It’s not uncommon for indie games to take inspiration from old school games. Cast of the Seven Godsends came out last year, wearing its inspiration for 2D action shooters on its sleeve. Now getting a console release with a special redux version, does Cast of the Seven Godsends manage to bring back good memories, or does the game defile the gods?
The game puts you in the role of Kandar, a king who just met his unfortunate end. He’s revived by the six (or seven? There may even be eight. The game never really makes this clear.) gods, who give him the task to kill an evil emperor and save his newborn son. The story is pretty clearly an afterthought excuse to just add some context to the game’s levels, which is fine. On the other hand, some of the dialogue contains some spelling and grammar issues that show the game desperately needed an editor. With lines like “We don’t see Beldar since he leave our skies long time ago”, “why you took away my son?”, and “I believe careness is the only way to peace”, all Cast of the Seven Godsends‘ story made me do was laugh.
Cast of the Seven Godsends tries to play up its simplicity, and the game only uses two buttons: one to jump and one to shoot. Despite only using two buttons, the game manages to do this awkwardly. For some strange reason, shoot and jump are placed on the complete opposite buttons of basically every other 2D action platformer currently on the market. Getting used to this strange scheme was quite the battle, but the controls work well enough once you endure.
The game’s big system comes from armor. As you go through stages and defeat enemies, they have a chance of dropping armor. The first time you pick up armor, it just gives you some extra health, but the second time it allows you to transform into a special armor with magic abilities and unique weapons. There’re seven armors in the game, and each of them has five different magic abilities and attacks depending on which weapon you’re carrying at the time. For example, if you have the earth armor while using the shuriken weapon then you’ll throw leaves that do a large loop around you before flying forward as your normal attack, and can summon a bunch of leaves for your magic.
Both weapons and magic run from “hilariously overpowered” to “utterly useless” and this is best seen with the light armor/hammer combination. The regular attack shoots a tornado that passes through enemies, hitting them once for each frame it overlaps with the enemy. This can cause absurd amounts of damage, especially to any of the game’s bosses that have a giant hitbox. On the other hand, the magic ability associated with this combo claims that it makes you invisible but in reality, does absolutely nothing at all. Maces that arced too high to be useful annoyed me if I accidentally picked them up, but the shadow armor weapon that homes towards nearby enemies was always fantastic to have.
Cast of the Seven Godsends could really have used a few quality of life improvements. The simple ability to allow you to switch between weapons you’ve already picked up could have done a lot for the game. Instead, I found myself dodging around power-ups just to avoid losing something I was happy with. Speaking of power-ups, the majority of them are hidden by invisible triggers that require making strange jumps or going to places that don’t seem to have any real purpose. It’s an annoying way to force you to test if a jump will kill you or not and you may not even be rewarded for it.
I also felt like the game would have constant unfair difficulty spikes. Often it would rely on basically overloading the screen with enemies or attacks to force you to lose health. I’d enter areas to find enemies already on top of me, or find jumps blocked by endless swarms of bats and other flying enemies. Bosses would throw out more attacks than I could deal with (unless I had the aforementioned boss killer and took care of them before they could act), and I honestly found cheesing the fights to be a better strategy than to honestly deal with them. Here’s a hint: the pig-man boss can’t hit you if you stay all the way to the left side of the screen and duck. You’re welcome.
All of this just kept adding up to a game I found more and more frustrating to play, rather than fun. It never balances out into a tough-but-fair challenge that other games have mastered. Instead, it’s constantly dipping between “too easy because I got a lucky combination” and “too hard because there’s so much on screen”. It makes Cast of the Seven Godsends feel uneven and unenjoyable.
There isn’t much to look at while you play through the game either. The artwork is good enough, but there’s nothing particularly spectacular anywhere. Going between stages always feels off, though, as areas seem to change randomly with little rhyme or reason. One moment I’ll be in a swamp, then suddenly climbing a tower, and then I’ll cross an invisible line that causes the game to burst into a rainstorm, and I’ll be in the middle of a strangely modern looking town. The soundtrack fits in a similar decent but forgettable note. The game left a strange and poor first impression, however, when the title screen consists of poorly drawn and incorrectly looping animations mixed with total silence.
Cast of the Seven Godsends: Redux tries to recapture all the things that made classic 2D side-scrolling shooters great. It completely fails at this. Instead, it’s just a frustrating mess of poorly translated English mixed with random difficulty spikes and so-so graphics and music. You’d do better just playing one of the classics instead.
With random difficulty spikes, strange controls, and almost mandatory hidden power-ups constantly halting my progress through the poorly translated story, I didn't see much reason to keep playing Cast of the Seven Godsends: Redux. I also don't see much reason for anyone else to play it either.