Review: Cast of the Seven Godsends – Redux

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Let me quote you a bit of my original review for Cast of the Seven Godsends:

Fifteen minutes was all I could take of Cast of the Seven Godsends. Rarely have I been so immediately and thoroughly repulsed by a game. I can’t even bear the thought of loading it up again, and so I sit here struggling to describe my loathing based on mere minutes of play.

That was a year and a half ago, and I still remember the repulsion I felt at how stiff, garish, and low-budget the entire affair felt. It’s heart seemed to be in the right place, a return to the old Ghosts ‘n Goblins style of brutalist platformer (which I never appreciated to begin with) intermixed with some peculiar folklore and beasts. But so much of the design felt wrong in a fundamental way that I couldn’t see any redeeming qualities in it whatsoever.

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Since then, the developers released a Redux version of the game which featured a host of improvements. Chief among them (for me) are better animations, smoother movement, and new graphical options, all of which proved to be cures for what ailed me about this title. I didn’t expect much returning to this one but what I got hardly resemble the game I had torn into a year prior. It’s not without its flaws and I’m still hard-pressed to recommend it, but the efforts the developers made are actually enough to change my mind about its merits.

Cast of the Seven Godsends opens with your baby being stolen by a demon and a wizard for some unpleasant-looking ritual, and then you being sacrificed on a totally unrelated altar. The titular godsends bring you back to save your offspring and mete out justice, making use of their strange powers in your quest. I mentioned Ghosts ‘n Goblins for good reason, because from the start you can only take two hits before expiring again but you can score armor to be knocked off in place of death. Your weapons are also varied projectiles you can claim from orbs that just appear when you pass, each with its own behaviors like flying straight, arcing, circling, and so on. Oh, but you can shoot up and down too, which proves to be incredibly useful.

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If you can cling to your armor long enough to score an orb powerup, you can choose a godsend to take on the powers of. While none of them have outrageous powers they can vary greatly, such as the floaty white ninja who throws birds or the pink spike-hucking thing that slides around all over the place. Their aid will be invaluable in taking down the hordes of beastmen, ghosts, dolls, murderers, rocks, and other weirdness that approaches from all angles and takes tons of hits to defeat. Seriously, if you’re without your powers you’ll be pounding on some late-game enemies for ages.

That’s hardly the only knock against the gameplay, either. As much as the movement  has improved it’s still clunky enough to lock you in place while attacking and limit your jumps to weak hops. The levels you’ll traverse with these limitations are also composed rather haphazardly and feature some frustrating traps like sawblades mixed with moving platforms and a glacially-paced lava crossing. The bosses aren’t too complex but feedback on hits is lacking, and with no visible life bars it’s impossible to tell how we’ll you’re doing in a fight.

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While it may stumble on some basic design tenets, I can’t help but admit I enjoyed the time I put into it this evening. It’s such a far cry from the disgust I felt the first time I tried the game, which illustrates the importance of polish and presentation. The art was overly bold, poorly animated, and badly stretched last I played, but the new graphics options and additional animations made all the difference in the world. And the optional scanlines proved to be the real MVP here, tying the overall style together with warmer colors and a welcome blunting of the bold lines outlining everything.

I don’t know that I’ll ever finish Cast of the Seven Godsends, but it’s certainly not outside the realm of possibility. It can be a challenging game and a little unfair at times with how some enemies can move and corner you, but the checkpointing is generous and you can dodge or run past a lot more of the threats than I expected. The biggest surprise of course is how the Redux corrected so many issues I had with it before that I can give a recommendation now rather than complete dismissal. This isn’t a very strong recommendation, mind you, but if you’re looking for a new take on the old Ghosts ‘n Goblins formula, Cast might just do the trick for you.

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