Yet another pixelated ‘Metroidvania’ game on the eShop. Can ‘Cathedral’ explore new ground, or is it backtracking over a path well-trodden.
Developed by Decemberborn
Published by Elden Pixels
Released in 2021
You can't help but feel a little sorry for Eric Lavesson. "I wrote the first lines of code for 'Cathedral' at 2 AM on Dec. 8, 2014" he tweeted. The world was different then, and a faithful tribute to the games of his youth may have felt then like a novel idea. "I've always been interested in writing my own games" says Lavesson. Starting out at 9 years old, he created crude text adventures on an Atari 600XL. Initially programming in BASIC, Lavesson progressed to C++, through to assembly in DOS, OpenGL and DirectX after a few years. "Long story short; all of this drove me towards a career in software development, and even though I ended up specializing in rendering and visualization in my dayjob, I never actually released a game until ' Cathedral'". It was a pure passion project created from a desire to simply build a game from scratch. However, From even glancing at a few screens shots you know exactly what kind of game it is. "'Cathedral' is ultimately an NES-styled adventure game, inspired a lot by ‘Metroid’ and similar games (so a Metroidvania, if you will)" says Lavesson. "There’s inspiration from a ton of NES games such as 'Wizard & Warriors', ' Zelda II', 'Metroid', 'Simon’s Quest' [...] but also from various games on other platforms such as the "Wonder Boy' series." As the project grew Lavesson needed support to turn his experimental project into something more marketable. "I was working on this myself to start with. I’m not an artist, and I realised I would need help from both a musician as well as a pixel artist at some point". Aron Kramer joined as a musician and the pixel art replicating the inspirational games was created by Victor Leão.
Decemberborn Interactive's desire to create a pixilated 'Metroid' style game may have felt original in 2014 but a lot can change in 6 years. In the same year that Lavesson started , 'Shovel Knight' was released. Yacht Club's phenomenally popular game also borrow game mechanics and visuals from NES era ‘Metroidvania’ style games. 'Shovel Knight' received critical acclaim, won various awards and once was even considered one of the best video games of all time by Game Informer readers. Its commercial success led to a slew of imitators, and six years after its release there are now literally hundreds of ‘Metroidvania’ games with retro inspired artwork crowding digital platforms. "2D pixel art is now so commonplace it is an everyday part of the gaming landscape - a conventional aesthetic, rather than a daring deviation that raises an eyebrow" says video game historian Will Freeman. "Pixel artistry that revisits the 8-bit and 16-bit console eras is particularly popular - [...] demonstrating that nostalgia is a key driver behind the rise and rise of contemporary pixel art". All this means that while 'Cathedral' may have felt like an original idea in 2014, now it sadly feels somewhat stale, predictable and far too familiar. It might be a tribute to what has been, but with so many other games doing exactly that, 'Cathedral' ironically feels inferior when compared to the best of its contemporary peers.