Maldita Castilla / Maldita Castilla EX: Cursed Castilla / Cursed Castilla EX

A game by Locomalito for PC, PS4, Vita, Xbox One, Switch, 3DS, iOS, and OUYA, originally released in 2012, with the EX version released in 2016.
Maldita Castilla is a game that harkens back to a number of mid-80’s action games, most notably Ghosts ‘n Goblins. Here, the player takes on the role of Don Ramiro as he travels the lands of Tolomera in 11th century Spain, defeating the evil creatures that have ravaged the land, on a quest to unseat the great evil that has taken over the kingdom of Castile.

The game is meant to emulate classic arcade games, and it even starts up with a RAM check, ROM check, and test pattern grid, just like an arcade machine being booted up, and it features scanlines and a minor curving effect on the corners of the screen. The game’s soundtrack and effects – created by Gryzor87 – are also modeled after the throaty FM synth found in so many arcade titles and Sega Genesis games.

As in Ghosts ‘n Goblins, your primary abilities are to jump and toss whatever weapon you have in your possession, as indicated by a box at the top of the screen. You can toss your projectiles to the left or right, straight up, or downward while jumping. You can also duck to avoid enemy attacks and toss projectiles at enemies positioned lower to the ground. Projectiles are unlimited in supply, and each has its own strengths and weaknesses.

Projectiles are gained by breaking open chests, at which point a powerup icon will drop. The icon cycles through a number of possible weapons, requiring that the player get the timing right if he is after a certain weapon. All weapons have the same strength when striking an enemy but each lends itself to a somewhat different play style. Projectiles can be tossed while standing, walking, or jumping, but not while climbing.

  • Lance - Following GnG tradition, you begin the game with a lance that can be fired all the way across the screen at a decent rate of speed. Two lances can be on the screen at once.
  • Axe - The axe is another traditional GnG weapon, although it operates a bit differently here. Instead of penetrating enemies, it disappears upon contact. Axes may be tossed in a high arc when standing still or a low arc when ducking, making them a bit more difficult to wield than direct-firing weapons. Axes tossed upward will eventually fall back down. Two axes can be on the screen at once.
  • Iron Balls - This spiked weapon has a shorter range than the others but a much wider path of travel, making it easier to hit nearby enemies. The range is about half a screen, and two may be onscreen at a time.
  • Sickle - The sickle is also a short range weapon, only travelling about half a screen. However, it can be tossed more quickly, and up to 3 can be on the screen at a time, making it useful against faster-moving enemies. The weapon also has a boomerang effect, with sickles returning to the knight as long as they do not strike another target.

A second box appears to the right of your weapon indicator, and shows your secondary items.
  • Shield - This item allows you to sustain one hit from an enemy, at which point it falls away (although the character sprite carries a shield at all times).
  • Blue Flower - Possessing this item summons a small fairy in a blue dress that flies in front of you tossing small projectiles in an arc. You retain this item until you lose a life.
  • Winged boots - This item increases your jump height. You retain this item until you lose a life.
  • Key - Keys allow you to access areas that are otherwise blocked. Often there are side paths that can only be accessed by keys, and you’ll need these to gain access to all of Moura’s Tears (more on these in a bit), and sometimes a key is required for progression. Picking up a key will replace any other secondary item you may be carrying.

Other pickups include an hourglass that adds time to the ever-diminishing clock, a crown that acts as a 1UP, various meats that act as health restoratives, and a number of coins and other valuables that add to your score.

One important distinction made between this game and Ghosts ‘n Goblins is that it starts out substantially easier, with fewer enemies in the beginning (no infinite enemy respawns) and easier bosses, and then presses forward with a steady escalation of difficulty. 2D gaming veterans should have little difficulty completing the first few areas, but will encounter more resistance in later levels.

Overall, the game is a bit more forgiving, offering the player the ability to make minor midair corrections as opposed to the rigid jump system in GnG. The player also has a health bar – represented by 3 hearts – which allows him to take 3 hits before dying, as opposed to the traditional 2-hit system in Ghosts ‘n Goblins. This makes gameplay more forgiving, but also removes the somewhat humorous effect of watching your knight get knocked out of his armor, and eventually knocked out of his skin upon taking a second hit. Also, you get unlimited continues (with 3 lives per continue), although using too many requires that you sacrifice your soul… and any chance you have at seeing the game’s best ending.

