If you’ve yet to hear about The Count Lucanor, then I think you’ll be very thankful for this post and accompanying video because, well…it’s just a damn-fine work of art!
Lucanor hit Steam back on March 3, 2016 and comes to us from developer Baroque Decay Games, and although on the surface it may appear bright, colorful and “cutesy,” I assure you that this is not a game for children. Rather, Baroque Decay has used what they call a “pseudo 8/16-bit” graphical style to deliver a deep, atmospheric, and downright creepy adventure in the form of what many would call “pixel art.” In many ways, the game stands as a testament to the fact that you don’t need flashy, super-modern graphics to bring about a dense atmosphere and sense of dread for the player.
In The Count Lucanor, you’ll take the role of Hans, a ten-year-old boy who resides on the outskirts of a small village and dense forest with his mother. They’re living in poverty now that his father has been drafted to serve in “the war” (so far, I don’t think we know which war, if any, this is supposed to be). Hans dreams of wealth and adventure and, disappointed in his lack of gifts of any sort on his birthday, he sets off from his home to embark on some sort of grand adventure, claiming that at the age of 10 he’s now a “grown man.” The first part of his journey (about 15 to 20 minutes) starts off bright and cheerful enough, with Hans meeting a few memorable characters and getting some moral decisions he can make regarding whether or not to help them out. In one case, I think it doesn’t really pay off (the Goat Herder, who meets an unfortunate fate anyway), but with the others, it seems like karma works in his favor and gives him some advantages. You see, Hans gets caught out very late at night, and things take a nightmarish turn for the worst. He ends up within the walls of the dark Tenebre Castle and is given a unique challenge from an odd kobol he finds there: find out what the creature’s real name is and be rewarded with an audience with the eccentric and reclusive Count Lucanor, bearer of a vast fortune which he wishes to depart on a worthy heir.
What I’ve really enjoyed about the game so far has been the many choices it offers the player. For example, while you can blow through the prologue portion of the game, doing a bit of exploration (such as visiting the graveyard on top of the mountain or finding Tenebre Castle early on) rewards you with some extra lore or dialogue that might be useful later. Your moral choices do have some weight, too, as the game has five unique endings that you can get. Gameplay-wise, I found their claim that the game is inspired a bit by the Zelda franchise to be a stretch, but I can certainly see a little of its influence when it comes to things like block puzzles. So far, I’ve found the game to be challenging, but fair, and the atmosphere to be dark, thick, and mysterious.
In the end, I think this one is a steal for the current asking price of $9.99, so if you’re looking for a new horror/adventure game to enjoy, even if you’re not a fan of classic-style graphics, I think this game is more than worth taking a closer look at!