In an era of gaming where the biggest titles are striving for more realistic visuals, vast open-worlds and hours upon hours of gameplay, the indie scene continues to do its own thing. And this couldn’t be any truer than with Tcheco in the Castle of Lucio, a recent Xbox One release going down the old school platformer route in almost every sense conceivable. The question is, can Tcheco in the Castle of Lucio do enough to attract folks in to give it a whirl, or should it be overlooked by the modern gamer?
Developed by Marcelo Barbosa, Tcheco in the Castle of Lucio first appeared on PC in 2015 and garnered a rather positive reception all-round – no doubt the price tag of under a quid helped. Now though, it’s received the console porting expertise of Fantastico Studio (Hero Express, Black Paradox) and has an entirely new game mode in order to entice players to pick it up; albeit at a higher cost to purchase. You may be pleasantly surprised to learn that it’s just about worth the extra cash too.
Tcheco is an adventurous young boy whose sole aim appears quite straightforward: to escape from a mysterious castle and survive the threats of the various strange creatures it houses. That’s really all we know though, with very little offered in the way of a narrative to sink your teeth into. For some games, lacking a story can have adverse effects on overall enjoyment, but it seldom matters here as long as you merely come to play.
Set in a colourful and spooky 8-bit world, the original Classic mode presents you with 10 lives and sends you on your way without further warning. While a bit of information would’ve been welcome, the fact that movement left and right, alongside a jump action, are your only inputs, it’s not difficult to grasp. What lies ahead are 65 fast-paced levels which get increasingly tougher and conjure up fresh ideas in an attempt to catch you out. Although you can occasionally recoup lives, it’s ‘game over’ if they all run out and then you’re right back to the beginning. Thankfully, the swift nature of these single room type levels ensures it’s relatively painless to try again.
You see, the simplistic controls mean that your sheer focus can go towards remembering the short paths through each room and working on your input timings. Initially the whole experience feels overly tricky as you figure out what the dangers are, how to acquire the key(s) to advance and repeat this process. One moment you might be faced with something as simple as a ferocious dog to evade or a zombie to clamber over, and then the next you’ll be scaling up ladders and avoiding deadly skulls like a sort of Donkey Kong spoof. Most of it becomes ingrained in muscle memory, even as the levels increase in complexity.
Despite possessing a measly jump, other gameplay elements are brought in to provide variety and new challenges. These include a limited time usage of a jetpack, some swimming, and the smooth moves of a skateboard. There are also three main bosses to tackle on the road to escaping; a foetus-like being, a grownup version and then the fully-fledged demon itself – reminiscent of Etrigan from the DC universe. More could’ve been implemented here however, with all three coming across as quite samey. This is because they follow a similar pattern of manoeuvring side to side, hitting a button to launch a rocket and hoping you’ve timed it right.
It’s against the bosses that lives aplenty will be lost, which is annoying when the majority of the time it’s not through your own fault. The hit-box detection is by no means revolutionary and that’s apparent on a fair few occasions, even where demons aren’t concerned. For example, taking damage from flames that shouldn’t have affected you, or failing to make it onto a ledge due to an invisible blockade, is rather unfair. Especially if it leads to starting over again from the start, which grinds on you eventually.
Fortunately, the brand new ‘Try Harder’ mode is forgiving for anyone wishing to advance right through to the climax. It’s strange because you’ll only have a single life, but the caveat is an ability to keep trying to overcome each level until you succeed and, subsequently, progress is saved for future ventures.
Tcheco in the Castle of Lucio on Xbox One is unapologetically a retro, 2D platformer that looks and plays as if it’s been plucked straight out of yesteryear. Not only should it be commended for this, but also for the addition of a mode that caters better for the modern gamers. The levels are well paced that they don’t outstay their welcome while offering decent variety and steadily getting more difficult. It’s just a shame about the detection flaws, the ruthless Classic mode and the repetitive boss levels.
Nevertheless you could still get a good few hours of old school fun out of Tcheco in the Castle of Lucio, and for only a few quid you’ll have little to no regrets in doing so.