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Game Info:

The Count Lucanor
Developed by: Baroque Decay
Published by: Baroque Decay
Released: March 3, 2016
Available on: Windows, Mac OS X
Genre: Survival horror, puzzle
Number of players: 1 (offline)
Price: $9.99

Thank you, Baroque Decay Games, for sending us a copy of this game to review!

Many children dream of running away from home, and young Hans is no exception. His father is away at war, and his mother has no money to even buy him a present for his 10th birthday. Determined to find a better life for himself, he runs away from home. As night falls, however, he finds himself trapped in an eerie castle filled with bloodthirsty monsters and an enigmatic kobold with just one question: "What is my name?"

Thus is the premise of "The Count Lucanor," a spooky stealth game with strong survival horror influences. You control Hans as he tries to solve the kobold's riddle in order to gain access to the hidden count – and hopefully, the count's treasure. Hans has no weapons to fight off the weregoats or robed monsters that stalk the halls. Instead, he must rely on candles to light the passages, and tables to hide beneath to avoid their notice. He also must solve a variety of puzzles and obstacles in order to open treasure chests containing letters to the kobold's name. 

The gameplay is demonstrated in a top-down isometric fashion, and sports an 8-bit graphic style. The action happens in real-time, and the hooded figures have the ability to pull Hans towards them in order to attack. The controls are basic, with the standard WASD set-up, and action keys and inventory keys tied in as well. There is an option to change the controls to whatever the user would like, as well as support for a variety of gamepads. Unfortunately, the controls don't seem as sharp with my Logitech controller, with Hans continuing to drift for a few seconds after letting up on the buttons. This can be especially problematic when trying to avoid enemies. 

The Count Lucanor
Highlights:

Strong Points: Atmospheric, spooky game with well-done survival horror elements; clever puzzles; support for multiple languages
Weak Points: Some control issues with game pads; relatively short
Moral Warnings: Blood, occult imagery, blood, violence, blood, language, and more blood

The atmosphere of the game is indeed dark, with shadows encroaching on the candles you place on the ground. There is a limit to the number of candles you have as well, so careful planning is needed to avoid being trapped in the dark with monsters or deadly traps. Fortunately, it is possible to find food that can replenish your health. Like the candles, there is a limit to the number of food items in the game. Gold also can be found, which can be used to purchase items, or to save your progress with the raven perched atop the fountain in the center of the castle garden. The save mechanism is called "save soul," and creates a save point which you can return to at a later time, if you desire. 

The music adds nicely to the game as well, being a spooky chiptune version of organ music reminiscent of vintage horror films. The sound effects are mixed, though. The hooded figures sound like they're whispering backwards, which makes them all the more frightening. But Hans' yelps sound more like a wounded chipmunk, and is irritating. There is no voice acting in the game, with all the dialogue presented in text boxes. Several languages are supported, though.

The game's stealth elements are well done. The hooded figures have a tendency to linger around the table you're hiding beneath, creating a sense of unease and dread. One special figure has a tendency to taunt you whenever you're in the same room, and his bloody visage adds to the fearsome element of the game as well. Although there aren't any jump scares in the game, the horror elements are definitely present. 

The Count Lucanor
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 72%
Gameplay - 15/20
Graphics - 5/10
Sound - 7/10
Stability - 5/5
Controls - 4/5

Morality Score - 49%
Violence - 3/10
Language - 6/10
Sexual Content - 6/10
Occult/Supernatural - 3/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 6.5/10

As can be expected, there are some moral considerations with a horror game like this. The hooded monsters have circular shapes similar to pentagrams appear at their feet when they attack. Although sporadic, there are some language issues, including a few instances of the s- word (including in one of the game's achievements). One of the characters spends the entire time naked – he crawls around on his hands and knees, and the graphic style prevents things from being too detailed. There also are elements of toilet humor, especially in the form of a donkey. Hans also lies about his origins when he meets the kobold – something he does end up regretting later.

And there is blood. So much blood. Rivers of blood – in one case, literally. Some of the characters you converse with are actively bleeding – including the severed head of a shepherd (he doesn't have any problems being a severed head, by the way). When attacked, Hans will have digitized blood leap from his body, and it remains on the ground until you leave and re-enter the room. Blood is found on the walls and floors near traps, and that can include bones from prior victims. When the hooded creatures attack, they remove their masks, and tentacles of blood – or possibly blood veins – leap out a few feet to latch onto Hans. Some cutscenes show an abundance of blood as well. If it weren't for the pixellated graphic style, this could easily be one of the most gruesome games I've played. 

The Count Lucanor does have several endings and many achievements to obtain. Although the game can be completed in about five hours, multiple playthroughs are needed in order to obtain all of the endings and achievements. There are many secrets to discover, and those who are completionists will find quite a bit to strive for in this game. 

There are many elements that make The Count Lucanor entertaining. The survival elements are well done, the story is entertaining, the pacing is solid and the music and sound effects add to the atmosphere well. The game is undeniably creepy, though, and the violence and gore present makes it hard for me to recommend this game to fellow Christians. If such elements don't bother you, then perhaps you should also delve into this terrifying tale, and see if you can find the count's treasure. Don't misplace your candles, though - you do have a limited supply, and there are monsters in the darkness.

About the Author

J. Todd Cumming

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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