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[personal profile] tepidsnake
Helen's Mysterious Castle is.a Windows RPG, created in RPG School 2000 by Satsu (who's made several other small-scale RPGs) that was translated and released on Playism in 2014. Normally this isn't my sort of thing as I am completely terrible at RPGs- I almost never complete them- but with a recommended playtime of about 4 hours, I figured I might actually finish this one. As Helen, a girl who can't remember her origins and can only speak in '?' and '!', you set off to find your way off the floating castle she lives in. The story isn't too special, although it's got a lot of charm and a lighthearted tone that still sticks around even after the serious parts of the plot kick in. That said, the story is told in a neat way- a lot of details are things you have to find yourself after you're allowed to read the game's signs and books, and a character who joins later has expository chatter for every room in the game.

Where the game shines is the battle system, which is simple to pick up but has a lot of neat little details that make fights really fun! Each weapon you can use is set to a 'wait' timer- wait the allotted time and you'll use it, but every enemy attack also has this timer, so they'll go first if your wait time is longer. The four core weapon types have different attributes tied to this wait time- bows are weak but have short wait periods, swords have medium wait times but let you defend, shields don't attack but reduce/nullify damage taken while you wait, and spells are powerful and pierce through shields but have long wait times. As a result, the battles are pretty engaging as it's a matter of timing and planning ahead- with the right move choices, you can conquer any foe with little damage!

The way the game handles its inventory and levelling-up systems is a little different too- you earn EXP during battle but use this to level up your items (except stat-boosting ones) which you can only have eight of at a time, and raising a weapon's level can make it more powerful or reduce its wait time. Later you also get access to a blacksmith who can refine items (including stat-boosters) to make them even stronger. There's only a handful of each type of weapon and item, but there's enough differences between them that you'll pick a favourite. This simple inventory stuff ties in with another of the game's strengths, that it's super-friendly, with a lot of features added to make the game easier to get to the end of- you're very clearly prompted if you want to fight or run before a boss battle, a room you find later in game keeps any items you've had to drop so you can get them back, and dying restarts you either at your home or the inn with a steak ready for you which permanently raises your HP. While this doesn't make the game challenging, the fact that you have to plan a little for battles and figure out strategies for each enemy means it still feels satisfying to progress, there's just a few safety nets to help you along.

I often find that I enjoy short games a lot more, and Helen's Mysterious Castle is a gem of a tiny RPG, with the one downside being that it can sometimes be easy to have no idea where to go (as a hint, there are some areas where you can go into the walls, and these are usually telegraphed in some way) but aside from that this is an easy recommendation to try- it's available from its Playism page. Beyond the cut, we just have a few extra screenshots of other parts of the game, and while I've done my best to avoid any spoilers, if you'd like to go in completely blind then go no further!

Just some choice moments and enemies from the game beyond the cut! )

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