Ah, RPG Maker. How you tease me. Since I can code, I feel like RPG Maker is cheating. Then again, what is the point of reinventing the wheel. People have made pretty successful games with these “Maker” engines, and on top of that, people have released games. Something I've yet to do with my “”dream”” game of an RPG. So I always approach these games with a bit of jealousy. Why haven't I done it yet? And that clouds my experience. But it’s all in my head.
Helen’s Mysterious Castle was fun. It’s battle system is one-on-one. Your character versus the enemy. But each move, be it an attack, defense, or magical spell, has a time. And the same with all enemy moves. Making sure the timing is right so you take little damage and deal lots is important. Learning how the enemies will respond to the actions you take is important. It feels a little rock-paper-scissors in ways, but is much more complex. You can mess with some enemy AI, but I said some and maybe it’s all but I just couldn't figure it out. And that was part of the fun.
You control Helen a mute girl who can't even read, and go fight monsters. The plot develops in an interesting way. I’m not sure if I would say I “saw the twists coming” nor that they shocked me, but it wasn't bad. Care was taken to keep the necessary backtracking in the game to a small amount of annoyance. Plenty of pathways back to your main hub abounded. It gave the world of the game an intertwined feeling that made it all feel larger than it probably was.
Helen gains experience but it isn't used for her. Instead you use it to upgrade her weapons, shields and spells . At first this makes experience points feel like a tight resource, but by the end of the game they were abundant. This did make for an interesting mid-game because healing spells lose a level if Helen uses them outside of battle. An interesting little twist that made me watch my HP and try to heal during battle if it would benefit me.
Helen’s Mysterious Castle isn't exactly a long RPG, but its length is quite right. It felt challenging, but hardly ever too challenging. It was a fun little romp that I’ll probably never play again, but I’m glad I did.