A once thriving kingdom has been lost. A lonely figure wanders through the halls of an abandoned castle wondering how so much ruin could have arisen. Not too many moons ago the castle was flourishing, and the king was celebrating his power alongside his queen. Once the stones of the castle seemed impregnable, but, sad mortality has oerswayed its power (that’s a little jot of Shakespeare for you, btw). Scourge, the villain, has lain waste to all. The king has been forced to abandon his son, leaving instructions so that one day a champion may rise and save the prince and the land that lays in ruin.
Welcome to the darkness of RealAxis Software’s Stained, a side-scrolling platformer bathed in tragedy. You play as a wraith-like character with a scythe (which, joy to the world, can be upgraded as you progress). He’s essentially death, and he finds himself in a world bathed in death. .. so, he should be right at home.
Stained has a wonderfully dark and morose atmosphere that sets it apart in its genre. As you begin you take hold of your grim-reaper character and smash stained glass windows open with your scythe in order to unleash the creatures that have been magically sealed in the glass. And with that you find yourself in combat, using ‘X’ to attack, and holding the same button to do a three-swipe combo which is useful for keeping enemies at bay. Should enemies get too close for comfort you’ll soon pay the price. A life bar (eloquently designed as a scythe) shows your health, and boy do you haemorrhage it after each hit. Should you die you’ll have the unenviable task of beginning a section over, which can become tiresome. Thankfully, you are able to recoup your lost blood by taking down enemies.
Puzzles add an extra dimension to the gameplay, with puzzles ranging from finding a way through blocked doors to traversing thorny pathways. An air of strategy permeates every stage too as deciding the best path to navigate around enemies is a key to success. All in all this adds up to an oceanic depth of gameplay which is truly impressive. A further puzzle comes in the way of collectible puzzle pieces which you can access via the menu. Putting the puzzle together unlocks an item, many of which are essential to your progression.
Stained is a polished and well executed game that offers plenty of innovations, making it stand out from the crowd. The storyline is exceptional. If it were a book it would be a “Page turner.” The combat is intuitive and exciting and there is excellent variety to the gameplay. While the lack of checkpoints can be bothersome and there is discernible lag in the controls, Stained remains a thoroughly captivating experience.