Castillo: The Nine Circles key art

Castillo: The Nine Circles: A Wonderfully Weird Hidden Gem – Indie Spotlight

Castillo: The Nine Circles is an exceptional game in that I’ve never played anything like it. It has all the trappings of a boomer shooter coupled with the engrossing loop of a collect-a-thon. Yet, despite the familiarity of its gameplay mechanics, there’s an undeniably weird and wonderful charm to Castillo: The Nine Circles that makes it truly stand out. It’s a bizarre game and one I’m eager to experience more of.

The player exploring in Castillo: The Nine Circles
In-game screenshot

“It’s fair to say that Castillo: The Nine Circles’ narrative oozes with a delightfully Lynichian sense of style.”

Castillo: The Nine Circles puts you in the role of Dracula, who, naturally, makes a deal with the devil. After heading into hell, Dracula encounters a future version of himself, embued with all the evil energy he longs for. The future Dracula takes control of hell, and it’s up to you to put a stop to him.

It’s fair to say that Castillo: The Nine Circles’ narrative oozes with a delightfully Lynichian style, an almost illogical yet completely and utterly engrossing escapade into a world of genuine madness filled with colorful characters that feel instantaneously iconic. It gets progressively weirder, bolstered by the game’s surreal level design, with each new character introduced only adding to the fever dream.

The player getting a shard in Castillo: The Nine Circles
In-game screenshot

However, it never strays too far from the game’s almost cozy undertones, offering a warped, jazz-infused concoction of laughs and dreamlike wonder. That’s to say, Castillo: The Nine Circles’ narrative and characters are completely captivating, like a compelling dream you wish to return to time and time again.

“The visuals are an inspired blend of vaporware and pixel art, a gorgeous scattershot painting that exudes creativity and dreamlike surreality.”

Fortunately, Castillo: The Nine Circles’ gameplay is just as engaging. It blends together a fast-paced, frantic shooter with an endlessly enjoyable collect-a-thon, expertly connecting the two together through its excellent level design and rewarding unlocks. There’s a masterful pacing to Castillo owing mainly to its bountiful content that flitters seamlessly between Wolfenstein-style mini-games and gunning down hordes of adorable creatures.

There’s far more to it, with each challenge, mini-game, and hidden area rewarding you with the various collectibles. However, it nevertheless all serves to help create the overall satisfying gameplay loop that’s so intrinsically tied to exploration.

The hub world in Castillo: The Nine Circles
In-game screenshot

Of course, it would all fall apart if it weren’t for Castillo: The Nine Circles’ level design. Visually, it’s striking, with each of the titular Nine Circles of Hell having their own distinct and unique appearance. It’s an inspired blend of vaporware and pixel art, a gorgeous scattershot painting that exudes creativity and dreamlike surreality. However, it is their interconnected nature that is perhaps most impressive. Each level is vast, spanning multiple rooms, hidden areas, and mini-game arenas that all connect to create a cohesive space begging to be explored. There’s a genuine sense of wonder around every corner and a desire to see what secrets lay behind each locked gate.

“Whether you’re in the market for the next hidden gem or are after an FPS collect-a-thon, I have a feeling Castillo: The Nine Circles might just be for you.”

Of course, being an Indie Spotlight piece, I haven’t quite played all of Castillo. However, despite a few minor issues, such as overlapping music and dialogue not matching up to the subtitles, I’m extremely eager to play more. Castillo: The Nine Circles is a creative experience, one that should absolutely be played by more people. Its rewarding gameplay loop, killer soundtrack, gorgeous visuals, and bizarre narrative all coalesce to create something truly unique. Whether you’re in the market for the next hidden gem or are after an FPS collect-a-thon, I have a feeling Castillo: The Nine Circles might just be for you.

Castillo: The Nine Circles is available right now on Steam. You can pick it up for $9.99/£8.50, and there’s even a demo. Additionally, make sure to check out our Guide Hub for more indie game content.

Indie Spotlights are previews of indie games that have caught our eye. They’re more like a review-in-progress that allows us to cover more indie games than we might normally have time for.