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Castles: Review

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Castles in an action style puzzle game set in a medieval world. Up to two players are given the task of building the highest tower in your kingdom by matching blocks and symbols just like other similar 'match three' style games. Castles doesn't just copy other games in this genre, it goes an extra few steps to make sure this is a unique style and a game to its own.

Castles has made the jump over to the Playstation 4, from PC and to start off, here's a rundown of the game features/modes playable in Castles:

  • Story Mode: With 50 levels which is playable in one or two player mode (local only)
  • Survival Mode: Where you play for as long as you can survive
  • Versus Mode: Local co-op for you to show your dominance
  • 5 bosses to beat
  • Day/Night/Weather cycles

The basic idea of Castles is to match three or more of the same block material, or three or more of the same symbol that appears on the top of these blocks. The first point of difference here from other similar styled games is that you don't get control of the blocks themselves, you control a cute little engineer person that you can move around the 5x5 grid based playing area. You can push and pull the blocks to arrange them in the desired combinations in order to progress in the game. 


On top of just pushing and pulling, your engineer can jump on top of the blocks to climb over them, or to move a single block when two are butting up against each other. There are power ups that you can collect when you place certain combinations of blocks together such as a hammer. This is a one use item that you can use to break a block that might be standing in your way. 

 So in the main story mode, you will find yourself moving blocks around to achieve level goals that are given to you on the screen like a quest log in an RPG game. The issue I found here is that the game doesn't do a very good job of explaining it to you. Simply pushing three or more blocks together over and over will essentially get you nowhere. The tutorial explains that there are objectives to complete but it gave me the impression that these were optional tasks.

So moving on through the story mode is where you will encounter bosses. This is something that I was definitely not expecting from a puzzle game like this one. Every time you progress ten levels in the game you will have to face a boss. The first one that appears is a mole like creature that digs its way through your tower and will put boulders in your way if you don't knock him on the head soon enough. So here's a spoiler for the first boss, the rest I will leave you to your own devices to work out. You will need to equip yourself with a hammer from breaking blocks and hit the mole boss over the head three times to beat him. Keep in mind, the game does not hold your hand and won't inform you of any of this. Actually, it's not even obvious that it's a boss fight that you're participating in.


Beware; this isn't a kid's game. I promise you that this game gets hard. It's doable, but it's pretty damn punishing when you're trying to get objectives done all while you're getting bombarded from above with blocks and other external influences.

Versus mode very much reminds me of the old school cable linked games of Tetris. The play area splits into two 5x5 grids where player one and player one will have their own separate grid to play in. The more objectives and blocks that you remove, the more that your opponent will get bombarded with blocks from above. Once one player gets stuck and their grid is filled completely, the other player wins. It's as simple as that. I very much doubt that you will lose a night by getting stuck into this, but it's good that there's a feature like this one included in the game.

Survival mode is also as simple as it sounds. You will just continuously play until the game eventually beats you. There's not really much to report on here. 

Before I finish up here, I have to make mention that there have been some significant issues with game crashes and hangs for me on the Playstation 4. The game is not long from release and no updates have been applied as yet, but I have encountered full game crashes which sent me back to the main screen of the Playstation 4, and I have also been left hanging on a load screen regardless of how many times I spammed the hell out of the controller. On top of the crashes and hangs, I have also experienced unusually long load times at different times in the game. They're not too bad, but for a small type of game like this I wouldn't expect load times that are similar to that of a game like The Witcher 3. The game has still been playable, but getting two crashes in the first hour of playing wasn't a good start. Hopefully there's an update/patch waiting around the corner.


If you're a fan of the odd puzzle game, this one will probably wet your whistle and with a price tag of $7.55AUS it's definitely well worth the money they're asking for. For me, the winner here is the addition of level bosses which isn't common among these games. The story mode will taunt you to the finish line, but the other modes will aid replayability for puzzle game enthusiasts. Castles is a cute looking game with graphics that more than meet my expectations for such a title. As far as indie games and puzzle gamers are concerned, this one is well crafted one with good additions to the normal expected game play.





Positives:
  • End of level bosses are a good addition
  • Bright colours with a sharp graphical aesthetic
  • A good number of game play modes to aid replay
Negatives:
  • Music mostly repeats over and over
  • Difficulty spikes are unhealthy for new controllers
  • Tutorial was lacking vital information
SCORE: 7 out of 10

Platforms: PC/Steam, Playstation 4
Genre: Action Puzzle
Initial Release: 29th June 2016
Developer: Whoot Games
Publisher: Badland Games

Lucas Aurelius
Aussie Gamers Express
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