thu 02/07/2020

Sandstorm/Castle in the Darkness | reviews, news & interviews

Sandstorm/Castle in the Darkness

Sandstorm/Castle in the Darkness

Tracking down grumpy camels in a sandstorm and battling monsters in a castle in the darkness

Lost in a SandstormSandstorm by Daniel Linssen


There's nothing worse than waking up in the desert in the middle of a raging sandstorm with all your belongings scattered and your camel gone walkabout. Thank you then Daniel Linssen for creating a game where you can simulate this experience again and again. From such an unappealing prospect however comes a contemplative little gem from this game designer whose previous track record is in cerebral puzzlers and platformers, not slow and atmospheric adventure games.

Diversity breeds success though, because this is a beautiful mini-game with a very simple premise, complete your pilgrimage by getting your caravan to Mount Distant, without losing your camel and yourself in the raging desert sandstorm. On the way you will find secrets buried in the sand, and messages left by other unfortunate travellers, there are even trinkets to help guide you, but be warned, no sooner have you gained them, then the storm descends, day turns to night, and when you wake up, all is lost and has to be found againgrumpy sand shark.

Including your damned camel, which is seriously so stupidly determined to escape you that I was starting to suspect my character had been severely mistreating it previous to my arrival at the start menu. If you get bored of your beast of burden you have the opportunity to unlock other animals to cart you about, but they are all equally grumpy, even the sand shark! (yes, it’s an actual shark floating in the air. Way cool.)

The design of the desert around you is mesmerisingly discombobulating, as your wandering body is blown to and fro by the wind, the whole ground seems to be moving under your feet and your footsteps slide around you like a mirage, totally throwing you off course. The markers you set can only be seen up close, and they’re finite, so if you lose them you’re even more lost. And to compound the sorrow of your situation, the lilting music of Jonathon Tree, coupled with the constant sounds of the howling wind, are enough to leave you feeling totally desolate. 

  • Sandstorm was created by Daniel Linssen, scored by Jonathon Tree with typography by B. Holcombe


I tend to grit my teeth rather hard when someone tells me there’s a new ‘retro’ platformer coming out. It’s not just because the words ‘new’ and ‘retro’ negate each other, it’s not just because there are so many of these ‘retro’ games about now that they can no longer be accurately described as thus, and it’s not just because I’m sick to the back teeth of playing carbon copies of Mario and Sonic where plumbers have been substituted by window cleaners and hedgehogs have been replaced with ferrets.Castle in the Darkness

That being said there have been some absolute blinders recently, Spooky Squid’s They Bleed Pixels being one of them, so I’m not throwing the baby entirely out with the bath water here, but a game has to have real humour, creativity, charm and skill to stand out from the swarm, and unfortunately, though Matt Kap’s Castle in the Darkness comes close, it falls just shy of impressive.

The King is ill and the Princes is being chased by a giant frog and the castle is under attack from hordes of monsters. Standard. Of all the castle guard, you are the sole survivor and it’s up to you to save the kingdom from ruin and the princess from a spawny fate (sorry, that image is gross). Again, standard fare in retro gaming, but I did find myself waiting for the punch line. And I remained waiting, because unfortunately this game, though exuberant, cheap and cheerful, is unspectacular. Apart from the thundering soundtrack, which is awesome by the way, it has very little innovation to offer, and even the sly references to other platformers are, well…standard (apart from the Ghostbusters one, almost laughed tea out of my nose at that one).Flying Frog Boss

Kap has a great sales pitch for this game, “for the price of a McCombo you can enjoy several hours of retro goodness” and it’s true, this is a fun game that doesn’t push the envelope but also doesn’t disappoint if you really do just want a typical platformer. You’ll die so many times you’ll be grunting, sighing, shaking the controller with gritted teeth whilst cursing incomprehensibly.  

The desert around you is mesmerisingly discombobulating, as your wandering body is blown to and fro


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

Explore topics

Share this article

Add comment


Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters