Castle Of Heart is a Switch-exclusive, hack-'n'-slash platformer where you control a cursed knight under the spell of an evil sorcerer, features lush, dynamic environments and a variety of weapons to collect. Sounds intriguing, right? Well we were lucky enough to catch up with Polish developer 7Levels ahead of the game's upcoming release, and discussed everything from cultural influences to what it's like developing for Nintendo Switch. It;s even shared some previously unseen artwork. Enjoy!
Nintendo Life: Can you introduce yourself?
7Levels: Hi! We’re an indie developer from Cracow, Poland. We started out in 2014 and from the beginning we wanted to create games with Nintendo console fans with mind. So far, we’ve worked with both Polish and international developers and have been a part of a number of very interesting projects.
Congratulations on bringing Castle Of Heart to Nintendo Switch.
Thanks! Castle Of Heart was a big challenge for us, but also an opportunity to demonstrate our skills. We hope that many Switch users will enjoy playing it.
What is the team's background?
7Levels is a group of gaming enthusiasts, but also game industry professionals. Our team consists of experienced people, who have been present in the industry for around a decade. We have worked with mobile games, console games and PC games as well. But making games for Nintendo systems has been our goal since the beginning.
What games or works of popular culture influenced Castle Of Heart?
A large part of the team loved playing the classic platformer games back in the '90s – the games that were very dynamic, in which mastering each level brought immense satisfaction. Some of the titles from those years were part of the inspiration for Castle Of Heart. Nevertheless, our game is enriched by many innovative mechanics and high-quality 3D graphics – the things we thought were missing from the wave of the retro-style games that are popular today. We wanted to create something more mature, with a slightly darker atmosphere.
The game looks very dynamic in terms of character but also structurally. Are there any factors that change the levels?
We put a lot of focus on making the game dynamic and surprising the gamer enough from level to level, refreshing their investment in the gameplay with new mechanics, new kinds of weapons and more challenging enemies. It’s important to note that during furious combat sequences we can use not only the standard weapon range, but also a range of interactive environmental objects. We can approach each type of enemy with different strategies. Some will be easier to defeat in direct combat, some will die quickly if attacked with a ranged weapons, and it’s better to sneak up on others from behind.
You're a Polish developer - did your location influence the story or style of the game?
There are copious amounts of strange adventures of brave knights, frightening dragons and mystical places in Polish legends. It’d be a sin to not use them in our story. That’s why we made an effort to include some motifs connected with Slavic mythology in our game. In some parts of the game the settings are inspired by real locations in Poland and enemies, especially bosses, are based on the characters we can find in many old Slavic tales.
What inspired the main mechanic (the idea that the main character must always be on the move) and did it change over time?
The main mechanics were in fact not inspired by anything, it was our own original idea. The idea of crumbling knight came up in the very beginning of the development process, when we were creating the initial outline for the game. We’ve came to the conclusion that this very original mechanic will allow us not only to create an immensely memorable character, but will also make Castle of Heart have an even more dynamic title, which will be fun to replay all over again.
Is it integrated in to the story? If so how?
The stone knight is the leading part of the Castle Of Heart narrative. At the very beginning we learn about his story and about the person, who’s responsible for this horrific curse. One of the main goals for the player is to get the knight back to his human form. But the story is bit more complicated than it seems.
What is the balance between action and strategy?
Castle Of Heart is decidedly an action game. We have lots of dynamic combat and typical arcade sequences, inspired by classic platformers. Nevertheless, if you don’t choose a fitting strategy, you won’t make it far. The stone knight can develop, becoming stronger and stronger, using the right kind of weaponry and skillful usage of power-ups.
How did you implement new twists and gameplay elements into a classic genre?
We worked on combining the best features of classic platformers with new mechanics and high-quality graphics in such a way that the gamer won’t notice our efforts at first glance, but will get more fun from the gameplay nonetheless. We’ve utilized the possibilities offered by Switch, so the gameplay can be as immersive and as aesthetically pleasing as possible.
What influenced the decision to make it a Switch exclusive?
We’re massive fans of Nintendo consoles, which may seem a bit strange in Poland, where systems produced by this giant were never that popular. By focusing exclusively on Switch, we tried to please this particular groups of gamers, (which we belong to ourselves) and that gives us an advantage over the multiplatform titles.
How did your relationship with Nintendo start?
Castle Of Heart development started before Nintendo Switch was officially announced. At the prototype stage we met with Nintendo representatives several times. They liked the idea enough to allow us to publish the game for Switch. We’re in contact with Nintendo continually, we inform them about our progress and we continue to receive tremendous support from them.
What Nintendo games did you play growing up?
My adventure with Nintendo took off when I got SNES, bought from beyond the Western border. I can remember spending hours playing Super Mario World, Donkey Kong Country or The Legend Of Zelda: A Link To The Past. That’s how I’ve became a Nintendo fan and still am this day. If I had to choose one game that influenced my life the most, it’d be The Legend Of Zelda: Ocarina Of Time, without any doubt.
We would like to thank the team at 7Levels for taking the time to speak to us. You can play the Nintendo Switch-exclusive Castle Of Heart from 23rd March.