So how do you feel about Ghosts & Goblins?

It's not a comparison I make lightly. Cast of the Seven Godsends feels like nothing less than a complete and total love-letter to that franchise, borrowing several of its key stylistic elements and core mechanics to form something that is very, very much pulling from the classic arcade franchise...for better and for worse.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. If you've never played any of the G&G games, then just what are you in for if you jump on this game? Well, Cast of the Seven Godsends is a 2D, sprite-based, run and gun platform-action title...Though, seeing as it's set in a fantasy setting, it's more like run and throw.

Our actual pitch for the story is some classic arcade style simplicity. Your child got taken by demons for an evil ritual, you got killed, the seven gods have resurrected you to fight and stop this, and each of them has poured their essence into a mighty armor to aid you on your quest, the titular Godsends.

Like I said, pretty simple.

Your gameplay, too, is pretty basic. You need only worry about two buttons; jump, and attack. Your attack typically only comes in one form, throwing forward a melee weapon as a projectile. Every weapon has infinite ammo, but you can only have one at a time, and each one carries its own quirks; the knife just goes forward, the sword is an actual short-range slash, the mace goes in a high arc, and so on.

All of this isn't too far off from G&G, really. Where Cast sets itself apart is in the Godsends. Every session gets you a different set of three to choose from, and when you get an armor upgrade while already suited up, you can pick one. Not only does each Godsend have its own aesthetic, but they all come with their own elemental trick that alters your weapons, and a chargeable, screen-filling super attack.

So those are your core tools. Your actual gameplay, once you have them, is very arcade. Run left to right, platform over dangerous gaps, kill tons of enemies, and reach a boss at the end of the stage. Fight the boss, kill the boss, claim your victory screen, on to the next stage!

These bosses are also where the game shows more of its own identity, with quick text-box dialogue exchanges between our hero and his fated foe...Unfortunately, this is also the point where the game starts getting a little wonky.

For starters, I'm not sure if the English in the game is rough on purpose, to riff on old games and their awkward translations, or if the language actually is rough. Now, if the latter, especially if it's a rough translation from another language, I can certainly sympathize with the developers. Getting good translations can be a difficult, expensive task at the best of times, let alone when working as a small-seeming indie dev. But on the flip side, if it's supposed to be an intentional parody...Well, I'm not sure I'd want a bunch of warmed-over bad-translation memes, but some more sense that it's on purpose wouldn't exactly be a bad idea.

The actual text boxes show a bit of...sloppiness, too. You know how you can hold down a button to speed up the text crawl in basically every game that uses them? Well, here that same button will also just skip to the next box. So any attempt to quickly read through can have you missing lines, and while the story isn't exactly a complex tapestry full of twists and turns, it still stings to have something slip out from under you like a greased pig.

But, okay, let's look at the vintage, arcade-inspired stylings of the game, because there we find some of the real roots of both good and bad here, the stuff that was hard decisions instead of just a slip-up.

The game is deeply, shamelessly pulling from the retro style. We're talking full on lives and continues style with a 10-second counter at the game-over screen, kind of stuff. There's a god danged score-counter and timer at the top of the screen, is what I'm getting at here.

While the game does give you some checkpoints, it's a bit relentless in terms of sheer difficulty. And not in the modern form, either. There are areas and bosses here where your only option is to slam into it until you learn their tells down into muscle memory, and can avoid everything on sheer reflex. Whether this is your jam or not is...A very strong matter of taste. And to make matters more tricky, the game's save system is a little wonky, making brute-forcing progress a less straightforward endeavor than it might otherwise be.

Now, I do need to also acknowledge some things that show a really deep love of the era this game is riffing on. Things like a pretty solid chiptune soundtrack. Some really good pixel work in the gameplay sprites.

And, perhaps one of my favorite little touches I've seen in a game in quite some time, a scanline mode. A scanline mode! In a new game, not just an emulation package! I know they're kind of cheesy, but damn if I don't enjoy it all the same.

So, I mean...Okay, wrap-up point. The game is not flawless by any means. But it catches me in a bit of an odd place, because unlike a lot of the times I've reviewed a game with some strong flaws, most of the things that hurt Cast aren't deep core design decisions. They're things that really could be patched.

Those deeper design decisions, though, do put the game as a bit of a divisive beast. Even its purest, best self is going to be a tough, not always super fair, relentless arcade-style game. So I'm left in one of those limbos again.

When you boil it down, the single foremost question you have to ask is do you like arcadey games? Do you like retro games? Is your Switch full of those arcade classics from the eShop? Then yeah, give this a try, it's only a few dollars more than all of those and you haven't played this one before. If that's not your jam, though...Well, this isn't going to be the game to change your opinion, you know?