The Count Lucanor: review

  • Format: Switch (version reviewed), PS4, Xbone, Vita
  • Unleashed: Out Now (Switch), TBC (PS4, Xbone, Vita)
  • Publisher: Merge Games
  • Developer: Baroque Decay
  • Players: 1
  • Site: http://www.thecountlucanor.com/
    Game code provided by the publisher

The Count Lucanor from Baroque Decay is an adventure game featuring a strange mix of horror and puzzles. It features a 16 bit pixel art style that’s very nice on the eye, as well as some anime-style cutscenes that are also very well done. The game’s cartoony look is misleading though, as The Count Lucanor can be quite disturbing and pretty scary at times. But does this weird mix of genres actually work?

Helping people along the way can either help or hinder you.

You play the role of Hans, a young boy who stays with his mother in a small remote cottage. Hans wakes up on his tenth birthday, and is expecting some nice presents from his mum; but unfortunately for Hans his mother is poor, her husband is away fighting in a war, and she can’t afford to buy him the presents that his friends get. Hans gets upset, throws a strop, and leaves his mother to find his fortune in the world. His mother bizarrely doesn’t do anything to stop him, which should gain the attention of social services we’re sure! Instead she gives him a cane, some gold coins, and some food for his travels. As Hans ventures out into the world, things take a darker turn, and he ends up in a castle that is home to Count Lucanor. In the castle, you meet a blue-faced jester character (a Kobold) who tells you that Count Lucanor is dying, and is seeking an heir to his fortune. To become his heir, you need to complete a series of trials. The main one involves guessing the name of the Kobold, by searching for letters in various rooms around the castle, and then re-arranging them. This isn’t as simple as it seems though, as there are traps and enemies roaming the castle. The story has obviously been inspired by the Grimm Brothers’ folklore tales, and is an interesting story with several different endings depending on what choices you make during the game.

Not quite the golden goose, but Hans isn’t complaining!

The pixel art graphics are beautifully realised, and lighting is well used to add atmosphere to the game. Sound is also well utilised, and you get a real sense of dread when you enter dark rooms, and all you can hear is the disturbing breathing of a hidden monster. The castle is mostly in darkness, and you need to pick up candles and leave them strategically around the castle, so that you can see any monsters that may be lurking in the dark and plot a safe route through. You pick up various items to help you on your adventure, with food to boost your health bar, and other items used to solve puzzles, much like a point and click adventure game. There’s a diverse set of characters, with some that are downright psychotic; and others that are weird and quite funny, like a naked guy rooting around for food and snorting like a pig. There’s also a donkey that poops gold when you feed it apples, which is something we thought we’d never write about. 

Guessing this little fella’s name is the main trial of the game.

There are some quite fiendish puzzles to solve as well, where you have to find various items hidden around the castle before you can solve them. The Fire Room in particular was pretty tough to complete, as you walk through a room where fire leaps through various sections of the floor, and another room features an invisible enemy that you need to expose. There’s also corridors with spikes that pop out from the wall and floor, and servants of Count Lucanor such as skeletal beings in black robes, feral goats, and huge pig-like creatures that will attack you on sight. To avoid these monsters, there are tables and curtains to hide behind, and after any particularly tough sections you can save your progress by throwing a gold coin to a crow (because why not). You need to be careful though as coins are pretty rare in the game, as are the candles that you need to light your way.

Count Lucanor has some quite hilarious moments that help break up the horrors of the castle.

There are a few problems that hamper the experience a little. Hans walks quite slowly, and there’s no run button to enable him to run away from the castle’s monsters; which seems a tad unrealistic. Who wouldn’t run away at great speed from a giant pig creature with spiky teeth?! Also, the biggest fright we got playing the game was entering the fire room for the first time, as the audio is really loud at that point for some reason. These are minor niggles though, and never threaten to ruin the experience.

Placing candles around the castle helps you avoid nasty surprises like this!

The Count Lucanor is a strange mix of genres, but it’s also a highly enjoyable game. If you’re a fan of point and click adventures or horror games, you’ll love the weird and grotesque (but beautiful) world that Baroque Decay have created. It features some quite brilliant characters, a good sense of humour, an engaging story that is actually pretty deep, and some challenging puzzles that can have you scratching your head, and thinking about them for hours on end. Baroque Decay should be applauded for coming up with such an original concept, and if you’re looking for something a bit different to play, then you really should give The Count Lucanor a try. If you dare…Mwahahaha.

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Written by Kevin M

I’ve been addicted to gaming since my parents bought an Atari console way back in the 70’s. I progressed to the iconic Speccy, Amiga, and all the Playstation platforms. Having seen games evolve from single pixel bat and ball, to HD constructed environments, gaming has changed much from my early years. Having defeated the rock hard R-Type on the Speccy, the biggest challenge I’ve faced so far is putting up with the hordes of American teens spouting abuse in the current generation of consoles, noob indeed!

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