Castles is an action puzzler that comes from Madrid developers WhootGames and indie games publisher Badland. In it, you control a munchkin-looking character, moving blocks around a 7×7 playfield to match three or more like colors or symbols (blocks only fall into the center 5×5 portion of the playfield). It should not be confused with The Castle Game, Castle Crashers, or any of the other castle games on the PlayStation Network. The game has some unique aspects to it that set it apart from other puzzle games currently available, but overall, it grows monotonous and a bit frustrating before long.
The most intriguing aspect of Castles is that you actually control a character who is walking around the grid, whereas most match-3 games pit you in the role of a disembodied white box (or even less). Your character can push blocks by walking into them, pull blocks by holding Square and walking backwards, and climb over them by holding X while approaching. There is a one-block long perimeter around the grid, allowing you to circumvent it and push/pull from the outsides. In that regard, it’s a breath of fresh air in an otherwise stale genre. In playing Castles, though, I feel like I’ve discovered the reason why most match-3 games omit this feature. Basically, it gets in the way. I understand how that could be an interesting gameplay modifier, running around like crazy trying to get blocks in order. However, the hindrance in controls took away from the experience more than it added to it. Even after getting a hang of the controls, I still found myself making mistakes – pulling or pushing the wrong row, having difficulty climbing over blocks, etc.
In the Story mode, the basic gameplay revolves around you trying to complete match-3 objectives. Once you match three white blocks, for example, the tower will grow one level and the objectives will change. Perhaps now you’ll have to match two sets of hammers and three sets of wooden blocks. As you flail around the top of the tower trying to complete these objectives, new blocks fall at a regular pace, repopulating the grid. There are some janky collisions that happen between the falling blocks and the player character. Oftentimes, falling block will crush you or whatever block you’re pushing, even if you were moving to an adjacent space. I understand why it happens, but all to often I would be trying to set something up only to have my block crushed by one that wasn’t nearly as useful. Add to this the fact that the pace of falling blocks quickens as you get higher and you have yourself a recipe for frustration. Currently, the only two obtainable powerups are a hammer that destroys a block (match four) and a stick of dynamite that destroys all adjacent blocks (match five). A sprint or a leap to the other side would have done wonders in relieving the aggravatingly slow mobility. Or maybe even the ability to cross a bridge on one side of the screen to Pac-Man over to the other side?
There is multiplayer in the form of cooperatively playing through the story or competitively duking it out against each other. Neither mode held my attention for too long, especially considering the other available multiplayer games currently installed on my PS4.
I’m not sure if a larger playfield would be a viable solution, but currently, the game feels cramped. While I truly appreciate the gameplay variety offered by the bosses, I had a frustrating time getting past them due to my inability to effectively move around the board. The three of four bosses I did beat before putting the game down seemed to be the result of tenacity (many, many restarts) and luck by way of good block drops. Some more variety in the game itself would have went a long way. For example, there could have been levels where you need to push certain blocks off of the castle or squash enemies with blocks or something – anything – other than the current monotony. I wanted so much to enjoy Castles. I was excited to play it with friends, but the bulk of our enjoyment playing together came from us repeatedly getting crushed or inadvertently screwing up each other’s plans. $4.99 is a cheap price, so if you’re at all interested, I’d say it’s worth the asking price. I would caution you from expecting a genuinely engaging experience, though.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes. For more info on our review policy click here.
What I Like:
- Multiplayer in story mode.
What I Dislike: