On the outskirts of some small medieval village somewhere in the German (?) countryside, a young boy named Hans has had enough of his earthbound days. His bereaved family is scraping by and Hans, once again, can't have anything special even for a most respectable tenth birthday. Nettled by unbearable circumstances, he rushes off to meet true destiny. Meanwhile, whispers are heard of a noble estate's unprolific summons for a righteous heir...
The Count Lucanor is a decent-enough coming-of-age story not done much injustice to by a summary of "Legend of Zelda plus Silent Hill" though other influences are also quoted by the devs (including a weirdobob called Yumi Nikki). It is the Spanish-French Baroque Decay's first release after finding themselves untowardly bogged down by a more substantial project (the curse of all start-up gaming companies!), and was unambiguously a good stepping stone. Ambition having been scaled down to something that feels neither rushed nor stretched-out, it's a perfect simulation of the sort of fable it draws inspiration from, a particular medieval collection with a similar title being the main suspect.
In practice, you'll be talking to macabre characters, solving fairly straightforward inventory puzzles and sundry, and wishing away the PG-13-or-therabouts nightmare. I was moderately tense at times on the first playthrough, but not all that on the second. I personally don't see the game worth more than one extra visit for the less-than-obsessive – not a lot of dynamics – and seeing as the best ending can largely really only be stumbled upon, no "tsks" or finger-wagging from me if you turn to a walkthrough then.
Graphically, the magical realism is rendered in vibrant pseudo-retro style that felt a slight bit off at first since the sprites slide smoothly through each ostensibly atomic pixel. For the similarly retro beepy but mellow music, the team dived into that most opulent of wellsprings within Western classical composition, the works of J.S. Bach, but not the cliché stuff. Instead, your sombre sojourn is lined with a Passacaglia & Fugue in C minor, an Organ Sonata No.1 in E-flat major, a Sonata for violin and piano in C minor – ones only a real connoisseur could instantly name – and for all who don't like the soundtrack, the plot twist is YOU'RE THE MONSTER.
Skipping a few nitpicks here, this is a game easy to recommend for a variety of people, not least reason for which being the absolute cornucopia of fan translations Baroque Decay have been showered with. It puts you back a non-indecent length of time, and since time is money, that's not the sticking point either! Two thumbs up!
TIWIKs: Things I Wish I'd Known
- If you're not using controllers to play, you might have to unplug them to prevent false inputs.
- Try not to hide in rooms when there's someone right next to it or you'll have to go back and forth a lot...
- Keep an eye [, pen and paper] out for clues! Some are kind of subtle.
Reviewed by: LotBlind