Heidelberg 1693 while a famous bit of poetry is looking to break into a newer medium, the medium of Video Games, grab your rapier, load your musket and grab your hat, it’s monster hunting season!
Heidelberg 1963 puts you in the feathered cap of a French Musketeer, you fight under The Sun King who wishes the sun to shine over all, unfortunately, The Moon King has other ideas and is currently reigning terror across 17th Century Germany. Being the brave soul that you are, you have taken it upon yourself to roam the countryside and make your way to Heidelberg to stop The Moon King and his gathering of grizzly ghouls.
Now Heidelberg 1693 is very much inspired by games of the past such as classic Castlevania and Ghost ‘n Goblins so players aren’t presented with a whole Blockbusters worth of cutscenes to sit through and nor does it involve any walking and talking while jaunting through the woods. What it does offer is well-placed, sprite cutscenes to further the story somewhat and explain why you’re a French Musketeer facing down Satan’s finest, naturally all skippable with no detriment to the experience.
Developers Andrade Games famous for SturmFront: The Mutant War: Übel Edition know a thing or two about 16-bit homages and to say that Heidelberg 1963 is a beautifully grotesque title doesn’t do it justice.
Featuring some gorgeous sprite work the developer has managed to create a bloody ballet of horror which leans so heavily on the macabre that even Splatterhouse would wince in its presence. While the enemies are a brilliant gallery of zombies and other grotesque monsters, the main stars are the bosses which stretch the constraints of sprite work and imagination in some behemoth-style boss fights.
The level designs are a little more pedestrian than the monster and are mostly forests and burning/destroyed villages but there are a few stages that drag you to hell, kicking and screaming.
Heidelberg 1693 takes much of its inspiration from Konami’s seminal Vampire killing simulation Castlevania, the classic ones that is rather than the “Metroidvania” style games.
You have a few basic attacks, your standard melee, a spin attack in the air, a downward thrust, a ranged musket shot, and the odd sub-weapon such as a pistol or shield. While it seems limiting having so few options, it creates a somewhat pure experience where you can’t factor I-frames and dodge rolls, just you and your sword taking down the hordes of hell.
The musket is a brilliant gameplay addition, while it provides amazing ranged damage it comes at the price of having to reload with every shot, this takes a good few seconds and you are completely vulnerable when doing so, this creates tension, and that risk Vs reward factor which makes the already challenging game not only a little tougher but also quite delicious when you land that perfect shot and safe reload.
Talking of difficulty, this is one tough experience. The game is presented with linear levels and after only a few of them in you trigger The Moon King who’s a floating skull, they will attack you, resurrect killed foes and impede your progress at every turn, you can’t kill them either only cause them to spawn more danger meaning you can’t just bide your time with this one.
While the game provides you with infinite lives to get through its 2-hour campaign, you’ll die ALOT which naturally extends the time somewhat. There are checkpoints but the placement isn’t always great and every time you respawn you only have 1 of 3 health hearts which can create quite a desperate struggle.
One little feature I absolutely adored with the game was that the enemies fought each other as well as you. Often you can get beyond tricky situations by letting some of the Musketeers thin the zombie herd before you swoop in and make them join their prey.
Aside from the lack of difficulty options the only major issue I had with the game was the Sub Weapons such as the Bomb and Shield are attached to a balloon and make usage awkward.
Heidelberg 1963 is in the upper echelon of action platformers with the same titles it draws inspiration from. It’s a tough yet rewarding horror-inspired ride and for me has drawn my attention to Andrade Games, it’s hardcore, it’s bloody and it’s a ruddy good time.
Heidelberg 1963 is available digitally on all digital stores and physically through Red Art Games