Cathedral has the charm of a Metroidvania and brings a polished retro game to the Nintendo Switch platform. Developed by Decemberborn Interactive using their own game engine, Cathedral boasts in its colorful visuals combined with the nostalgic NES gaming experience. Fans of the Metroidvania subgenre will be delighted with this faithful interpretation of an action-adventure video game, although it does not necessarily provide a new experience for those familiar with it. Nevertheless, Cathedral is an excellent and well-made game that brings us back to the good old days of exploration and side-scrolling platforming goodness.
Featuring a large, unexplored world with many different dungeons and challenges awaiting us, we start off as a nameless knight with no recollection of past events. With three hearts and a single sword, the journey begins with the knight wandering around the mystery location. Packed with a variety of enemies, numerous treasure boxes, and mystery crates containing goodies galore, our job is to figure out the storyline, the knight’s background, and where to go next. Immediately available to the player is a map of places you have explored, and along the way, more items can be picked up to aid the knight in their journey.
The game is non-linear and features over 600 rooms to be explored, with no guidance on where you should go and what you need to do. To add to the mystery, handfuls of obstacles and puzzles are cleverly placed in different parts of the dungeons to challenge you and your desire to reach secret areas and unlock treasure chests. Like most Metroidvania games, Cathedral’s rooms are carefully designed and contain lots of traps and obstacles, requiring the player to jump, attack, and time their movements if they want to survive. As you progress in the game, your map will display the percentage of how much you’ve covered in your current location, which is a good indicator of if you’ve seen everything or not.
Prepare to Die
Since your knight starts out with only three hearts, death is almost expected until you gain more, or you get the hang of your location’s enemies and traps. The amount of damage inflicted varies and can be unforgiving – even accidentally touching something can cost you a heart. Enemies are abundant and while some are out for blood, others will not actively harm you. At the same time, while trying to defeat and avoid these monsters, you have to be aware of your surroundings. Puzzles and obstacles test your reflex skills and understanding of the current field, and often overlooking a trap can lead to your demise.
Enemies respawn immediately after your knight leaves the area, so if you decide to go back to where you were before, the same creatures you have defeated will be there waiting for you once again. This makes the game challenging since every time you reach an objective and want to revisit an area, you will encounter all the enemies and traps you’ve faced on your way there. On the other hand, crates containing coins and other loot respawn as well, making the danger of backtracking almost worth it.
Dying in the game does not have terrible repercussions but is obviously still frustrating. The upside to this is at least it loads fast and you are brought back to your last checkpoint fairly quickly. Even then it can be tricky as some checkpoints are right next to enemies, so there is no time to rest in between deaths. Each time your knight dies, they will lose 10 percent of the coins that are currently in their pockets. Luckily, coins are not hard to gain back as the playing field resets itself, but it is still a hassle to go through everything again to earn it.
A Religious Interpretation
Part of the charm of Cathedral is in its retro vibes mixed with modern-day technology and responsive controls. If you told me Cathedral was a remaster of an old game, I probably wouldn’t know the difference. The pixelated visuals, the repetitive but endearing background music, and ease of gameplay remind me of childhood; the only difference being the smooth movements, the incredibly vibrant colors, and the speedy transitioning between two areas.
Cathedral is not a game for beginners who want an easy platforming experience, yet it does not offer much in terms of a novelty for those who are fans of the Metroidvania subgenre. It almost has a textbook feel to the game, but where it lacks in originality it provides in its enhanced nostalgic atmosphere. It does not offer anything new and may struggle to stand out from the rest of the games recently released in this genre. However, if you are looking for a solid gaming experience with an NES-inspired feeling, Cathedral is an excellent choice.
Even though Cathedral may not be the most original, it is undoubtedly an example of a game that understands the genre well. Fans looking for a straightforward and challenging experience will absolutely love what Cathedral has to offer, whereas those who are looking for something more unique may not find what they want. Whether you enjoy the tried-and-true nostalgic experience or not, Cathedral’s non-linear world is filled with hidden areas, shortcuts, and treasure chests that will give players hours of happy exploration.
***A Nintendo Switch code was provided by the publisher***
- Retro aesthetics and tunes
- Responsive controls
- A polished, nostalgic experience
- High damage inflicted on the character
- Lots of dying
- Doesn’t present anything new