Castle Kong – Nintendo Switch Review

Overview – developed and published by Drowning Monkeys Games, Castle Kong is a retro styled arcade platformer in the style of the classic Nintendo title Donkey Kong. This game is a tough as nails platformer that is designed to test the skills of players, with three lives and only one credit, can the PauperBoy save PrincessGirl from the evil BaronMan. This title is available on the Nintendo Switch and Steam service, links to both versions of the game will be available at the bottom of this review.

Disclaimer: before I get into the review, I would like to thank PR Hound for providing the copy of Castle Kong that was used for this piece. the provision of this title has not influenced the contents of this review, all thoughts and opinions contained within are my own.

Important Announcement: There will be a special high score tournament from the release day on Feb 25th until May 25th 2021. A total of $3,500 of prizes will be available for the top 10 players on the leaderboard when the tournament ends, you can find information about prizes and the rules for it (HERE).

Now with the introductions out of the way, let’s get into the review. There is no real story in this title, so I will be moving straight onto the gameplay section.

Gameplay – Castle Kong is an arcade platformer with a retro flavor, featuring 22 levels that are made up of 4 unique stages. The player must rescue the princess, completing the stages over several cycles that get increasingly difficult the further the player progresses. Each early cycle introduces new stages, adding more elements and obstacles for the player to overcome, with the later cycles settling into a pattern when all stages have been cleared once.

The player has very limited options for movement and defense from enemies. The first is jumping, which allows the player to cross gaps and get over obstacles, but if a jump is missed and the player falls they will die. The player also has access to a power up in certain stages, this is a pitchfork that can eliminate some enemies that appear in stages, the character is still able to climb ladders but cannot jump.

The last thing I want to discuss is the arcade mechanics that have been included in this title. First, this is a very tough game, with players only having three lives (one extra can be earned during play) and no continues which means failure will reset the game. Second, the game can be played in vertical or “Tate” mode when the Nintendo Switch system in tabletop mode. The special vertical mode can be selected from the main menu but is reset upon game over.

Finally, we have the high score system and cross system leaderboard capabilities, allowing global competitions and real money prizes to be offered to those who want to compete. In stages, the player can collect the letters to spell KONG and give a point boost, along with a bonus for quickly clearing stages to earn big points. The high scores are a great way to add a reason to play the game, giving players the incentive to play against others in order to get higher up the leaderboards.

With the gameplay covered, I will be moving onto the other aspects of the game, starting with the controls.

Controls – the controls for this release are very simple, using only the d-pad/thumbstick for movement and the A button for jumping. This basic set up allows for play in a variety of ways, from single Joy-Con to an arcade stick, with consistent button inputs that work well. Having tested the game with a selection of controllers, I can advise that either an arcade/fight stick or a controller with a d-pad is the best way to go.

Presentation – the visual style for this release has a very retro look to it. Graphically, Castle Kong looks close to what arcade games of the 80’s were capable of with a little more flair, giving a modern yet nostalgic feeling to the experience. The sound for this title has uses chiptune and some synth sounds in order to emulate the music and effects from older games, this works very well and ties the whole package together very well.

Final Thoughts – when I first sat down to play Castle Kong, I expected an arcade styled game that was overly hard for the sake of it. I was pleasantly surprised that this was not the case, as the challenge presented is rewarding because you get that feeling that you can just go a little further if you practice a little more. This works wonders as every stage has its own patterns that have a little unpredictability to them, but otherwise can be learned over time.

The overall presentation, quality of gameplay and the inclusion of a worldwide cross platform leaderboard all combine to create an excellent game. This title offers players a chance to compete for a place in the global top 10, fostering competition in a healthy way that anyone can participate. For that I can happily recommend this game. However, the extreme difficulty of the game is the only minor flaw to this title as it could put off some players and there is no way to alter the challenge.

In the end, I give Castle Kong a final score of 4.5/5. This title is a throwback that does everything a retro inspired game should, giving a challenge that is both rewarding and punishing to play. The gameplay feels like it’s from the 80’s, the presentation emulates the games that came before it quite well and the online leaderboards will hopefully build a good competitive community. If you want to check this title out for yourself, links to the game will be below.

Link to Nintendo Switch version (HERE)

Link to Steam version (HERE)

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