Raven Travel Studios clearly has a lot of love for classic 16-bit platform games, but can its old school platform homage to Super Ghouls’n’Ghosts possibly live up to the source material or even stand up to the best among the current Switch library? Gods be with us.
The Kingdom of Dareca is about to fall to Emperor Zaraaima. Prince Kandar is having none of it, but before he becomes a problem, Zaraaima kidnaps his child and kills Kandar. However, the seven Gods take pity on Kandar and resurrect him from his tomb. After that whole cliché is done with, you find yourself in control of our newly-risen hero.
The game employs a classic two button layout: 'A' fires your weapon and 'B' jumps. No double-jump here sadly, it would be somewhat handy if there were. Kandar can take two hits before being killed, however, you can summon a tiny spirit (who serves as a firepower upgrade) when you’re down to your last health. And just like in Capcom’s classic, there are pick-ups spread across the game’s six levels. Most weapons are of the ranged variety that differ in power and trajectory and there is even a melee sword if you feel particularly daring. The other kind of pickups serve as armour. The first time you pick one up, you get some extra protection but the second armour power-up is the reason the game got its title.
When fully 'armoured up', if you press and hold 'A', seven icons will begin rotating, each representing the elemental of each of the Seven Gods. Release the button at the icon of your choosing and Kandar morphs into a powerful variant of himself and the chosen god, increasing immensely his firepower and adding an infinite, screen clearing charge-up magic attack. This is by far the most interesting aspect of the whole game as trying out all seven forms and their unique attacks offer plenty of diversity for you to discover.
However, this 'godsends' come at a price of pretty much everything else. Facing of any of the six bosses or even mid-level bosses in your regular, non-divine infused state is an actual chore. Since every level design is also influenced by old-school design (as in the hardcore, coin eating, frustrating variety) unless you start memorising every enemy location and the jumps needed to reach from start to finish, you will find yourself not really powered-up to the task ahead. Add limited lives and continues and even with difficulty levels, we can assure those six levels will turn into unending marathons of you struggling with your own patience and temper instead of the numerous enemies spread across them
The graphics are competent, perhaps slightly too close to the endless mobile games of past years with some rough animations. Music is also competent but nothing really memorable. Sadly, when it comes to gameplay, Kandar lacks any sort of weight sensation, making his jumps feel really floaty and unnatural to what you might expect from a plate-armoured human. True that many retro 2D platform game also used this approach, but we might have been spoiled with current generation offerings that excel on both weigh and character inertia of which there are none here.
Cast of the Seven Godsends is an old-school homage that sadly falls short of delivering a completing experience that lives up to the seven godsends mechanic. The six levels are extremely challenging (and a little unfair); bosses will blissfully bash you in merciless, over and over until you either somehow manage to reach them with Kandar fully-upgraded or get the dreaded 'Game Over' screen. Despite some potential, it's hard for us to recommend this game considering the plethora of superior 2D action platformer games already available on Switch. Perhaps the Gods should have better left Kandar rest in peace on his tomb instead of demanding such an infuriating quest of him (and you).