Cathedral Switch Review: Here’s A Church, There’s A Cathedral

A super hard, but doable, retro platformer, this Cathedral Switch review has a forgettable story, but memorable gameplay.

Cathedral, you saucy minx. You lure me into your abode with false promises that I have slayed the day, only to indicate that my progress was a mere fart in the wind. Here’s a Cathedral Switch review.

A retro-inspired Metroidvania, you play an anti-sociable knight, much like the one writing this, in a quest to escape said building. It’s an 8-bit aesthetic with simple, yes super slick controls, and quite frankly, it’s a bastard.

Foolishly, I started a game in the early hours of the morning to ‘try it out’, intending to play it properly the next day. Within next to no time, I’d defeated two guardians and covered about 70% of the cathedral. Easy. Or so I thought.

Cathedral Switch Review

Deep into the cathedral, my knight was soon dusting themselves off after an altercation with a spirit. I was no longer inside, and out in the wild. The game had fiendishly opened up an expansive world packed with numerous zones, featuring plenty of secrets to find.

An overlay map will show in the top right corner of the screen, then switch over to the menu; you will see how much of the zone you have covered and thus the entire game: 5%. That’s how much I had achieved at that point. Bugger.

Cathedral on Switch this month
Source: Nintendo

Under the illusion I was acing the game without a single death, the difficulty ramped up to borderline insanity in places. But do you know what? It’s doable. One of the challenges with Cathedral is being precise, read: perfect, and as a result, it can be an infuriating experience.

When you do complete a section, you’ll perform a victory roar, making sure everyone in the vicinity knows that you’re the boss. Christ, this was hard. Aside from having family members walking past the TV every five seconds, I was ready to explode. But when getting past a troublesome area, it was almost euphoric.

Getting Knocked Back

Under the illusion I was acing the game without a single death, the difficulty ramped up to borderline insanity in places.

Thinking back to the promo material in preparation for this Cathedral Switch review, I recall 600 rooms in the game. I’d say half of those are relentless, if not more. The biggest concern with the game isn’t the controls, but in my experience, the knockback.

If an enemy hits you, it will knock you off a ledge. Kill the enemy but get pushed back to another screen, and you have to return to the same area, only they’ve now respawned. Even worse, the flying enemies fly through platforms, making it nigh on impossible to kill them without manoeuvring around them.

The knight in the game comes equipped with a sword, and a ranged weapon called the Magnus Apparatus, or something. Besides being useful for picking off enemies, it’s essential for triggering orb-like switches that release timed platforms.

Alas, the sword attack applies to whatever is next to you, though you can jump in the air and execute a diving attack. This doubles up at chipping away at blocks, revealing some sneaky locations. You tricksters, Decemberborn Interactive! Regardless of your skills, that knockback is a bitch.

Platform King, Not Knight

Shaking the controls, the grinding of teeth and necking back a barrel of diesel could not mute the agony of some of these deaths. Still, in defence of this horrible, horrible mechanic, Cathedral has some of the tightest platforming controls.

Cathedral Switch Review - Prick
More than one prick. Source: PR

Going back to this thing about being precise, sometimes there’s no leeway for error and you not only have to beat the timing of switches going off and deteriorating platforms, but executing a jump where you don’t end up bouncing into one of these scoundrels.

Still, jumping and landing are so precise. Given free reign without the distractions, you could easily ‘do a Neo’ and effortlessly hop along ledges like child play. The only caveat is you must concentrate. Add all the hazards and enemies, and you can see why so many people don’t go to church… er cathedral. It’s hazardous to your health. 

The game’s art style and sadism did remind me of Jump King a little, only Cathedral gameplay is much more consistent and rewards you with your progress. Each area has several checkpoints to trigger, then there will be doorways to teleport through once you get further.

Gimme The Loot, Gimme The Loot

…the key thing to take away is this: Cathedral is a ginormous platform adventure.

No game from the genre would be complete without a few perks, and during this Cathedral Switch review experience, it had a fair share. For every kill and destroyed inanimate object, you’ll receive some loot that you can use for upgrades, though be warned that you lose a percentage of it with each death.

To counter this, you can tuck it away in the trustworthy banks. In each town, there is a place you can stash a portion of your earnings for safekeeping. This is essential for saving up for some of the more expensive things like armour buffs. 

You’ll also get charms that are equipable at shrines that give you bonuses such as controlling the Soul who has an uncanny resemblance to Orko from He-Man. There’s demography for you. But the bottom line is while you get all these extras, the key thing to take away is this: Cathedral is a ginormous platform adventure.

Enemies don’t take many hits if you can time it right, but if they clobber you, regardless of how weak they may appear, they hit like a truck filled with shot puts. The key thing is to avoid them with your jumps, more than anything. Oh, you’ll also need to find the checkpoints as swiftly as possible – and don’t forget to squirrel away some pennies for a rainy day.

Tough But Fair?

While Cathedral can be an incredibly satisfying game when you get it right, it’s equally challenging, and there will be times why you question why you’re even playing it. Is it a game you’ll return to? Not sure. As it’s such a big game and a linear experience, it’s not something you can drop back in on for a casual game.

Cathedral Switch Review - Eye
Giving me the eye. Source: PR

That said, you’ll get your money’s worth, and enough incentive to start a subscription with Regaine/Rogaine when you’ve extracted the remaining locks that you have left. If any. Do note that aside from the frustrating knockbacks, the bosses are a pain too, often taking 18,000 hits until they show a dent.

Still, these same bosses have a pattern of attack, and if you take heed of those breathing techniques they all tell you about, you can be the boss with a little perseverance. It’s a matter of time for when you’re calm enough to retry.

Cathedral Review Summary

Cathedral has got to be one of the most satisfying Metroidvania type games out there. The difficulty can feel utterly unfair at times, but finally finishing a section that troubles you is much more rewarding than unlocking a skin or new badge.