Heidelberg 1693

A game by Andrade Games for PC, originally released in 2021.
Heidelberg 1693 is a sidescrolling actioner that takes place in 17th century Germany, during the period of the Nine Years’ War, which lasted from 1688-1697. But this is not a retelling of historical events; rather, supernatural elements are at play. The world has been overrun by gruesome creatures led by a master of dark magic known as the Moon King. You take on the role of a French musketeer who must travel to Germany and fight his through these dark forces using all of the weapons available to him, with a rapier and musket being his primary means of attack.
The game begins in the mountains of Odenwald and continues on to Eiterbach, Schönau, and Heiligenberg monastery, before crossing the Neckar river by way of the Alte Brücke (Old Bridge) to pass into the city of Heidelberg, and eventually reaching Heidelberg Castle for the final confrontation. Some of the game’s bosses are inspired by historical figures from the same period, such as Johann Wilhelm of France, who unfortunately finds himself transformed into a womanly tree creature. The Moon King also resurrects Johann Tserclaes, Count of Tilly, to stand as one of his generals. And the Moon King himself is acting in defiance of the Sun King, Louis XIV.
The musketeer has a 1x nonvariable jump, as well as a double jump that also acts as a spinning air attack. Strangely, this maneuver is executed either by attacking while in midair or by performing another jump while in midair. There is no standalone double jump disconnected from the aerial attack. Also, it’s possible to perform very high jumps by hitting multiple targets while in the air, but this is not required as any part of gameplay strategy. There is a delay after hitting the ground from a jump before the player is able to jump again, which slows the pace and makes the character somewhat less responsive. The player can also perform ledge grabs and pull himself up slowly, or drop down.
The musketeer has a 2-hit combo, which alternates between swinging his rapier and thrusting it forward, but there is no delay between combos so this is essentially an infinite repeating strike, which is handy since many later enemies require several hits to destroy. The player can perform a low strike while ducking, and can perform a powerful downward strike by pressing DOWN while in midair.
The rapier is the musketeer's primary weapon, and most combat is built around melee attacks, but being a musketeer, he expectedly carries a musket as well. The musket may be aimed to the left or right and at upward or downward angles, and it fires a single shot. Like a real musket, it must be manually reloaded after each shot, which takes several seconds, during which time, the player is unable to move and is vulnerable to attack. Ammo for the weapon is also limited, with single shots of ammo appearing occasionally as drops.
The slow reload and limited ammo makes the musket more of a strategic instrument, often employed to hit a distant target rather than risk damage by charging in with the rapier. The player must consider his limited stock of ammo and whether there is a safe area for him to reload. This is particularly true during boss encounters, as bosses are sometimes able to move out of reach of the player’s steel, leaving themselves open to a well-timed musket shot. The default musket fires a single shot, but there are also some special muskets to be found, including a 3-way shot and a monstrous-looking one that fires bouncing projectiles.
Finally, there are sub weapons in the form of a limited ammo gun that cannot be aimed, a throwing axe that works similarly to the one in Castlevania), and a throwing knife, all of which have a limited number of uses. There are some odd sub weapons that simply appear as balloons that float slowly upward, and these explode when hit by projectiles, damaging nearby enemies. On occasion, the player encounters locked doors which may only be unlocked with keys that are usually located close by.
The player begins the game with a single unit of health. Hearts are sometimes found in the environment, as drops from killed enemies, or as drops from slashing through the corpses of hanging citizens, which appear quite frequently and explode into sprays of blood when destroyed, adding to the darkly comic atmosphere. You can eventually have three hearts in your health meter, but it's still very much possible that you will meet a quick end, as basic enemy attacks remove one heart while strong attacks remove two.
When the player is killed, he returns to the most recent checkpoint with a single heart – which is at odds with the standard of restoring the player's health after being killed – so it’s possible to die again within seconds of respawning. The player occasionally encounters buxom women in need of rescue, which the musketeer kisses passionately, and this not only restores his health but grants him a maximum of four hearts. The women then burst into a spray of hearts having served their only purpose for existing.
The game employs a retro-style design philosophy in the way it treats contact with enemies. Namely, coming into contact with any enemy causes damage regardless of what action the enemy is performing. So, while an enemy soldier may be reloading his musket and appear harmless, touching him still causes damage to the player even though he has not been directly attacked. Often the player finds himself under attack from multiple enemies from different directions, with spawners generating enemies behind him, and many foes are able to fire projectiles, which can create some chaotic moments. However, watchful players can use this chaos to their advantage, as enemies can harm each other with their attacks.
