Castles, by Woot Games and Badland games, is a puzzle game: A difficult, unforgivingly challenging, puzzle game. But it doesn’t start off that way. The premise of the game is something you will probably forget soon after you start the game. It’s not very important to the game play and you won’t really have much time to think about it anyways. It does start with a Castle Crashers-esque animated story which is relatively charming. You are a worker for your King, who has decided he wanted to build the biggest castle in all the land. After he sends you to work on the structure, another King (possibly evil? They don’t really say…) decides to try and stop you. That is literally the whole story. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. You will not remember this game for its story because it is greatly overshadowed by its challenging gameplay.
The tutorial flies by, and while it gives you the basics, as a good tutorial should, it does not prepare you for what is about to come. To be honest, I kind of wish the tutorial was a little bit longer, and that’s saying something because I generally hate tutorials.
To be fair, puzzle games were never my strong suit (so please keep that in mind while reading as you might not find this game as challenging as I did.). I’m an adept Tetris player, and I love me some puzzle quest. Now take those games and ask yourselves, “I wonder what it would be like to move those falling pieces or gems with a human character instead of just a D pad??” Now imagine that those pieces are falling out of the sky in what I would describe as a “hailstorm of blocks.” If you do not move yourself or your blocks quick enough, they/you will be crushed. The good news is that you have infinite lives, but the bad news is you have limited board space. The more blocks fall, the less space, and the quicker they fall in the later levels means you need to be moving – and fast!
I’m getting ahead of myself though. Let’s start from the beginning. You start on a blank board, which will quickly start to fill up with falling tiles or blocks. There are multiple colors (red, green, white, gold and yellow) to start, with more coming as you progress. The blocks have images on them (ladder, pick axe, hammer, anvil). You will see a “to do” list on your side of the screen showing what you need to match to build your level of the castle you are building. As you progress up the castle, you will eventually reach a “boss fight” after the 10th floor is built. Fun Fact: If you lose your fight or even fail on the 10th floor, you get to start all the way back at your last checkpoint! Did I mention this game was challenging?
The first 10 levels move relatively quickly and are fairly easy. With the exception of two things: First, the yellow and white blocks are almost impossible to tell apart, which is not only frustrating, but also takes up precious time. Secondly, you need to be very careful with your movement, The blocks you are pushing move very easily. The slightest mistakes move and now your block is in a totally different part of the board. Sometime never to be able to get back to where it needs to be.
So, you’ve completed level 10, now what? BOSS FIGHT time! Your first Boss is a mole man, and the only way to defeat him is to unlock a hammer and hit him in the head just like “Whack a Mole.”
You unlock the hammer by connecting three of the hammer icons that he is inconveniently placing on your board. You still have falling tiles, so your board is filling up much faster. Reminder: Back to the beginning you go if you fail to beat him. Hooray!
All that being said, I hope you don’t read this as a negative review. This game is challenging in a good way. While it can be frustrating, I find that when I did hit that checkpoint, I had this great sense of accomplishment. There are 41 levels in total, and 1 end boss after that 41st level. It also offers a 2 player mode, a competitive mode, and a survival mode (for the masochists out there).
Overall, this game is a fun and challenging puzzler with charming animation and innovative gameplay. It is a “must play” for any puzzle fan out there.