Escape Castle Death Loop is a strange game. This game started out as a simple creation for the dev’s son to play around with, and over time, he added more and more stuff to it. After spending 100+ hours on adding new stuff to this game, developer Thomas Bellissimo decided to create a Kickstarter for it, with additional content added as stretch goals. The fact that Escape Castle Death Loop was already complete meant that one could get a copy of the game for less than $2.00.
So now it’s time for me to disclose that I backed Escape Castle Death Loop. I backed it because of the low price, and because I was curious about the idea of adding new features to a preexisting game via Kickstarter. Also the premise seemed nominally interesting, so I figured I’d give it a shot. Unfortunately, it was a bit too bare bones for my taste. I wouldn’t consider it a bad game by any means, it’s just that there’s not much to it.
Escape Castle Death Loop opens like a typical JRPG. You play as a young hero who is destined to save the world, and you listen to a wise old guy’s droning speech before you set out on your journey. Unfortunately, your character falls asleep during the speech, and he banishes you to Castle Death Loop to punish you. In Castle Death Loop, you are cursed to get mercilessly killed over and over again as you explore the castle, each death different from the last. Yeah, sounds pretty brutal for a kid’s game. No wonder Zoomers are so fucked up!
The game takes on a humorous tone, as you explore Castle Death Loop to find as many ways to die as possible in order to advance the plot. There isn’t any serious gameplay besides talking to people and examining objects, most of which lead to a death. Most deaths are also in plain sight, so you can complete the game in under an hour. The game costs $2.00 on Itch.io, so if we are going by the “dollar per hour” rule then Escape Castle Death Loop does not pass.
I can give credit to the game’s presentation though. All of the assets are stock RPG Maker fair, and I think they are used well. I think there is something amusing about entering into scripted loss battles against scary looking enemies with intimidating battle music playing over them, when you are a defenseless child who stands no chance. The best way to use stock assets is to make them feel at home in your game. Escape Castle Death Loop nails this, and it makes the player better appreciate the quality of the original assets, as opposed to viewing them as generic stock material.
To give an example, RPG Maker VX Ace’s Battle #4 is such an overused song, and it mostly is used inappropriately. I recall that Max, an Autistic Journey, a crappy game I reviewed a while back, used this as a standard battle theme. Yet anyone with any sense would realize that this is clearly a song fit for a strong, imposing boss fight. This meant that this track felt totally out of place, and I didn’t realize how well arranged this song was until I listened on my own. For comparison, Escape Castle Death Loop uses it in the said scripted battle, where it is appropriate and well used.
After the player finds every death in the game, they have a choice of two endings. The can either return home as soon as the option becomes available, which will lead them to set out on their quest. Or they can stay and help repair Castle Death Loop, which will lead to them becoming their ruler. While it is a satisfying resolution, it does feel strange to have all the people and demons that just killed you suddenly worship you.
And that is the key problem with Escape Castle Death Loop, it’s not a particularly deep game. The fact that this game was made for a young child shows, as it means that it won’t exactly appeal to most adults. While young kids might enjoy it as well, I can’t help but wonder what young kid will even find this game? I mean, I don’t think many of them will be looking for obscure RPG Maker games, although if they are then they probably have a good future ahead of them.
And to give credit where it is due, Escape Castle Death Loop definitely has its charm to it. If one is curious, then I’d recommend going for it. Even if it’s short on content, $2.00 isn’t exactly much to lose, and I think the game is interesting, at the very least. I do not regret backing it on Kickstarter.
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