In all, there are 4 endings depending on your actions in the game and the secrets you found along the way. As in Ghosts ‘n Goblins, it’s not enough to simply defeat the “final” boss; you must also find five objects called Moura’s Tears along the way – most of which are a challenge to find or reach – allowing you to access the final level and the true ultimate evil. This final level and boss encounter are extremely challenging.

All but the most resolute first-time players will miss the “good” ending and find themselves back at the start of the game to begin again, just as in GnG tradition… although the game fortunately does not require that you use a weak weapon on your second playthrough. As such, it is easy for most players to see what the game has to offer, with more experienced players making it to the end boss, and an added level of challenge for those wishing to see things through to the true end. And even then, the game reveals additional challenges for truly hardy players.

There is a great deal of variety between the 6 large levels, from villages to swamps to raging infernos, with each section transitioning logically from one to the next. There are also some areas that break up the gameplay, such as a the beginning of the second level where you’re on the back of a horse-drawn cart that speeds through the woods while harpies lay siege from above, and you and your AI pals fight them off, eventually leading you to a boss fight against a 2-headed vulture.

Other areas focus on precision platforming, long vertical ascents, following a torch-wielding creature through a dark environment, and a maze that requires the player to transition from one area to the next in a specific way lest they loop back to the beginning of the level.

Each level offers a number of checkpoints as players transition from one themed area to the next. Most levels feature a mid-boss and end-level boss encounter, offering up a number of traditionally-styled enemies with pattern based attacks and specific weak points.

Maldita Castilla was inspired by the myths of Spain and greater Europe, as well as the story of The Amadis of Gaul, and the game’s locales are based on medieval paintings and actual locales.

The game was developed by Juan Antonio Becerra, a.k.a. Locomalito, a developer based in AndalucĂ­a, Spain who focuses on classic gameplay archetypes. Locomalito’s nickname translates roughly into “sick little crazy kid”, a reference to a mocking term that other kids called him while he excitedly pounded buttons and yelled at the monitor while playing through R-Type in the arcade.

All of the developer’s games to this point have been released at no cost, although he accepts donations, offering artwork and other extras to those who contribute. He has also released some premium packages, offering a limited number of physical copies of the games with their associated packaging and artwork.

The Curse of Issyos
The Curse of Issyos, released in 2015, stars a fisherman named Defkalion who is called upon by the goddess Athena to rescue the island of Issyos from the curse of Olympus.

The fisherman and former soldier returns to the island, fearing for the life of his daughter, and he must fight his way through a number of Harryhausen-inspired creatures, as well as some of the greatest creatures of Greek myth, including Polyhemus, Medusa, Scylla, and Cerberus.

Players begin the game with a sword, but can find a longer-range spear, a bow and arrows, and a set of armor to aid them in their quest, along with some hidden treasures from Athena.

The game is short, but the difficulty ramps up steadily, and players have a limited number of lives and continues with which to beat the game, requiring that they make a successful run from start to finish. In addition, seeking out hidden keys opens up a secret area, the completion of which leads to a new weapon and an alternate ending.

Verminian Trap
In late 2013, Locomalito released Verminian Trap, an arcade-style game similar to Midway’s Wizard of Wor. The player moves around maze-like environments fighting monsters throughout waves of continuously escalating difficulty. The game takes place amongst the ruins of planet Verminest, which has been featured in two of Locomalito’s previous titles, They Came from Verminest and Hydorah (also below), and features insect-like enemies.

The goal is simple… As in the arcade games of old, you must survive for as long as possible against an unending onslaught of enemies, attempting to get as high a score as possible. Each enemy has a different point value, with tougher foes yielding more points. Enemies occasionally drop stars which may be collected for additional points, although these disappear after a few seconds if uncollected. The player earns an extra life with every 2,500 points, and must return to the start of the game when all lives have been lost.

