us with one clear goal, explore. Setting off everything instantly felt great, the movement, layouts and visuals felt more than just a throwback experience, it felt like this was a genuine classic that could have been in everyone’s collection back in the early nineties.
Cathedral eased us in gently as we got to grips with exploration and combat though as you would expect, this is retro style combat, don’t expect dramatic combo’s ala Devil May Cry, instead, its the good old fashioned “just twonk things with the sword a few times until they are dead” mentality. Further in we began to unlock abilities such as double jump and dash but these added little to the combat formula and players who have become more accustomed to the “modern” take on retro-style games that add deeper combat such as Dead Cells or Blasphemous may find this a little lacklustre but we had a grand old time.
Before long we discovered a shield to block incoming projectiles and later on, we obtained a bow that held a small amount of ammo, luckily additional ammo can be picked up along the way from fallen enemies and by looting chests.
Everything you would expect from *cough* LordShmups favourite genre *cough* a Metroidvania is present and accounted for. Large areas to explore with an emphasis on backtracking once you have acquired the right ability or item to progress further, a varied enemy roster each with its own attack types to memorise and counter accordingly, puzzle-based platforming that requires good timing, patience plus a fair dose of trial and error all complimented by high rewards for exploration including upgrades, maps and gold.
All those boxes are pleasantly ticked for anyone who enjoyed flicking a whip at Draculas buttocks on a dark night growing up. Before long, Cathedral opens up further when you locate a charming village full of whimsical yet interesting characters and it’s here where things get much more interesting.
A desire to appear lordly.
After speaking to some locals we began to uncover the back story of the world and our quest became clear, explore various lands from freaky forests, slimy sewers, gruesome graveyards and beyond to locate five orbs that are guarded by some evildoers. A prophecy states that once collected, the orbs will open a gateway but the prophecy does not divulge whether this will result in a return to prosperity for the land or whether it will plunge the world further into darkness, but there’s only one way to find out and this cryptic premise was more than enough to keep us intrigued throughout our journey. Along the way, we encountered various NPC’s who gave us hints and further insight into the events at hand and this added so much more depth from a narrative perspective to what could have otherwise just been a straight-up, well-crafted adventure title.
One thing we really appreciated about the whole ensemble was the difficulty, now don’t get us wrong, this was not a walk in the park by any stretch, but the difficulty felt more balanced in that old school NES style compared to the ridiculously hard for the sake of it trend that plagues a lot of titles these days. Blocking projectiles at the same time as jumping across disappearing tiles while fending off attacks from bats and ghosts all created some hectic moments but death was not a complete pain in the backside but rather a kick in the money bags, as you will lose ten per cent of your gold when you croak it.
Thankfully you can deposit a hefty amount of gold in the bank so if you do fall victim to a particularly tough area or boss several times you won’t risk losing all your dough. Checkpoints can be found throughout each area so you won’t respawn too far away from your last location, portals can also be located to quick travel between areas or back to town if needs be which encouraged further exploration, if we found ourselves stuck in a particular setting, we would just head back to another previously located area and explore further for something that might point us in the right direction.
Fine Dwarven craft
It’s safe to say we thoroughly enjoyed our time with Cathedral and this is not least due to how well the whole experience performed. From great controls that were simplistic in the right way (we never failed to be impressed by how agile our hero was while garbed in full plate) to a spectacular use of old school visuals that really set each location apart and popped beautifully in both handheld and docked mode, the presentation was right on the money.
The music too was a delight, often it’s tricky for developers to get the right balance with chiptune music, sometimes it can be a treat to the ears, other times it sends you loopy after five minutes. The music in Catherdral, however, was spot on and brought each area to life and fully complimented the setting and art design. Loading times were near enough none existent and with all this minimal processing power it meant we could have good lengthy sessions while playing in handheld before we needed to recharge.
Cathedral is a prime example of how to do a throwback title correctly despite some heavy cliches in the story. As we stated earlier, this feels like more than just a love letter to the games of old but like something that feels authentic of that era. There is little we could find to dislike but it must be said that gamers who don’t like this formula will likely not be swayed by this title and the basic combat may prove offputting to some. But if you are in the market for an old school adventure done right, look no further.
Review code provided
Platform: PC, Nintendo Switch
Release Date: 18/02/2021
No. of Players: 1
Category: Adventure, Arcade, Platformer
Developer: Decemberborn AB
Publisher: Elden Pixels
Download link: US eShop / UK eShop