Maldita Castilla Ex: review

Maldita Castilla Ex is a platformer that wears its influences proudly. Nonetheless, there are minor changes that give it an appeal beyond those who fetishise difficult games with “Old School” sensibilities. True enough, it looks like Ghouls ‘n Ghosts and plays much like many of the games from that era, but it still relaxes the strict rules of what marks those games as “hardcore”.

Most notably, it looks like Ghouls ‘n Ghosts upon first glance, albeit sans sexy Knight Underwear. It also plays similarly in the way that you jump about and kill monsters. After that the differences are more apparent, and this is a quite different beast which feels like it’s been influenced by some modern design sensibilities; all for the better of course.

There are a plethora of monsters and most are unique to their levels, alongside powerups like fairies and double jumping which are all in very specific places. Weapons aren’t upgraded but instead can be picked roulette style, which immediately makes it a little more fun when you have the one you want.

Its three hits and you’re dead, or fall into a chasm or onto spikes for a slightly faster early grave. It’s a little more forgiving than some of its ilk yet that will unquestionably put some people off playing.


While there are benefits to completing the game without loss of lives or with continuing less than X amount of times, it shirks the whole loss of progress that Arcade Cabinets of Yore were known for and allows even the most incompetent of players to complete it, i.e. us. You aren’t jettisoning all your progress when you continue, as it lets you start at the most recent section in practically every instance. It also – without making it clear at all – lets you suspend and continue your game, unlike some modernish remakes.

Those small tweaks to progression help anyone who is all thumbs to complete the game at their own pace without withholding anything from those who subscribe to death by hardcore gaming. It’s also got a built in clock for speedrunning, which you can toggle on and off in the menu.

While it is a mostly linear game, travelling from level to level in a very Spanish themed medieval nightmare, there are a few secrets here and there. Most of the time it’ll be gold but you might also find a key or even one of the coveted Mourna’s Tears. When all five Tears are collected together the end of the game is no longer the end.

We lack the skill level to be able to collect all the said Tears and finish the game, but there is another far more difficult and lengthy level that leads to the true final boss. It is up to the far more talented to do this, and many of us have neither the skill nor the time to attempt to do so.

What Maldita Castilla Ex succeeds at, is giving a chance to complete it to those of us that aren’t usually able to do so. Not normally fans of this style of game, we found it almost moreish partially because of its forgiving nature allowing us to try, try and try again. It took us nearly 50 continues – equating to about 150 deaths or so – to get the bad ending. While there were fits of rage and cursing aplenty we got really into it after the first few levels, and getting our heads around how to play well.

It’s definitely not for everyone and those that love the older style of arcade game will get the most out of it. It’s not gatekeeping anything other than the most highly skilled rewards away, but it allows even “noobs” a chance at fighting their way to a half decent ending which makes it feel more rewarding even if it isn’t really.

critical score 7

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Written by Sean P

I enjoy playing games and I enjoy writing things, so I decided to combine the two. I do bits here and there and have a twitter that mainly just announces things I've done as my life revolves around very little that is truly interesting.

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