Classic arcade games like Galaga and Pacman are unique to modern games in a lot of ways. Beyond the obvious visual enhancements that come with decades of technological growth, modern games aren’t controlled by the same limitations as old arcade machines. Worlds can be more expansive, a larger variety of controls gives players more options, and, of course, there’s the fact that you couldn’t save on an arcade cabinet. Since the invention of the home console, developers have faced fewer of these limitations, mostly for the better, but we lost something along the way that those old games had. Independent Brazillian developer, Marcelo Barbosa, takes us back to our roots in Tcheco and the Castle of Lucio.
Tcheco and the Castle of Lucio is a classic, 8-bit arcade platformer. You play as Tcheco the Adventure Boy as you make your way through the rooms of a mysterious castle filled with dangerous creatures and traps. In each room, you must first locate a key before exiting through the door, but it’s never as simple as that. Monsters, traps, and puzzles make each of the 65 unique levels captivating and challenging.
Tcheco and the Castle of Lucio feature two distinct game modes. In Classic, you are given a set number of lives at the beginning of the game. Once those lives are used up, you start from the beginning of the game. In classic mode, the game doesn’t save, so the objective is to reach the highest level you can in one sitting without dying. Try Harder mode is quite a bit more accessible for those not looking for such a challenge. In Try Harder, you only have one life, but when you die you simply start at the beginning of that stage, as opposed to starting the whole game over. Furthermore, the game saves after each stage in Try Harder mode so you can leave and come back to where you left off at any point. These two game modes are designed to appeal to two very different types of gamers while still allowing both to experience the same gameplay however they prefer.
Tcheco features intuitive and tight platforming gameplay reminiscent of old arcade platformers. Tcheco can run and jump and there is no combat to speak of, but despite the very limited moveset (or perhaps because of it) Tcheco features tons of unique and fun levels each with their own style and design. Even as environmental mechanics are added throughout the game, like bombs and tools, they’re almost always intuitive so the player can learn them quickly without experiencing the frustration of an unfair death they didn’t see coming. Each stage takes up the entire screen so the player is never surprised by an enemy or trap they couldn’t see. This works really well with the semi-rogue-like nature of the game, reducing frustration and making the game feel fairer.
The style of Tcheco and the Castle of Lucio is clearly heavily inspired by classic arcade games. The music, sound, graphics, and gameplay all conjure memories of spending hours, and all my quarters, at the arcade on weekends as a kid just trying to beat my highest score. Each room in the castle is completely unique to the others, often having a specific theme like a pool or Frankenstein’s monster. These visually distinct areas serve to immediately remind the player of which level they’re on without having to spend too much time thinking about it. “Oh, this is the level with the terrifying floating head” you’ll likely say to yourself. “I remember how I beat this.” This is great because, while I certainly enjoy trying to reach the highest level I can on classic mode, I’m mostly interested in getting to levels I haven’t seen before, so the distinct level design makes it easy to quickly complete stages I’ve already been to.
One important feature of Tcheco is the need to memorize the levels as well as optimize your way through them. I couldn’t help but be reminded of my days playing Galaga and trying my best to memorize the patterns the ships came in while simultaneously planning out which enemies I would have to destroy first. Similarly, Tcheco requires that you memorize the level layouts while discovering the fastest, most effective ways to traverse said levels. Each level is very small so this is fairly easy, but it still offers some satisfaction as you master earlier levels and learn to complete them without losing any health at all.
Tcheco and the Castle of Lucio is an incredibly fun retro-style arcade platformer. It’s charming, humorous, easy to learn, and keeps providing engaging gameplay throughout all 65 stages. Tcheco focuses on just a few mechanics, but designs each level to make the most of the limited moveset. If you appreciate short, easy-to-learn games that can be picked up and put down at any time, or if you just miss the feeling of desperately trying to beat your old score before your mom came to pick you up, Tcheco and the Castle of Lucio is exactly what you’re looking for.