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Cast of the Seven Godsends Redux Review

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I have a small confession to make. I am not in fact old enough to remember the glory days of the arcade. You know the ones, the big tower arcade machines which stood in the corners of shops and pubs, dolling out the delights of games such as Street Fighter or something similar. Sadly these were before my time, the notion of such machines passing into legend or becoming trophies for the super rich. In fact, the first arcade game I actually played was Time Crisis in a motorway service station. So the notion of a side scrolling action RPG style game, rendered in 16-bit style graphics and set to a soundtrack that wouldn’t be out of place on a ‘This Is The 80’s’ CD can only be described with one succinct word. Retro!

Cast of the Seven Godsends Redux is the very embodiment of the word, “retro”. And that is by no means a bad thing. On the contrary, it’s amazing. The story behind “Cast” isn’t going to be winning any BAFTAs for its originality – you play as Kandar, a young king whose son is stolen by an evil wizard, who in turn is trying to resurrect an even eviler Emperor. It’s nothing ground-breaking, but in my opinion it is very in-keeping with the style of the whole game. And yes, it does fit into the retro aesthetic which this title favours as many arcade games from the 80’s were like this (I researched that bit). The set-up is simple, but it is enough for the gamer to be able to throw themselves into things with a rough idea of what’s going on.

cast 1

There are seven levels to the game (seven levels, seven godsends…coincidence?) but that by no means sees you breeze through it. The levels vary with different environments; swamps to castles, volcanoes to cities and forests to fortresses. Each level is intricate in its design, with multiple options for progression depending on what the player decides and all have little surprises dotted around to keep the gamer exploring. While the first five minutes of the game serve as a relatively simple introduction for the player to get accustomed to the controls – not that there is a load to get to grips with – the levels beyond the confines of your castle are by no means a walk in the park. The land in which “Cast” is set, seems to struggle ceaselessly with constant falling debris – even when you’re on top of a volcano – not to mention the unending influx of enemies hell-bent on your failure/destruction. When all that is added into the mixing pot together, it becomes an extremely challenging ordeal to survive.

Which leads me nicely onto my next point. Now I’ve already admitted I never really had the opportunity to play old arcade games as they were intended to be played, so as a result I cannot compare Cast of the Seven Godsends Redux to any arcade game from the past. However, I can compare it with games I have played more recently and there is one that sticks in mind, so bear with me. As I sat playing my way through what I could of the levels, I couldn’t shake the feeling that the game has imagined itself as a 16-bit alternative to Dark Souls. Yes, I know, the two games share as much in common as chalk and cheese, however the way in which some of Cast of the Godsends levels, and indeed bosses, become demonically difficult to complete (or more accurately, kill me constantly) leads me to draw comparisons between the games. I like to think that this game firmly roots itself in the past with its gameplay and its style, but it still manages to draw on facets from modern gaming…maybe.

cast 2

Each environment you discover in “Cast” houses its very own unique set of enemies to face. Each is linked to the environment, so when you’re scaling the volcano, little flying lava babies (probably not their official title) are buzzing around you while stone warriors erupt from the floor to bring you to your demise. Similarly, when you make it to the city level, scores of “ruffians” are hiding on rooftops and in buildings (much as they would in real life?). While the majority of the enemies I encountered simply moved around on tracks, making it fairly easy to predict their movements, it was the floating, free-roaming enemies which I struggled with. Seriously, these little buggers come from everywhere and constantly keep respawning. There’s no chance to kill them all and then concentrate on where you’re going, and it was these that posed the greatest threat. There are some cleverly conceived puzzles inlaid in the levels, such as trying to scale a watchtower on a set of turning cogs, whilst dodging incoming ghosts and not getting blended by the mobile saws, but the floating enemies who ceaselessly plagued my progression made the puzzle all the more difficult.

Kandar is helped along on his journey by the Seven Gods who literally “Godsend” (bad pun alert…) you special suits of armour to help you on your quest. These are unique to the elements encompassing: fire, water, electric, ice, weird frog-looking leaf dude, wind and…ninja? Some of the characteristics are a little convoluted for the God’s armour but they are definitely the most useful thing in the entire game for getting you to the final boss. I also like the fact that the ultimate boss is designed in a way that leads you to try and find some kind of weakness to defeat him, rather than just hurling yourself at him and failing miserably. Not that I did that, honest.

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It isn’t just Kandar getting helped by the gods however. The player themselves will see their Gamerscore significantly boosted while playing this game, as simply selecting each individual set of “god-armour” gives you 100G per armour set.

The meat and drink of this game lies in its retro stylisation, and its execution is flawless in this matter. Seriously, it is an excellent portrayal of how games used to be. It doesn’t break the mould in any way (something we’ve slightly become over dependent on since moving to next-gen consoles) but that in no way detracts from the experience given. On the contrary in fact, this game reintroduces, or introduces depending on your age, players to the style of game which kicked off the “gaming-big-boom” in the first place. I genuinely think Cast of the Seven Godsends Redux is worth a play by any and all gamers… if only for the sake of seeing how things used to be.

The game is rendered with 16-bit style graphics as it would’ve back in the day, however the animations and levels run as smooth as a knife through butter thanks to the processing power of the Xbox. Similarly, the “sprites” representative of Kandar and his innumerable adversaries are well designed and impeccably implemented into the levels to give any gamer a hard time. Or maybe that’s just me. The soundtrack which accompanies your adventure is again, exceptionally reminiscent of games gone before. A switch in music is enough to signify when you’re facing the final boss of the level (that, and the big ass monstrosity in front of you).

cast 3

One of my favourite little additions to the game, is one which is wholly superfluous. There’s no two ways about it, if you play this game then you are going to die. A lot. Raven Games seem to acknowledge this with the inclusion of the “game over” screen. While playing your way through “Cast” you get 4 lives to play with. Once your fourth life has expired you’ll be shown a screen taken straight from an 80’s arcade tower. “Continue” blazes across the screen, asking the gamer whether or not they want to continue their adventure or throw in the towel – believe me, you become tempted with the latter. But the best part about this component, is at the bottom of the screen the player has a limited number of credits to play the game with. Every time you continue, you will use up another credit. Once all your credits have gone, “that’s it. Game over man, game over!”. I love this little nod to the machines which formed an industry. It really makes it feel like a game which was originally released over 30 years ago and has simply been ported onto the Xbox One.

Seriously, the best way to describe Cast of the Seven Godsends Redux is as a labour of love by its creators. Each element of this game has been lovingly recreated as if from fond memory, by people who hold those old arcade games dearly in their hearts and wanted to put that style of game back in the limelight. I honestly applaud them for it. The game is well designed, well implemented and unashamed of what it is. It’s a refreshing change in a time when game franchises push themselves so hard to try and become things that perhaps they aren’t. This game is a nod back to a time which began the expansion of the games industry into what it is today and that is not a bad thing. It gives gamers of today a novel new way of experiencing that era from their very own consoles and while it will definitely have you pulling your hair out when you simply can’t seem to best a particular level or boss, the exaltation from success far outweighs the annoyance.

Danny Taylor (Timelord18)
Danny Taylor (Timelord18)
I've been gaming since before I could stick my fingers together in Art class. When I'm not hunting for gamerscore on my Xbox, I'm likely buried in comics or books! Everyone's got a hobby, mine just consume my entire life...
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