With Halloween fast approaching there’s always the desire to whack on a horror film or boot up a scary film in a bid to get yourself hyped for the evening where people knock on your doors and ask for your previous sweets. This year I’ve been introduced to Hallowed Candy in order to get into the mood.
Hallowed Candy is a new Halloween themed platformer from Project Level Studios that screams retro from the second you boot it up into it’s 4:3 ratio glory. It then dumps you into a start screen that reminds me of those arcade classics. It is a free game and you can nab it over on Itch.io and get installing it and playing in a short amount of time.
No matter how many times I die the art feels more and more lovely to look at
While the controls for the game are listed on the Itch.io page there are no controls listed in-game, of course meaning if you jump in blind you’ll be trying to mash a bunch of buttons instead. Once familiar with the keyboard layout you may want to try the controller layout which has a gentle rumble to make each hit feel heavy, and a noticeable rumble to make every death feel more irritating. All in all, I prefer to play it with the keyboard simply because it feels more classic, complimenting the graphics and retro theme of the game.
Once the game starts you take control of a witch with a pumpkin head who attempts to get through the singular level to collect different types of giant candy that appears in various locations. It’s not an easy feat as undead beings rise from the ground —looking all flash in their attire while trying to eat her— and additionally, there’s a pesky bat that flies horizontally through the level. Thankfully this unnamed witch can fire ghosts at the enemies that are spawning in waves, rising up from various assigned spawn points to keep you on your toes.
The bat, however, can’t be killed, only dodged, with a slight warning in the form of its eyes emerging from the shadows giving you a second to plan your escape before it zips across the level.
The zombies during the start of Hallowed Candy are fairly easy to take down, and the longer you survive and get through more waves you’ll find yourself mashing the shoot button more and more as they start to require more hits to kill. The more kills mean more points, and more candy collected means bigger points gained from each delicious treat.
Soon enough a giant key appears after a certain number of waves have been successfully completed, and once collected the difficulty ramps up. A new HUD element appears indicating that there are two more keys to collect but the reason isn’t clear, with me growing more and more concerned that there was going to be some big boss arriving. Once I managed to grab all of the keys after hours of staring at the screen in concentration, and many failed attempts, I learnt that the keys make a giant chest appear, and at that moment you’re filthy stinking rich…with sweets. Get to the dentist.
eventually, you may find yourself —like me— throwing up a middle finger to your monitor…and I like that.
The catch of grabbing that huge chest is, of course, the difficulty skyrocketing. That pesky bat becomes faster than a rocket, and the zombies need even more hits to be killed, thus resulting in a torrent of ghosts leaving the witch as you fearfully tap that shoot button just to survive that little bit longer. The beauty of Hallowed Candy is in the addictive gameplay where you’re constantly trying to best yourself knowing you can do better if you hadn’t made a bad move previously.
Constantly being worried about dying is all down to the permadeath feature and the fact that you’re only allowed three lives. There are no health pickups throughout, so it really is a case of, “Don’t mess up” and all down to either your skill or just being unlucky. Obviously, with all this dying, it becomes bothersome and eventually, you may find yourself —like me— throwing up a middle finger to your monitor…and I like that.
No matter how many times I die the art feels more and more lovely to look at with its haunting themes of darkness and vibrant candy colours to brighten the mood a touch. The cute pixelated characters keep the game in line with the retro feeling as well as ensuring it’s cute and friendly, opening it up to both players that adore the classics, and those that love the modern difficulty.
The HUD is rather classic and also minimal, although the area that appears once you start collecting keys does eat into the screen a tiny bit. While not a huge problem it obscures some zombies that could be coming out of the ground on the bottom platform.
Seeing that dreaded game over screen looks overly simple and could do with some jazzing up, and the start game area lets you see your previous Hallowed Candy high score…but only from your current session. Previous sessions aren’t saved, so if you got 80,000 points one day, you won’t be reminded of that next time you jump on.
The sounds all flow together in an arcadey collection of beeps, and squeaks, and the music is upbeat enough that you can bop your head along while trying to hold back anger from dying for the sixteenth time. I was glad that there wasn’t a sound effect for every single jump —something you do a lot— because imagine having to listen to a jump sound effect every single time you jump…just like in the Sonic games.
The game has moments where it feels too hard, and sometimes there’s some rare issue where your wonderful witch faces the wrong way, but I’ve experienced this only a couple of times. However, for the first title from Project Level Studios, Hallowed Candy certainly feels like an indie treat. It’s worth grabbing to get you into the mood for Halloween, and it’ll give your numerous hours of fun before eventually becoming repetitive and possibly too hardcore, but it’s always there for a fun blast and may even be your new classic.
Developer: Project Level Studios
Publisher: Project Level Studios