Chasm Nintendo Switch review

Chasm – What A Horrible Night To Explore A Cursed Mine

Chasm, by Bit Kid, Inc., is a throwback to the days when Metroid-inspired Castlevania games were common. It channels the feeling of controlling Alucard in Symphony of the Night, and while it creates a sense of nostalgia which is more than just skin-deep. Chasm also diverges from the tried-and-true Castlevania formula by relying on procedurally generated maps.

While this enables players to revisit Chasm for a virtually unlimited number of “unique” playthroughs, it also causes it to fall short of the handcrafted excellence associated with the Castlevania name.

Chasm on Nintendo Switch

Chasm is a side-scrolling 2D action-adventure RPG which tasks the player, an untested Guildian Knight recruit, with exploring the depths of a local mine after monsters and supernatural forces emerge and kidnap the villagers who live above it.

Over the 10 hour campaign, players gather a variety of traversal and combat abilities, explore 6 major areas, defeat legions of monsters, a handful of bosses, and gather or craft weapons and armor of all kinds as they fight their way through the increasingly unsettling hordes lurking below.

Like most Castlevania games released after Symphony of the Night, Chasm is an exploratory side-scrolling action platformer. Chasm’s Guildean Knight jumps, slashes, uses magical items and spells, and even has a back-dash, just like Alucard. If you are looking for a game which echoes PlayStation 1 and Game Boy Advance-era Castlevania, this is it.

In fact, the familiar verb-set, combined with Bit Kid’s solid grasp of combat and platforming fundamentals, means Chasm comes extremely close to capturing the moment-to-moment feel of Symphony of the Night’s gameplay. Bit Kid meant Chasm to be an homage to Castlevania, and it shows.

Unfortunately, Chasms strengths are accompanied by some aggravating shortcomings. While combat is responsive and satisfying, Chasm falls prey to the same issues which plague many other procedurally generated games.

Although your mileage may vary, depending on which seed you have, areas in my playthrough felt unevenly populated, meaning some parts of the map were strangely empty, while others were swarming with life. Additionally, although there is a relatively robust fast-travel system, area maps often feel bloated and stitched-together, which leads to uneven progression. Because of this, the game drags a bit, especially towards the end, and meaningful new upgrades and traversal skills come too infrequently.

Note: Each run generates a new seed, and the seed can be shared with others or used to replay the same exact game by entering the seed on the New Game screen.

Part of the reason for this is the extensive amount of backtracking required. Because the placement of traversal abilities is random, you’ll have to explore every part of the map multiple times.

To make comparisons to another all-time great side-scroller, Chasm contains roughly the same number of new abilities as Super Metroid, but because Chasm is three times as long and requires far more backtracking (for far fewer rewards), it doesn’t feel like three times the game; it feels stretched out and thin.

Retracing steps through every previous area to find a new traversal ability, gate, or pathway to a new area can be tedious, even with fast-travel points littered across each area map. Because of this, I had to explore just about every inch of the map, reaching 99.8% completion just to finish the game. What’s more, once I did beat Chasm, I wasn’t particularly interested in playing it again, regardless of the possibilities a new procedurally generated map would afford.

Note: During my review, I obtained 100% completion during my first playthrough, after which I started the game on a higher difficulty and completed the first area with a different seed.

A big part of the loop of Chasm is exploring the mines (and subsequent areas) and rescuing villagers. Each time you rescue a villager, they will return to the town and unlock a new service, making your subsequent exploration a bit easier. Although the positioning of villagers is random, I found it often coincided quite nicely with times I needed to return to town to heal, resupply, and buy upgrades anyway, which led to a satisfying rhythm as I progressed.

Each new villager is a game changer, especially in the first few hours. The blacksmith allows players to spend ore to create new weapons and armor. The village witch takes gold in exchange for spells (throwing axe, throwing daggers, magic shield, etc.), and she can upgrade your spells later in the game.  Other villagers sell healing items, provide the play with quests, and more.

Chasm has several difficulty settings, so genre newcomers will be able to clear the game on Easy, while Castlevania veterans can opt for Normal or Hard for a true challenge. Chasm is no slouch when it comes to difficulty, but it treats the player fairly, and even on Normal, you’ll need to dodge often, use ranged attacks, and consistently buy or craft upgrades to survive.

Considering the criticism I have levied against Chasm so far, you may be surprised to learn that I had a truly great time with it, and had a difficult time putting it down once I started playing. The heights it reaches simply highlight the very few drawbacks it has and, like a beloved friend with one glaring character flaw, I desperately want Chasm to be better because I know it has the potential for true greatness.

I hope Bit Kid has the opportunity to create a sequel because Chasm has a lot going for it; a compelling art style (turn on CRT scanlines as soon as you boot up the game for pure 16-bit nostalgia), excellent character and world design, satisfying combat, and more.

It also trusts the player to explore and discover new things for themselves without handholding. There’s a lot to love, and even with the drawbacks of procedural generation, it’s worth the price of admission. Just don’t expect Bit Kid, Inc. to create the next Castlevania… yet.

VERDICT:

Bit Kid, Inc. has the core of something special with Chasm. The team crafted a solid action-adventure with a challenging and engaging combat system, but one which relies too heavily on procedural generation and slightly overstays its welcome as a result. I truly enjoyed my 10-hour playthrough, and if Chasm 2 has handcrafted levels, it may very well be the second coming of Castlevania.

Platform – Nintendo Switch eShop Download
Publisher – Leadman Games
Developers – Bit Kid, Inc.
Release Date – October 11, 2018
Price – $20.00
Genre – Action, Adventure, Platformer, Role-Playing
Players – 1
Size –  802 MB

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