An evil force lays waste to a formerly peaceful land because…they ran out of sugared pastries and that’s just what evil does when it runs out of snacks, and a haggard, ruddy man approaches his home village from hunting only to find it on fire and his son missing. This man is no hero, but he does have a particular set of skills, skills that make him a nightmare for ravenous demons. This man is none other than Haggis and, aside from just simply sounding delicious, it is up to him to rid the world of the egregious blight set upon his world. I’m assuming this job fell to the national dish of Scotland because Adobo, Poutine and Peking Duck were either too busy or already had their lives claimed by the malevolent menace.
Odallus: The Dark Call is a pixel-graphics 2D side scrolling game and, if you’ve played the old NES or SNES Castlevanias, it should look and feel vaguely familiar in presentation and manner of progression. Players will take control of Haggis and fight through surprisingly open stages rife with secrets, sub weapons and missable upgrades to collect. In fact, as part of the whole, “Metroidvania” feel, some hidden paths in the early levels are only open to you upon finding equipment upgrades in later stages with those secret stages holding a pretty significant challenge. Several sub weapons serve additional progression-based purposes, such as the torch melting ice or lighting fires on statues to open hidden pathways, while you can also collect new items that give you the ability to breathe underwater, deal more damage with your primary weapon and more. Also, the statues you light with the torches have a nice Twin Peaks reference with their, “Fire walk with me” text: References abound in this game, even if you may not notice it until you’re unpacking a box of your old DVDs.
Each stage of Odallus has a boss that you fight in the middle or at the end, a trademark of games in a day long past. Several of these bosses may even bring to mind boss fights from older games as one, in particular, seemed to used the same attack pattern as Chill Penguin from Mega Man X (I could be wrong, but I would swear by this). Not only are there homages in a few of the text or bosses but whole sections of levels seem inspired by Simon’s Quest or Faxanadu, particularly areas the Aqueducts. Even old game and movie references don’t stop there, as the look of Haggis gives a very strong feeling of Guts from the manga Berserk, which might explain why he’s named Haggis, I suppose.
Check out our amazing Let’s Play too if you want to see the first half hour of action this pretty cool platformer offers.
So we’ve touched on the adorable usage of references and homages and a brief explanation of how the game plays. Those who have experienced older styled Castlevania games and want something in a similar vein will know exactly what to expect and have probably already closed their browser tab with this review in it. For those of you left, here’s what you can basically expect from this kind of game: You will maneuver across several levels that typically will require you to make use of your platforming skills to avoid falling into pits, on top of spikes, or into enemy attacks.
Combat is extremely simple, as you use one button to swing your sword (no combos or ostentatious visual flair here, you stab things with your sword during openings until one of you dies) and another to use your sub weapons. The sub weapons are very similar to ones from Castlevania, for example, as you’re replete with an axe that follows a suspiciously similar arcing trajectory, the torch hits the ground and damages a few spaces ahead much like Castlevania’s holy water, etc.. Using those two buttons and your jump is the core gameplay here, and the game actually manages a fair degree of difficulty in requiring you to memorize enemy patterns.
The stages are laid out in a, “Go from point A to point B” manner but they’re actually deceptively open. Some areas may need you to backtrack to them later, once you get an item that actually allows you to open that path, while some secret exits for whole stages may be hidden behind puzzles. The upgrades for Haggis’s sword, armor and heart total are more commonly hidden in walls or off the beaten path than they are out in the open, typically requiring exploration on the player’s part in order to obtain them. A completionist should be able to have quite a deal of fun with Odallus, so long as you long platforming action games.
As far as the graphics go, Odallus looks great. The 8-bit retro appeal is fully present and gives off a very Ninja Gaiden feel. Some of the bosses may appear grotesque, such as a boss whom you have to strike at a tentacle coming off of it to expose its brain… through its stomach, but choice in visuals greatly assist all of this to appear in a very tasteful manner so even the most queasy will be able to play the game. The soundtrack is pretty phenomenal for chiptune background music, and while it’s not the second coming of Shovel Knight’s BGM, it is definitely well done and adds a significant amount to the retro feel of this game.
Overall, Odallus: The Dark Call is a great little retro game that is certain to scratch an itch for those who enjoyed Shovel Knight or other games like this. The utilization of backtracking, secrets and hidden items all go a long way in making the game much more pleasurable to play through and those who grew up with games like Castlevania or Faxanadu will be right at home with this title. Those who cannot stand retro games, Metroidvania style backtracking or platforming should strongly avoid this game because, well, Haggis is an acquired taste.