Helen’s Mysterious Castle Review-An alluring new take on the turn-based RPG

When I was gifted this game four months earlier as a Christmas present from my good friend, I didn’t really know what to expect. Upon seeing the RPGMaker tag on the store page, my brain automatically associated it with the countless, averagely typical RPGMaker games that have managed to make their way onto Steam. I filed it away in my expansive library of Steam games and decided to check it out some other time. Now, after recently finishing the game, I regret not taking the time to give it a look earlier. Helen’s Mysterious Castle is, as the name implies, mysterious. On top of that, it’s an unpredictable, surprising gem of an RPG that exudes an aura of charm like all your childhood memories of playing Chrono Trigger on your SNES back when turn-based RPG’s were in their infancy. The second I laid my eyes on the menu screen I just knew it was going to be special; memorable. A large array of nuances propels this game from being simply average to being an experience you’re not likely to forget all too soon.

First of all, the game strays far off the beaten path with its unique battle system. Throughout the entirety of the game, you play as Helen and only Helen with the exception of a point near the end of the game where you play some different characters. You gain no party members, it’s just you, Helen, versus the world, errr… castle. While this may seem dull at first, you quickly realise that this is actually one of the combat system’s biggest strengths. You only ever fight one enemy at once and there are a variety of ways to take them down. Over the course of your adventure, you’ll pick up an entire arsenal of different weapons and items that allow you to customise Helen’s playstyle to a crazy degree. In total, you can hold a total of ten pieces of equipment that each do different things. There are swords, shields, bows, crossbows, spells and metronomes; you know, the usual stuff.

Every piece of equipment you use has three stats: effect, how much damage they deal, defence, how much damage they block and wait. Wait is the most interesting and integral, acting as a timer for how many turns you have to charge it up before you actually use it on the enemy. The weaker weapons such as bows and daggers are obviously faster while that massive all-mighty falchion is going to take a long time to swing. It’s not just you bound by these rules either, the enemies are too. You can see exactly how much damage they’re going to do and how many turns until they deal it. This may sound like it would make the game too easy but surprisingly it’s far from a breeze and I died many times in my four hour long playthrough. Some of the bigger enemies such as bosses and minibosses can, in a way, see your stats too and act accordingly such as blocking a large attack. Once you figure this out, the game becomes more about outwitting your opponents than utilising typical turn-based strategies. While it may mean the AI can get predictable after a while, I nevertheless liked this system and it was a breath of fresh air considering all the RPG’s I’ve been playing lately.

Another of this game’s strengths is the short but unforgettable story. As Helen, you journey from your small home on a quest to unearth your past, witnessing some remarkable sights on your way. The characters, including the villains are all incredibly likeable with some truly remarkable personalities. From righteous heroes to serious skeletons to friendly homunculi, Helen’s Mysterious Castle has a diverse cast of characters who all somehow manage to surpass each other. Helen herself is also a great character. Despite the fact that she doesn’t say a word throughout the entire game, I still managed to connect with her character and sympathise with her during a multitude of scenes, both dire and lighthearted. However, in my opinion, the story was over a little too quickly and abruptly and although it didn’t leave me with a bad taste in my mouth, it left me wanting and feeling like there was more. In total, it took me four hours to complete and although the game is dirt cheap, it still felt short to me; maybe it’s because I’ve played free Flash games that are longer. It’s certainly quality over quantity.

To top this all off, the art style is absolutely gorgeous and I was in absolute awe at certain sections of the game world. Again, Helen’s Mysterious Castle goes for quality over quantity as I realised just how small the world was when backtracking late into the game. You can go from one end of the world to the other in around 10-15 minutes. It makes sense in the context of the story but I still feel like more could of been done. As well as this, the soundtrack is an absolute gem and it made the adventure just that bit more epic. Never once did get tired of, or dislike one of the tracks.

Overall, Helen’s Mysterious Castle is a sunken treasure, deep in Steam’s vast ocean of games just waiting for an intrepid diver to find it in the murky depths and give it a shot. While it may be a bit short, even for its cheap price tag, and the world can feel a bit confined, you’ll never play anything else like it. With an amazing soundtrack, some breathtaking art and an engrossing story, Helen’s Mysterious Castle is more than worth the £1.59 price tag.

Pros:

  • Cheap
  • Unique battle system
  • Beautiful graphics and art style
  • Creative story with plenty of plot twists
  • Likeable characters
  • Challenging difficulty

Cons:

  • Woefully short
  • World feels small and limited
  • Backtracking

Verdict: 8/10

Buy the game here: http://store.steampowered.com/app/418190/Helens_Mysterious_Castle/

Thanks to TwistDreamShade for gifting me the game.

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