Good day, and welcome to my review of Hazelnut Bastille! When I first saw the name, images of hazelnuts covering a big ass fort filled my (as of yet un-diagnosed but most likely mentally compromised) mind. I immediately craved a latte. I felt like sieging something. I had to know what this game was about. Now this may come as a surprise but… as it turns out, none of the images Hazelnut Bastille conjured have anything to do with the game, and I’m just special in the head. Luckily none of this came as shock, and I jumped into the game’s demo.
The game, created by Aloft Studios, is a beautiful homage the classic 16-bit games from the 90’s. I’m not going to lie, it look me longer than it should have to figure out the controls. I was able to move around with WASD as normal, but learned my mouse was useless and that I’d be using my keyboard exclusively while making my way through the game. Still, I was having some issues figuring out what to use for attacks, so into keybinds I went (after clicking the majority of my keyboard to find how to bring up the menu). There may have been a small episode involving the accidental binding of said menu to an unknown key… which may or may not have ended messing me up for a while until I figured out how to change it from the launch window… but let’s not talk about that.
As mentioned earlier, one of the things I was most intrigued about was the name, as it seemed a bit random and there was no mention of it anywhere on the website. Luckily I was able to track down an interview the devs did with IndieWatch.Net, where they explain that “The two words which make [the title] up have a strong internal tension between them, which sort of begs to be explained over the course of the game. This tensions springs from the incongruities and contradictions which are present in our world and the characters that inhabit it. It is sort of a “trouble in paradise” situation! We present an idyllic world, which should be a place far removed from cares and worries, but we meet this place at its worst hour. Et in Arcadia, Ego! Even in Arcadia I (death) am there! The loose reference to the French Bastille as a general fortress is reading one of the term, but there also happens to be a strong reference to the historical event surrounding this place present in the story!
For me combat is the major selling point in any game. It could be visually beautiful, have amazing voice acting, boast the best crafting system around, having mind-blowing raids or other great things that people look for and enjoy… but if the combat is crap, then the game is dead to me. The main issue for me in the game was the lack of range. There are arrows that you can shoot enemies with, but when it comes to melee attacks you will almost always end up being hit, as you can’t attack and move it the same time; whereas mobs will continue moving toward you occasionally even while they’re being hacked at. Still, it’s a small complaint, as once you’re used to the controls and your arsenal of skills, you can plan ahead a bit more effectively. I won’t say that Hazelnut Bastille presents anything spectacular in this field, but I do think they used it effectively enough to where it’s not going to ruin anyone’s enjoyment of the game.
Graphics and Sound
Obviously, as this is 16-bit game, you’re not going to be getting BDO-quality graphics; but it’s not trying to be that game, and the pixel art is still beautiful. Part of the charm of Hazelnut Bastille is the Zelda-like design of the levels and environment. For many of us, it brings us back to a time when things were simpler. That golden age of playing Super Metroid on the SNES and Pokemon on the Gameboy. I mean… it may have also brought back lingering flashes of panic from when I “borrowed” my older brother’s Gameboy Color to take on a school trip, which was then briefly stolen by one of my dirty thieving classmates. But no more about my traumatic childhood…
The soundtrack similarly invokes the same familiarity and nostalgia. Aloft Studio’s website says in regards to the game’s composer, Shannon Mason, that she “managed to create a sound which is a direct continuation of the lineage of the great 16-bit soundtracks, rather than just an imitation of them.” You can tell this is the case whilst making your way through the dungeon featured in the game’s demo. I felt like my fingers should once again be on the small buttons of the Nintendo or Gameboy controllers while hiding from my brothers.
Again, since all I am reviewing the demo, the overarching story is something that wasn’t readily apparent just from the gameplay. However, the website describes it as such: “…the story of a young woman who travels to a foreign shore on the outskirts of her world, in order to seek out the promised gifts of mythological ancients, in hopes of retrieving something which was lost to her. On the way, her story becomes irrevocably intertwined with the lives of those living in this far off land.
It’s true, Hazelnut Bastille is without doubt going to be a lot easier for someone using a controller over a keyboard, but don’t let that dissuade you, as your chances of being on my level of silliness is extremely unlikely. The game features some nice puzzles that require strategy and observation. If you’re a 90’s kid like myself, it’s worth it just for the nostalgia. Overall it’s smooth, beautiful, and a nice challenging little game. You can tell it’s a labor of love for the team at Aloft. The game is set to launch in early 2018, so mark your calendars and key up to date with their progress on social media!
For more information on Hazelnut Bastille, visit the game’s website below: