Castles Review – Xbox One

I recently stepped into the world of Castles, a quaint little puzzler by Spanish developer Whootgames. Puzzle games are right up my alley so I jumped at the chance to give this game a whirl.

Story

Puzzle games rarely need a story. This one has one. A simple one. And this is a good thing. Puzzle games don’t need a complex narrative and few games can pull it off (Puzzle Quest comes to mind). The story of this game: King So’n’So wants a tall tower built in his honor but the evil king Blah’d’Blah has other plans. Begin game. The story works and the cutscenes are skippable so that all you can ask. Story 10/10

Gameplay

Castles uses a simple 5x5 grid to conduct your puzzlings...

Castles uses a simple 5×5 grid to conduct your puzzlings…

I wanted this game to be good but unfortunately this is where the game falls down completely. Simply you have a 5×5 grid on top of a tower with a one block width border surrounding it. Blocks fall down one by one onto the grid and your character has to push them into position in order to remove them. Remove your quota of blocks and the tower rises one level. Rinse and repeat. Blocks are any one of five different colours and have any one of four white symbols on them. This makes the game kinda play like Uno meets a match three because you can match any three blocks in a row based on their colour or symbol. Sounds fun and simple right? Well at first it is. Blocks fall down at a manageable pace, and you have time to think about your moves and navigate your little man around the board to push the blocks. More often than not though my little dude would over run the position i was directing him to which is highly frustrating when you are under the pressure of time. Everything was going fine and dandy until i met a certain boss. The difficulty went from a 5 to a 10 in one level! This boss pushes your blocks to one side, drops four in quick succession all while blocks are falling at a steady rate. I couldn’t get any further in the game and was ready to throw my controller out the window!

I noticed that the game had a co-op mode and a versus mode so I got a mate over to have a crack at it. Would you believe it, the controls for player two were completely non-responsive excepting the start button. He couldn’t move his character, couldn’t jump or do anything. We restarted the game and even the console to rule out some sort of glitch but nope the game simply does not work! I understand that this game was made by indie developers but that is a major bug and nothing short of a cardinal sin to still have present in your code after release.

Overall we though that the gameplay could be massively improved if we removed the builder character completely and just used a cursor or some other indicator to slide tiles areound and manipulate the board. This would be quicker and make the controls far more accurate. We just feel this game could have been a lot better if it was thought through a bit more. Gameplay 3/10

Visuals

Visuals are important in puzzle games because quite often they form a part of the game mechanic. Castles is no exception. The colour of the blocks and the shape of the symbols on them determine what can be matched. When the pressure starts to build i find myself reverting to only matching blocks by colour. The problem is all of the symbols are white. Only one symbol stands out which is the anvil. The other three symbols, the hammer, the spade and the pick axe are are diagonally orientated the same way and are roughly the same size. When you are trying to analyse a board in a split second you haven’t a hope or prayer to be able to distinguish them. The visual theme of the game however is well suited to the style of game they were trying to create. The family friendly theme goes well with the fact that the game is simple enough for kids to pick up and play. Visuals 5/10.

When scanning the board in a split second, symbols in the same colour and orientation all look the same

When scanning the board in a split second, symbols in the same colour and orientation all look the same.

Audio

There was nothing in this game that stood out as being overly horrible about the audio. But at the same time there was nothing in this game that stood out as being catchy or overly pleasing. The audio was just, there. Plainly appropriate. Nothing much else to say. Audio 7/10.

Replayability

Nope. Just nope. It frustrated me too much. It was broken. I just won’t be going back to this one, which is a shame. Hopefully this title will be a massive learning curve for their next outing. Replayability 0/10.

If you’re one of those people who thrive off of a frustrating challenge then this might be the game for you, but there were a fair few too many shortcomings for me to be able to get over on this one. Castles is available now on the Xbox One store, the Playstation Store and Steam.

SUMMARY: If you’re one of those people who thrive off of a frustrating challenge then this might be the game for you, but there were a fair few too many shortcomings for me to be able to get over on this one.

 

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