Odallus: The Dark Call is the second of JoyMasher’s hits to make its way to the Switch, alongside Oniken: Unstoppable Edition. Definitely my favorite of the two, Odallus takes its inspiration from the 8-bit Castlevania games, namely Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse, with a touch of Metroid, in the way you can choose different routes through the map, and with how you can come back to levels and explore them further after picking up specific items.
It feels great getting to play this game on the Switch. That’s mostly due to its incredibly faithful presentation, which also pays homage to old 8-bit NES, like Oniken did beforehand. There’s no denying that pixely visuals look gorgeous on the Switch’s screen, and even more so on an HD TV. Everything looks very crisp and colorful, and thanks to some talented artists, everything also animates very well. The main hero’s sprite is especially well designed, and for as simple as it can look in still screens, it’s a whole other deal in motion, with hair and cape flowing in the wind as you hit things with his sword and jump platforms.
At its core, Odallus plays like Castlevania, but it has its own set of quirks. For starters, the player character is a little bigger than what you’d see in Castlevania, and his movement is relatively slower. Enemies are about as cheap as you’d expect, and their attacks are hard to dodge at first, but once you learn their patterns, they become relatively easy to avoid as you rethread levels. Levels are broken up by pathways you can choose to take on the map screen, and each section is listed separately by whether or not you killed its boss. At the outset, the main obstacle you’ll run into are locked doors, which are easily enough opened when you find their key, but things get a little more complicated quickly enough when heavy blocks and indestructible rubble start blocking your way, requiring you to come back later once you have the required item.
Games borrowing from both Metroid and Castlevania are nothing new, especially in the indie scene — so much so that they have carved their own genre, which should go forever unnamed in my reviews! — but Odallus manages to be a little less annoying in its implementation than most, due to how linear it treats rethreading. I never felt lost or annoyed, nothing any clue where I needed to go next because the spots I always needed to come back to weren’t that numerous, and thanks to the map, they’re easy enough to go back to — every section lists the number of secrets yet to be found, so even if you find yourself in doubt, check that.
Odallus makes use of lives, but thanks to how quick to get through most levels are, I never felt frustrated when having to start them over after running out. Sure, it’s a little time consuming having to do so, but Odallus plays with the concept of your experience playing working towards saving you time once you know what to expect in your next runs. Enemies are always placed in the same spots, so you’re never caught off guard. Currency that they drop can be used at the store in order to buy more HP points or even lives, too.
Upgrading your gear also comes in play when getting through the game more efficiently. You can get stronger swords and even new pieces of armor, which are displayed in your character sprite, a very cool touch. Sub-weapons are also surprisingly integral to the way you approach some combat encounters and are less of a throwaway (hah, get it?) than the usual knife.
The Switch eShop might be starting to get bloated with all sorts of indie releases in a similar way Steam is, but until it becomes completely unmanageable, you can count on developers like JoyMasher to bring quality releases that although available elsewhere for years before getting here, are more than welcome in portable form.
Like Oniken: Unstoppable Edition, Odallus: The Dark Call is also getting a physical release, with a special edition that includes both games in a single case. Xbox One and PlayStation 4 are getting releases for both of these sometime later this year.