This title was reviewed on Nintendo Switch, but is also available on PS4 and PC.
Retro gaming is definitely back in the limelight as of lately, with remasters and remakes of classic games coming out on all sides, and even completely new titles inspired by retro classics being released. Odallus: The Dark Call is the latter, a retro throwback to the old NES Castlevania games. Does it succeed? Let’s find out.
As an NES throwback, Odallus nails its visuals. Everything is done in 8-bit just like the NES, although it looks much cleaner on an HD console. The animations are also spot on, looking like something right out of Castlevania, and the visual variety throughout the game’s levels elevates the visuals. To further nail that old-school look the game even has a filter applied to it that makes it look like it’s being played on an old CRT TV.
As an old-school NES, the story is very simple. You play as an adventurer named Haggis, who goes on an adventure to save his son after demons took him and destroyed his village. It is very simple but considering how this game is a retro throwback, it makes sense for it to be simple, as hardly any games had in-depth stories back then.
Odallus: The Dark Call feels like an NES throwback right off the bat. Right away you can see the Castlevania inspirations in the theme and basic gameplay (there’s even an alternate costume to let you play as Richter). However, it is sort of a middle ground between the two Castlevania eras. It is fairly linear like Castlevania 3, as your goal is to get from one end of the level to the other, but it also takes some inspiration from the MetroidVania era, with levels having some non-linear elements such as alternate routes, secret areas, and even the ability to choose which level to go to next when there’s a fork in the road.
There are only eight levels which is a shame, but this game goes all out in its NES throwback style, in that it increases the length through difficulty. However, the game nails this increased difficulty in that it isn’t actually garbage filler like some games from the era (looking at you Silver Surfer). Every enemy has a weakness or some pattern to learn and counter, so there’s never an enemy I found unfair, and that even applies to the bosses and sub-bosses.
There’s also a few more neat elements sprinkled throughout. For starters, there are checkpoints, which help with the aforementioned difficulty. The game also has its own currency similar to Castlevania’s hearts, and a shopkeep appears in certain levels to sell you wares, whether it be the classic Pork leg for health, extra lives, or more weapons. Of which there’s a solid variety such as axes or torches, and they have their own ammo instead of taking from your hearts like in Castlevania, which is a nice touch.
The audio perfectly matches the rest of the game in the fact that it sounds like it’s came straight from the NES sound chip. The music is varied for each of the game’s levels and is surprisingly catchy, and sound effects are solid, with the swish of your sword and the impact it makes to enemies feeling quite crunchy. Overall, it works as a solid throwback.
Odallus: The Dark Call is a perfect throwback to the NES genre. It is heavily inspired by Castlevania 3, but its added non-linear elements help it stand out. Its visuals, gameplay and audio absolutely nail the NES aesthetic, and the game manages to balance its difficulty beautifully. It does the NES trick of extending the short 8-level length with a high difficulty, but enemies are all counterable and have a weakness, and checkpoints and the shopkeep help you when needed. It may have a simple story and be a bit short, but that’s just a consequence of being that dedicated to its NES style. If you’re a fan of the NES, you can’t miss this.