This was a little...rocky.

Yeah I'm making puns, so what. Castle of Heart is a 2D action-platformer, in the vein of classic Castlevania. You run from left to right, slashing at enemies with your sword, and leap across various dangerous platforms, over chasms or spikes, and so on and so forth.

The actual premise is a bit old-fashioned, but more than workable. There's an evil sorcerer, terrorizing the land and demanding sacrifices. In one village, a heroic knight refuses to surrender his beloved, and so the evil sorcerer turns the knight, and all in the town who oppose him, to stone. But, the maiden's love stirs the heart of the petrified knight, and though his body is of stone, he rises to rescue her from the clutches of the sorcerer...

Like I said, it's a bit old-fashioned, but with the whole thing having a fairytale vibe, I can work with it. Being made of stone has a few effects upon our knight, most notably that his body grinds itself apart with every movement. Without a constant influx of magical energy, he will collapse into dust, which translates into a slowly draining health bar.

At all times, the Knight has his sword, but he can also pick up various one-off subweapons, furthering the Castlevania comparison. These range from simple crossbows to spears, axes and knives, all of which can be shot or thrown. There's also more potent items, which actually stay in an inventory instead of just being held in his off-hand. But these all come with a qualifier; the knight can only use them with both hands available, and when he's at low health, one of his arms will come off, leaving him with just his blade and his wits.

These are, however, just about the only major uses the game makes of the whole idea that he's stone and breakable.

And thus we get to the part where I have to start chewing out the flaws.

Small stuff first. The graphics and animations are...serviceable. They're not bad, but they have a bit of that Standard Issue Assets feel to them, like there's not a ton of strong aesthetic binding them together. They're kind of trying for that later Castlevania, Dark Souls vibe of grim decayed fantasy, but not enough of the pieces really lean into that for it all to work. And the animations are...Pretty standard, without much real character.

The enemies are where things get more grim, with very little variety. You have the standard possessed-villager in brown rags, the shieldbearing possessed-villager in blue rags, sometimes they get ranged weapons, and then there's, like...I think it's supposed to be a chimpanzee, or maybe some kind of "devolved" bestial villager? And I'll grant that that's just in the first world, and that each world has its own set of enemies...But there's not exactly much more variety within those, either.

Which takes us to gameplay. And things really fall apart here. First and foremost, who makes a 2D action game where you can't use the dpad? It's a 2D action game. That's what dpads are for. And I know the Switch Joycon's dpad is a separated thing and not as great for action games, but between the Pro Controller, various third-party controllers, and at least one third-party Joycon in the works, good dpads are numerous. Which doesn't even count how loose the joystick controls are for how readily the game will put you into a crouch-walk versus a standing position, or start walking instead of crouching in place.

And that's just the start of it. The controls aren't exactly responsive. The swordplay is as basic as it gets, and the platforming is all kinds of a mess. With no way to catch yourself on a platform, and no amount of forgiveness to pop you over that last millimeter, you've got to land it clean, but the game doesn't really give you the tools to do that.

Because the level design is a mess. You have enemies just kind of randomly peppered in, in ways that it's nearly impossible to predict or proactively deal with them without just raw memorization. Even in the early game, I had several points of needing pinpoint accurate platforming, just to get through the stage, that meant tons of trial and error.

Under a timer, I will remind you. A timer from draining your health bar down bit by bit.

And while I don't have much to say about the sound design, that's because there basically isn't any. Everything feels like bog-standard stock sound libraries, with next to no actual specific work done to either make the sounds real, or make them fit a specific tone and style alongside the graphics.

The end result is...Well, despite how much I want it to be otherwise, this just isn't a great game. Or even a particularly good game. One of these flaws, even two of them, could be forgiven if it had a stronger selling point. And even as it is, if it was a super-budget title, I could forgive a lot.

But it's not. The game's 15 dollars in the US eShop. And not even counting games on sale right now, you can get some pretty stellar stuff for 15 dollars.

So, much as I hate doing this sort of thing, I just cannot recommend Castle of Heart. Not as it is.