The most common enemies are the spider-like Vermin that simply crawl around the maze, although pink Vermin gain the ability to fire projectiles in later waves. Heavier tank Vermin take more hits to kill and can also drop webs that slow you down when you move through them and also absorb your fire until they are destroyed. Bees move around the maze more quickly and can close in on you in a hurry. Lastly, there is a rolling juggernaut enemy that moves slowly but cannot be killed, thus preventing you from camping in any one location for too long. The juggernaut also stays in the maze wave after wave, and you can have more than one of them in play at a time, making them particularly dangerous. Enemy speeds slowly increase as you progress.

Powerups are available in two forms. A “P” icon changes your single shot into a double shot, allowing you to dish out more damage. Grabbing another “P” gives you a triple shot, and collecting another gives you a quadruple shot. A second powerup is an “S” icon which increases your movement speed, and the effects of collecting multiple “S” icons are cumulative as well. You retain these powerups until you are killed, although the last powerup you grabbed will drop in the spot where you died, allowing you to run back and pick it up. You gain temporary invincibility when respawning, and enemies will remain paused for a few seconds each time the player is killed.

The game supports up to 4P local co-op with a single score shared between all players, although players are able to kill one another… whether on purpose or by accident. In addition to the main arcade mode, players may also compete to capture as many flags as possible while also fighting off enemies, or compete for score. In each mode, players may select the starting area, which impacts the tile set, layout of the maze, and difficulty of the enemies.

In 2013, Locomalito released Gaurodan, developed with a style, gameplay, and difficulty meant to harken back to arcade games of 1984, while focusing on a theme that is far older. If you spent your childhood sitting on the floor in your underwear eating bowls of cereal (or vice versa) while watching poorly dubbed Japanese monster movies, then you’ll be right at home with the story of Gaurodan, the bird of thunder.

The story focuses on the discovery of a giant radioactive egg in the Canary Islands and its ties to recent earthquakes and underwater volcanic activity. Meanwhile, the locals are worried because of their legends that tell of a mythical creature named Gaurodan who was sent by the gods to fight Guayota, the fire beast, and punish mankind for its awakening. As with the giant monster movies of old, many cities will be laid to waste in the process.

When the game starts, an egg emerges from a mountain. You roll it around to crush houses and other structures on the ground, eventually causing the egg to crack open and reveal Gaurodan. From there, you take on each mission as Gaurodan, a flying pteranodon-like creature that can shoot bolts of electricity from its mouth. Electricity can be fired straight ahead to take down skybound enemies such as helicopters and jets, while the downward blast lets you destroy tanks and buildings.

Destroying power plants grants you a powerup that temporarily allows you to shoot two energy blasts. A clock powerup puts a bit more time on the clock, stars give you bonus points, and hidden bananas may be uncovered to reach a secret ending. Blowing up hospitals grants you a heart that restores one unit of your life bar… and you’ll need it because death means restarting the game again from the beginning. You can’t credit feed your way to victory here.

There are 11 increasingly challenging levels, including the rise of military involvement, multiple encounters with Guayota, a descent into a volcano, and eventually some strange alien parasites. Rack up enough points, and you’ll open a survival mode that puts you up against a steady flow of increasingly difficult enemies.

Endless Forms Most Beautiful
In 2012, prior to the release of Maldita Castilla, Locomalito released a game called Endless Forms Most Beautiful (EFMB), a remake based on the original ZX Spectrum title, EFMB: Endless Forms Most Beautiful. As in the original, the game has some fairly odd mechanics insofar as what we’re used to seeing in platformers.

Teleporters allow the player to move up or down one tier, while wrapping from one side of the screen to the other allows for ascent and descent (rather than simply warping to the same point on the other side of the screen as in Pac-Man). Moving continuously to the left allows you to move upward, while moving to the right sends you one tier downward.

The object is to collect all of the imps spread across the multiple tiers of each level, with some of them turning into bombs when touched – killing enemies on the same level, and potentially killing you – and some turning into valuable pickups, such as a 1UP, temporary invincibility, or a speed increase.

The 15-level game pits players against increasingly bizarre enemies, each with its own behaviors, adding complexity as you move forward. Some enemies will shoot at you, others can move up and down through teleporters, and others will chase you quickly from one tier to the next. The game also features 2P co-op as well as a 3-level competitive mode in which players compete for the highest score.