Players must remain mindful of the various environmental factors at play, as well as each enemy’s behaviors and capabilities. Projectile-firing enemies are dangerous at a distance (and can maddeningly fire from just offscreen), but most of them cannot fire through solid objects, and they won’t stop firing even when it’s impossible for them to hit you. If there’s an enemy between you and your attacker, the enemy will absorb the shot and be killed. Loping undead creatures and hatchet-wielding nuns move slowly and attack when they get close, but they’re just as likely to attack each other or the enemy soldiers. Often you can perform crowd control by luring enemies into taking each other out.
There is one enemy in particular who requires careful attention, and that is the floating head of the Moon King himself, which has the ability to attack the player and other enemies, and it can bring killed enemies back to life, as long as a body remains. You can destroy bodies by delivering the death blow with your musket, or by shooting the bodies after they have fallen, which will prevent them from being revived. The floating head is invulnerable and it will spawn support enemies if it is attacked… even if it attacked by enemies. That said, the support enemies are monstrous blobs that float slowly toward you, and they’re easily destroyed – as long as you’re not overwhelmed by lots of onscreen action – and they can also be lured into striking other enemies.
Once a number of enemies have been destroyed, the head of the Moon King extends a set of swords and becomes extremely dangerous. It flies through walls and moves between targets, often slicing through enemies or stopping to resurrect a fallen foe (and then immediately killing it with its spinning swords), but the thing can also zip all the way across the screen in less than a second, making it impossible to avoid and leading to some cheap hits and unavoidable deaths.
Still, it’s possible to use the powers of this disembodied head to your advantage to slice through enemies and obstacles, and even the power of resurrection can help you, as this action is performed by dropping a blighted heart on the corpse of an enemy. If you position yourself under the head – and avoid taking damage in the process – it will drop the blighted heart onto you, allowing you to absorb a single hit of damage without draining your life bar, or take one hit of damage from an attack that would normally cause two.
The game features many detailed and grotesque creature designs that are covered in blood, veins, and viscera, while the decrepit environments are often strewn with macabre elements such as fleshy spikes, dead bodies, and torture devices. There even some one-off elements that add a bit of character to the game world, such as a strange creature that paces back and forth within a ramshackle cage, a floating human-powered barrel submarine, and a sickly green 4-headed goose.
The backgrounds are packed with detail, and you’ll often catch glimpses of things moving, or some creature running quickly before you can fully process what it is. Cities are burning and crumbling and littered with dead animals and people. There are even robed figures standing next to carts of dead bodies, and they’ll grab a body off the pile and throw it at you as if it were a weapon.
Boss battles feature similarly grotesque foes and offer quite a bit more challenge, particularly since many of them can move much more quickly than you, making it difficult to both dodge attacks and close ground and deliver attacks of your own. As such, boss encounters are very much trial and error affairs, with the player committing movement patterns to memory so he can pre-position himself to deliver one or more strikes and avoid the boss' sweeping fast movements or special attacks. The player is very much outmatched in each of these battles, and victories are hard won. Fortunately, checkpoints always appear immediately before boss battles and there are always hearts and musket ammo placed along the short path to the boss.
The action is fairly straightforward, with most levels being simple left-to-right affairs, but there are some levels that offer branching paths. There are occasional secrets to discover as well, such as platforms that only appear when struck by projectiles, and false walls that lead to hidden passages with sub weapon pickups and alternate routes through the level.
There is an aerial vehicle sequence in the back half of the game, but its inclusion adds little to the experience. The craft is extremely slow and unwieldy, and you only face off against five or six enemies before the level ends. There are more than 20 levels in all, although a few of them are only about 30 seconds in length, and not every level ends in a boss encounter.
Most levels end with a bit of narrative, and these are driven by excellent illustrations showing the various characters and landscapes. The game features some Baroque music from the era, as well as some moody synth tracks to accompany the crunches of bones and death screams of your fallen enemies. Visually, the game is quite grim, with death and destruction across every environment, all surrounded in an unending darkness. The tone is very much in line with classic games of the Castlevania or Ghosts ‘n Goblins series – and it offers a similarly high difficulty level – but it’s even darker and more macabre than those games were ever allowed to be.

Heidelberg 1693 was developed over the course of three years by Andrade Games, which is based in modern day monster-free Heidelberg, Germany. The studio is headed by Sebastian de Andrade, who was responsible for game design, art, programming, and production. The credits also include Prof Guido Kuehn for game design, art, and cutscene illustrations, Erzen Luboja for Baroque music, Philip Sturgill for game music, and narrative by Kevin Fayard. This is the developer’s third release, following SturmFront - The Mutant War and 1917 - The Alien Invasion.