Genre: Roguelite / Platformer
Price: £11.99 / $15.99
Release Date: 20th February 2015
Twenty minutes into Catacomb Kids and I’ve died approximately twice every minute. Completing the tutorial alone saw my death toll rise into high double digits. With over three hours under my belt, I’d say I passed the 100 milestone some time ago.
Catacomb Kids is malicious. I’m not a skilled gamer, but I’m experienced enough to pick up a few universal tricks. This game cares nothing for that; if you go in overconfident, you’re going to be humbled. Any bravado will be wiped clean as you’re forced to learn the ropes from the very basics. It’s difficult not to reference the Souls series, though I’m loathe to as it resembles it in spirit only, but it’s still an apt comparison. The game may be a seething, malevolent entity but it’s not at all unfair.
You have every means possible to succeed, even from the very beginning. The variety of classes possess myriad skills and equipment, while leveling offers increased stats and perks. Your melee swings must be timed but they’re reliable and spells provide valuable effects from a safe range. Your repertoire is further boosted by agile rolls, boost jumps, throws and Mario-style head-stomps. On top of this, you can find loot all over the dungeon to increase stats, quaff or hurl at unfortunate enemies.
The danger you face is all-pervasive. You have your usual mobs which so far have been pretty standard aesthetically but their behaviour helps mix the action up. Slimes cling to surfaces and charge when they spot you, bats will pester you from the sky and bands of goblins will gang up but flee when over-powered. Empty rooms are no reason to let your guard down though; there are minute details revealing traps all over the level. Tiny, pixel-thin tripwires will trigger a flood of gas once broken leaving you a couple of seconds to flee before it ignites, setting the room aflame. Pressure plates will send massive weights crashing to the floor and hidden spikes will pierce you if you get close enough. The sheer variety of ways you’ll be dispatched is enough to ease the blow when you’re once more incinerated, devoured, flattened, stabbed, poisoned, decapitated etc.
The controls are a little wonky to begin with, at least with keyboard (no mouse necessary). I can see it improving greatly with a gamepad but there are currently some issues the developer plans to address so I’ve not tried it myself. Of course, I’ll update the review once I’ve had a chance to test it out. There are three main buttons alongside the directional keys but apart from some initial confusion, it works well enough. Later skills, magic and items have appropriate hotkeys; it’s all very standard and can be reassigned easily. Once you’ve adapted to both the control scheme and the mechanics themselves, all the initial issues have resolved.
It’s one of those lovely Early Access experiences that could easily function as a finished product but that’s not to say that it wouldn’t benefit from the months of work ahead. I’ve had one instance of graphical glitching but nothing game-breaking, so far at least. There are clear plans to include extra content, with entire menus exhibiting future items and the class system promising more than the inital two types. It certainly could do with a little more of everything but what’s here already is a solid product. It’s hugely playable in its current version, which at least helps ease the worries that comes with all my EA titles.
I’m a roguelite/roguelike fanatic and the recent resurgence of the genre has been my personal “Golden Age” but I’m not blind to the flaws inherent in the formula. Catacomb Kids might not sidestep all those pitfalls but it works with what it has to be both unique and exciting. As such, this is easily one of my highlights even in its current iteration. It’s one of those games I’ll be genuinely enthusiastic to see updated so I can find what’s been added.
It’s an absolute delight to discover and explore both the environment and the mechanics. After all, a game where you can beat a goblin to death with its own severed arm can only be so bad, right?