4.0 out of 5


  • NES nostalgia
  • Extra modes
  • Character choices
  • Soundtrack


  • Cheap deaths
  • No two-player option

Switch, PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X, Xbox One, PC
PID Games
Squidbit Works
Action, Arcade, Platform
File Size (Minimum)
Release Date (NA)
Feb 14, 2024

Lords of Exile is a hidden gem of an indie game that’s worth your time. The game is inspired by Castlevania on the original Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). From the limited color scheme to the gameplay mechanics, it feels like a successor to the popular action-platformer.

A Story of Revenge

Lords of Exile - Screenshot

During ancient times, the lands of Exilia were overrun by creatures of the night and Far East figures such as samurais, all ruled by Galagar. The only one determined to stop them is Gabriel, a bloodthirsty cursed knight looking for revenge after his beloved was killed by Galagar.

The plot is introduced through pixel art style cutscenes before the game’s menu screen appears. Hitting all the right retro buttons, it feels just like watching the opening of Ninja Gaiden on the NES in the ‘80s. The game doesn’t go into much detail afterwards, focusing instead on the gameplay.

Castlevania 2024

Lords of Exile - Screenshot

If Castlevania was released as an 8-bit side-scrolling action platformer today, it would be Lords of Exile. The 8-bit style graphics, the limited colors, and the game level map all combine to make it feel like you’re playing a Castlevania spin-off game.

Level designs are reminiscent of playing on the NES console but in high-definition and with smoother frame rates. The background animations and movement in general feel more animated. Your main character is designed in orange-themed pixels, much like Simon in Castlevania. If you were to put Lords of Exile and Castlevania side-by-side, they would look and play almost exactly the same. If the goal of developer Squidbit Works was to make a replica of the classic title, they pulled it off.

In addition, playing on the go and on a smaller screen with the Nintendo Switch undocked, the PlayStation Portal, or the Steam Deck feels just as great.

Yin and Yang

Lords of Exile - Screenshot

Those who remember playing Castlevania or other NES games will remember the cheap deaths. Fail to make precise jumps over pits? Death. Make the jump but were hit by an enemy, causing you to get knocked back into those pits? Death. You know the routine. On top of that, your character can’t run, which makes for more challenging moments when jumping from one floating platform to the next. Those moments are frustrating, and Squidbit Works deliberately kept that in Lords of Exile, making it more like a retro game. Fortunately, there’s some light at the end of the tunnel. For example, one of the power-up abilities your character receives is a double-jump. It’s a very handy technique to get around some of those cheap deaths.

If you die while adventuring, you restart from the area, not the beginning of the stage. If you quit and return, you’ll have to restart the whole level. However, any gold you earned is still kept. Honestly, the replay value of this platformer makes it difficult to put down. Once you’re in the groove, you don’t want to stop playing, making it an excellent weekend game to pick up.

Once you complete the game, more opportunities open up. For example, Boss Rush Mode, Speedrunner Mode, and a new playable character, Lyria, a female ninja, are unlocked after your first playthrough. Lyria has her own abilities that differ from Gabriel such as throwing an infinite amount of projectiles at enemies. It’s really fun to play the game with her. With two characters to choose from, one would have the impression that the game offers two-player action, but it doesn’t, unfortunately. Even if it was as simple as allowing players to take turns like how Super Mario Bros. on the NES was played, it would bring enjoyment to more people.

Take No Prisoners

Lords of Exile - Screenshot

You’ll travel through eight levels before confronting the final boss. Each boss has their own attack pattern, and it’s easy to figure out. After defeating each boss, you learn a new technique to make your character more powerful. Additionally, the game offers your character a unique ability known as the Katsu Shadow, a floating half-body figure that follows you from behind. Your shadow friend can unleash waves from its sword to take down special walls. To activate your ally, your curse gauge needs to be filled, which is done automatically over time. Alternatively, you can unleash an attack with a separate button on your controller, but each attack drains your curse gauge. Once gone, your ally disappears until the bar fills again to be activated once more.

Additionally, you can pick up a stack of weapons such as knives and scythes. These make for handy long-range attacks, but they come with a limited quantity. If you have a weapon and pick up a new one, your original is replaced. Out of all the weapons tested, the bombs feel the worst set because they take a few seconds to detonate whereas other weapons kill immediately.You also have an inventory, which grows after defeating one of the game’s bosses. It’s overall a good arsenal for whatever Galagar throws at you.

A Vengeful Track

The soundtrack of Lords of Exile hits the right gears to make it feel more like an 8-bit game. Each score is done in chiptune, and provides an upbeat tempo for your exploration and for the boss fights in each level. A soundtrack for the game alone isn’t available yet and really needs to be.

Final Vengeance

Lords of Exile is a blast of the past and feels like a spiritual successor to the original Castlevania. It looks and plays like the popular title, including those cheap knock-back deaths. It’s another hidden gem you’ll want to pick up. Draw your blade and take revenge!

A PlayStation 4 code provided for this review and gameplay footage.

Lords of Exile - Gameplay Footage (PS5)

About Seth Hay - Editor-in-chief / Webmaster

When Seth is not designing or developing, he spends time with his family and his occasional dose of anime, sports and video games.

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