They Came from Verminest
In 2011, Locomalito released the demo for Maldita Castilla, but he stepped away from that title for a while to work on a game called They Came from Verminest, which he was inspired to create after playing Galaga on an arcade machine during his travels.

As in Galaga, Verminest features a ship on the bottom of the screen, which can move back and forth – as well as up and down – blasting away at formations of insectoid invaders as they move around the screen and dive bomb the ship. The player must shoot, dodge, and collect powerups to see his way to victory.

There are references to other shooting games as well, with moving shields reminiscent of Space Invaders, and scrolling levels as seen in later vertical shmups. There are even boss encounters, including battles against a giant lobster, a UFO, and a centipede that moves similarly to the one in Atari’s classic arcade game, Centipede. The game features a bonus system where players can earn medals by destroying enemies at close range and scaring away enemies by destroying their leaders.

The graphics were created entirely in black and white, as inspired by 50’s sci-fi films, and it also features an anaglyph 3D mode. The game takes place across 5 tropically-themed environments.

They Came from Verminest ‘83
The developer released a color version of the game shortly thereafter, titled They Came from Verminest ‘83, offering the same gameplay but with a color palette more reminiscent 80’s-era arcade games such as the Galaga series.

Earlier in 2011, the developer suffered from a long-term illness caused by a virus, which inspired him to create a video game called Viriax. At first glance, the game appears to be a standard vertically scrolling shmup featuring a lone ship going up against a number of hostile enemies. However, player doesn’t control a friendly ship, but rather the virus itself.

The virus must swim through various parts of the body, slowly infecting organs as the N.A.S. (Nanobot Assembly System) attempts to stop its hostile advancement. The virus slowly loses health as it expends energy to move forward and when it receives damage, with health only being restored by destroying red globules.

The virus also does not move or attack in the traditional shmup fashion. Instead, it swims forward, dashing a bit at a time, with the player working to get the best rhythm to advance. Since the virus cannot shoot, it attacks by swimming past the target and slamming down on it from above.

The game features 6 levels with procedurally-generated layouts. There are a number of powerups along the way that will help the player to earn a higher score, move more quickly, or increase the infection rate.

l'Abbaye des Morts
In 2010, Locomalito released a game called l'Abbaye des Morts. The game is designed after classic ZX Spectrum games, with a limited 16-color palette and only one color per sprite, with negative space being transparent. Later, he redrew the graphics for a Megadrive port in development by Moonwatcher.

This short game was created in the span of a couple weeks and features a Cathar who is on the run from agents of the Catholic church who pursue him through each of the single-screen environments.

The game is primarily a platformer, with the player jumping over pits, hopping on platforms, collecting items, and avoiding enemies – such as rats and flying skulls – as he runs from the crusaders.

One of the developer’s more popular releases is Hydorah, a traditional horizontal shmup released in 2010. The title features gameplay reminiscent of shmups from the era of Gradius and R-Type, with numerous references to other shmups and sidescrolling action games of the time.

Unlike many of the developer’s smaller projects or experimental titles, this is a full-fledged shmup with 16 levels, 30 bosses, and dozens of unique enemies spread throughout the varied environments.

The game features primary and secondary weapons as well as a weapon selection screen for outfitting your ship. You can grab powerups within the levels to increase your overall weapon power and increase the speed of your ship, as well as collecting brand new weapons for use in later stages.

Primary weapons come in a number of flavors with thin lasers, wide sprays, and weapons that can shoot through solid objects. Backing this up are secondary weapons, such as air-to-ground bombs and mines.

The game also features branching paths, allowing the player to experience different levels – and different endings – on multiple playthroughs. Side paths feature challenging areas for more skilled players.

Earlier Development
Earlier in Locomalito’s development life, he created a number of simple titles, including Zneik, a variation on the classic game Snake; Blokanoid, a variation on Arkanoid; and Red Spheres, a variation on Lights Out. He even created a basic first person shooter called 8 Bit Killer, which used low-res NES-style graphics, harkening back to games like Wolfenstien 3D while mixing in the slow bullet dodging of NES-era run-and-gun titles like Contra and Commando.


minoru said...

He's now one of my favorite indie game developer thanks to this post!

AJ Johnson said...

Good to hear. We're always pleased when someone finds a new game or developer based on one of our articles, and Locomalito has a lot to offer.