Calturin is a hard game to pigeonhole. Coming from a developer by the name of Lasse Zacho Malver, it promotes itself as “a Bullet Hell Boss Rush” game. What this means is that there is a series of encounters with powerful enemies, who proceed to fill the screen with projectiles, while you as a squishy mage attempt to wend your through the gaps, still somehow having the time to shoot them with your amazing staff of power. All clear on what we need to do? Cool, let’s dive in and see what Calturin brings to the table.
The story of Calturin is somewhat slight – and that is being kind. We are a mage called Calturin and we have sadly come to the end of our life. Rather than resting in peace, however, we are rudely reanimated and awakened by a Necromancer. As is the way of these things, the Necromancer now holds our fate in his hands – and if we want our freedom, we need to earn it. It appears that the Necromancer has come to the conclusion that the world will be a better place if there were fewer monsters about, and in an attempt to bring about this better world, he has also decided that the best way to kill these beasties is to send a minion to do the deed. You don’t have a dog and bark yourself, do you? And so the scene is set for our journey.
Presentation wise and Calturin is almost exactly one of two halves. The graphics are somewhat primitive, shall we say, although I feel sure that the word “retro” was on the tip of the developer’s tongue as they created things. The backdrops are simple and static, and the creatures that we have to fight, while impressive in scale, are not massively detailed. The sprites for the bullets are likewise simple blobs, and while Calturin himself does have a little more animation about him, you’re never going to mistake this for something like a Diablo. Now, in direct opposition to this is the voice acting on display – at least when you find someone that is willing to talk and isn’t actually trying to kill you, that is. The acting is actually pretty decent, and while Calturin only speaks in text, the rest of the NPCs are fully voiced and quite impressive.
Now – the actual gameplay loop. When you speak to the Necromancer, he tells you to go through a series of green portals and lay waste to everything you find inside. As you progress through the story, red and black portals can also be opened, offering a much stiffer challenge than the regular green ones. Honestly though, I’d get a few greens cleared and under your belt before messing with those.
As is usual in this kind of game, there is a certain amount of advancement of Calturin’s character. As you clear a portal, you are offered a choice of upgrades at the end, and the way that you pick will dictate ultimately how well you do. With categories like increased health, more bullet damage and even improved healing or movement speed, there are a lot of ways that the game allows you to build out your character. Do you go all out on offence, all out on defence or try to mix the two?
Luckily, Calturin doesn’t go into this fight armed only with bad language. He has a staff that fires a spread of three bullets from its tip, and while he can’t move and shoot at the same time (much like myself when I try to walk and chew gum at the same time), he does have other tricks up his sleeve. Are you about to be hit by an enemy projectile? Well, he has a short range teleport that he can utilise to pass through and dodge enemy attacks, and also a shield that will cover him in a bubble for a time, negating all damage. Again, moving while shielded is a no-no, so you need to make sure that you aren’t going to lose the shield in the middle of an enemies attack! Pro tip right there. The last weapon in Calturin’s arsenal is a healing spell, which will see him top his health off after getting battered about by the bosses. So, you’re going into battle fully stacked, right?
Well, there are a couple of issues, and the main one is the way that Calturin is overtaken by arthritic tortoises; his movement speed is so slow. There are portals that don’t have enemies in, but instead are filled with bullets, either going side to side or top to bottom, and trying to dodge these while ambling along like a sulky toddler is an exercise in frustration. In the same way, it’s almost impossible to walk out of the way of an enemy attack, and so a reliance on the dodge move is pretty much baked in. You could also say that with a total of eight bosses to go at, this isn’t the longest game in the world, even with the addition of two of the “Portal of Pain” levels.
Calturin is however a hard game that is largely fair, and so the pull to have one more go is pretty strong. Yes, even for a cheap price it’s got that elusive gaming X-factor; a dash of it thrown into the mix. If you want a challenge, this is an interesting proposal.
Calturin is available at the Xbox Store