Thanks to Elden Pixels for the review code
System: Nintendo Switch (eShop)
Release Date: 02/18/2021
In this metroidvania adventure, you take control of a knight who was awakened with no memory of anything, nor any ability to communicate. Thus, you explore a strange world to uncover the troubles surrounding it and bring peace to this land!
One look at the game, and you can probably guess the drill Cathedral is going for: an NES-style throwback in the vein of Shovel Knight, joining the many, many other games that try the same exact style. Thus, I’m sad to say that Cathedral doesn’t really have much helping it stand out, since the pixel art is good, but nothing mindblowing, and the music is incredibly generic chiptune stuff that’s forgettable at best.
On the plus side, the UI is easy to use for map navigation and options, the animations are done rather nicely and there’s even some quirky cameos to Alwa’s Awakening in here. Still, at the end of the day this game follows a done-to-death trend, and doesn’t manage to exceed and go above and beyond like its Alwa brothers, which is disappointing to see.
Cathedral is pretty simple and follows the general metroidvania formula you’ve seen done time and time again: going all around an interconnected map, using new upgrades and weapons to open up paths to other areas in order to defeat bosses to progress in the game, pretty much your usual Metroidvania romp.
You have a basic attack and a downward thrust to start with, and they get the job done as you’d expect them to, but one of the big things you’ll notice right off the bat is the sheer amount of coins dropped in this game, from defeated enemies to the crazy amount of treasure chests scattered around the world of Cathedral. You won’t be maxing out currency right away or anything, but it definitely does leave a big mark as coins are everywhere. Said coins can then be used to buy upgrades for your knight in the town, which can range from helping your subweapons, improving your armor or other such benefits.
This sounds like a commonplace shop setup, and while it mostly is, the secret to the abundance of coins comes from how they’re tied to every aspect of your death, for upon dying, you get sent back to the last checkpoint, per the norm, but your progress isn’t reset. This means if you made it really far from a checkpoint and mapped out a bunch of stuff, that progress will still be made. But what you lose in return, is a good percentage of your gold, meaning that continual deaths will shred through your allowance like no tomorrow, with no way to get it back besides going after more gold.
Thus, the risk and reward factor is a strong element of Cathedral, since you could be careless and take advantage of the game’s more open-ended areas to access optional routes and upgrades super early, at the risk of higher challenge due to the sequence break, or you could play it safe and stick to the beaten path and save as much as possible to afford every upgrade in town as soon as you can.
Of course, the town upgrades aren’t the only ones you’ll be getting, since the game is still linear in general progression, with new items and subweapons being obtained that let you access new areas to progress the main plot; but the fact that there are plenty of optional cool stuff, such as expanded ammo, extra potions and the aforementioned sequence breaks that the game deliberately allows if you get really crafty, is just really fun overall, even if this is pretty much all Cathedral does that makes it even remotely stand out. The controls are solid, the level design is solid, and collecting is fun enough, even if I do feel that the amount of gold chests are excessive, and the bosses are really fun too, though sometimes they can be really easy to cheese. Still, paint-by-numbers isn’t a bad thing, if the paint-by-numbers routine is a really good one: and thankfully, Metroidvanias are just that.
In conclusion, Cathedral is a pretty solid metroidvania, if a bit too paint-by-numbers for my liking. The combat is solid and exploring areas is just as fun as these games always are, but there’s quite a bit of missing polish here and constantly collecting gold just doesn’t offer the satisfaction that it should for a game like this, and when gold is everywhere, that does lead to an empty feeling.
It’s still fun to find hidden upgrades and access new areas, especially out of order, and overall this remains an enjoyable experience I aim to 100% someday in my free time, but if you were hoping for something as charming or well-crafted as the Alwa games, I’m sad to say you won’t get that here, but rather a simple and fun metroidvania that’s just a bit rough around the edges, yet still very enjoyable for fans of the genre.
I give Cathedral a 7 out of 10.