The Count Lucanor Is the Perfect Mix of Charming and Unsettling

This post may contain affiliate links, meaning when you click the links and make a purchase, we receive a commission.

The Count Lucanor, by developer Baroque Decay, is an adventure game set in a fantasy world that gets more fantastic and mysterious as the player’s journey continues. What begins as a story of normal youthful rebellion quickly turns to macabre horror.

Hans’s mother is one of the only true heroes in the story.

A poor young boy named Hans, upset that his mother could afford no presents or sweets for him on his tenth birthday, ran away from home. Hans promised that he would not return again until he had found riches, perhaps even becoming a prince, ruling the land from a castle.

Don’t be so extra, Hans. (Also, are you secretly dabbing?)

His resolve held until night fell, when horrifying scenes and blood-thirsty beasts threatened to chase him back home. Just then, a kobold appeared and enticed Hans to follow him to a nearby castle; one Hans had never noticed before.

The kobold trapped Hans in the castle, but all was not lost. The little kobold told Hans he would inherit great wealth if he could only guess the kobold’s name. And so the adventure began…

The Count Lucanor has many more unsettling scenes like this, but you will have to experience the rest for yourself.

Being, at its core,  a horror adventure and mystery game, The Count Lucanor is set in a fantasy world with dynamic, strange characters. The choices Hans makes in his journey have profound effects on the characters that inhabit the world, and ultimately determine his own fate.

There are a number of different endings to the game, with each ending a culmination of the player’s actions, items they find, and the choices they make when faced with the horrible reality of Tenebre Castle.

The kobold has plans for young Hans. TOTALLY INNOCENT plans.

Hans isn’t the only person stuck inside the castle, but his actions resonate. Refuse to help someone in need by giving them your valuable items and they may die. If they survive, they may become vengeful and Hans will feel the repercussions of their scorn.

I won’t spoil any more details, because much of the replayability of this game comes from experimenting with the world and it’s characters. Suffice it to say, I am ready to play the game again and see what happens if I treat certain characters differently.

There are all kinds of weirdos in the castle, and they aren’t all your friends.

Played from a top-down perspective, players guide Hans through Castle Tenebre, navigating the hallways, courtyards, and trap-filled rooms, solving what puzzles they can as they narrowly avoid grim death. Players are tasked with gathering keys that grant access to the many rooms in order to collect the letters that spell out the kobold’s name.

In Castle Tenebre, buying a vowel can cost you your life.

Hans will find many items in his search for the treasure of Count Lucanor, but the most important of them may be the candle. Hans can carry candles to light his path, or set them down to illuminate areas, which grows increasingly important as monsters begin to slink through the inky blackness of Tenebre Castle.

Since Hans is but a ten-year-old boy, fighting these dark forces is impossible, and so he must hide. Hiding under tables, behind bookshelves or boxes, or even behind curtains, Hans must use his wits to survive.

The underneath of this table is so spacious!

Light is at a premium in The Count Lucanor, but the darkness creates a mood that is equal parts elegant and unsettling. The lavish castle hides horrifying scenes and the hybrid 8/16 bit artstyle somehow perfectly blends “stark depiction of terrifying reality” with “leave something to the imagination.”

The music is charming, but that should come as no surprise, as it was composed by Johann Sebastian Bach. Yes. That Bach. The studio adopted some of Bach’s lesser-known pieces and adapted them using chip-tune tools.

NOPE.

Every part of The Count Lucanor feels like it is drenched in sadness or hopelessness, and the score definitely helps on that front. I found certain pieces quite moving, especially towards the end of the game.

Overall sound design is also on point, oftentimes revealing points of interest (or danger) before the player can see them. Especially disturbing are the whispers when certain types of enemies are near.

FINAL VERDICT:

TFW you finish The Count Lucanor.

The Count Lucanor is a superb atmospheric adventure game. The tension is palpable, the macabre reveals are genuinely unsettling, and unlike many adventure games, the vast majority of puzzles have solutions that actually make sense.

The tale of Hans feels like many ancient cautionary tales, and since the game is fairly short and has multiple endings, it feels like it may bear revisiting from time to time. The Count Lucanor is a pretty spooky game, but since it nails the fundamentals, the fact that it is releasing in October is just icing on a very wormy cake. (You’ll get it later, I promise.)

The Count Lucanor is available now for the very unusual price of $13.49 on the Nintendo eShop!

Leave a Reply