It’s a beautiful evening in Darkestville and you are a horrible demon. Cid is the resident prankster and doer of “eeveel” deeds. His best frenemy has hired some hunters to get him out of the town’s hair, and things escalate when they accidentally nab his pet fish Domingo instead. Epic Llama’s Darkestville Castle is a point-and-click adventure in the vein of LucasArts classics like Monkey Island. Featuring a villain as the protagonist, hand-drawn graphics, and humor inspired by the classics, this is an experience straight out of the late ’90s, for better and for worse.
A wonderful night for evil deeds
Darkestville Castle starts with the main character stuck in his own home. The town “hero” Dan Teapot, Cid’s “greatest” “nemesis,” has trapped him inside! The insufferable do-gooder has even gone to the trouble of sabotaging the trap door mechanism, forcing Cid to tidy up if he wants to leave the castle and enact his nefarious plans. However, one of the recurring gags is that Cid’s evil is really just annoying-to-mildly-harmful practical jokes. Most of the people in town don’t seem to mind his presence, and if they do, they find him exhausting more than terrifying. This type of humor really tickled me and got me to laugh out loud more than a couple of times.
To interact with the environment, you have a cursor that can be moved freely with the left stick or from one point of interest to the next with the right. From there you can look at something, grab it, or try to talk to it. This streamlined interface is a nice evolution from the plethora of commands we had in the old days. The artwork is also lovely, evoking games like The Curse of Monkey Island (the animated one) while keeping its own visual identity. You’ll collect items ranging from sausages to ectoplasm as you go along, using and combining them to solve puzzles. It really does feel like an old LucasArts adventure, and for fans of those games, Darkestville Castle is a delightful romp through that kind of world.
Trapped in my own dungeon!
However, the game does suffer from some of the worst aspects of the ’90s point-and-click adventure. Fans of the genre will be familiar with the age-old practice of using every item with every point of interest in order to advance, which wastes so, so much time, and you may find yourself doing that here. Darkestville Castle is not a difficult game by any stretch, but a handful of the puzzles have obscure solutions that only make sense after you’ve looked them up. There are a lot of points of interest in most areas, and often they’ll never be relevant, getting in the way of your thought process.
There are some issues with the script as well. It’s clear that this game wasn’t written in English, and incorrect prepositions and other strange word choices can break the immersion. Additionally, the game is constantly poking fun at genre tropes, like examining and trying to grab everything in sight or the main character talking directly to the player and breaking the fourth wall. It’s cute until it feels like the game is mocking you for taking the time to play it. Guybrush Threepwood always laughed (or cried) with us, not at us.
Finally, the controls are fine, but not perfect. Playing with a controller or Joy-Con leaves you with a very slow cursor on the left and an inaccurate one on the right. The touchscreen interface is also just a little too small to be comfortable.
A final point
The point-and-click adventure is one of those genres that never really made sense on consoles. There was a Maniac Mansion port on the NES, but that didn’t work so great. The Wii also had Tales of Monkey Island, which was good as long as your arm held out. While I’ve always loved the LucasArts PCAs, it seemed like the PC was the place to play them. The Switch isn’t as ideal as I’d hoped, but Darkestville Castle proves that it’s not bad. The title takes a classic formula and provides no twists on it. It makes for a fun and nostalgic experience, but an often tedious one.
I keep bringing this series up, but if you liked the Monkey Island games, you’ll almost certainly enjoy Darkestville Castle. In fact, if you’ve always wanted to try one and are allergic to PC gaming, this is not a bad experience on Switch at all. The visuals and humor are worth it, at the very least.
A review code was provided by the publisher.