There are plenty of puzzle games on the market, but not many feature fire-breathing enemies and a hoard of booby traps to overcome. As developers try to find a balance to create puzzle games that both fans of the genre and casual gamers can enjoy, Mystery Castle reverts to conventional methods. Developer Runestone Games creates an easy-to-play yet difficult to master puzzle title that is sure to exercise your brain.
Taking elements from older puzzle titles like Tetris and Devil Dice, the game requirements minimal buttons but maximum thinking. In terms of control, this is also a flaw, as you will often feel helpless with the lack of tools available. It is up to the player to put their wits to the test to overcome the obstacles of the mystery castles.
The protagonist of the game is Monty, a Wizard summoned by different occupants of castles to retrieve recapture their property. There are a total of 180 puzzles that grow painstakingly harder with each turn. Monty is a wizard strictly in name and costume, as he possesses no special abilities or talents. The only ability he possesses is to push objects like boxes and bombs, which is unfortunate because there are plenty of times you will be stuck wishing you could pull.
Each level requires the player to retrieve the five jewels scattered on the board, which unlock the gate to complete the stage. Jewels are hidden behind doors, surrounded by enemies and dangerous pitfalls. Levels cannot be completed without all five jewels, so players must be crafty with utilizing the tools given on each board to capture each jewel. Early in the game, obstacles like the abyss and lava are your only worries, but dangerous enemies soon come into play. The problem with these creatures is they simple kill you by touching them. There is no special animation to show the damage inflicted, which is rather disappointing.
Despite the cutesy look of the game, it would be rather difficult for a child to complete without some assistance. There are no help indicators on the screen aside from the occasional tip from the character in which you are helping. Each character you come across has fresh dialogue that can be rather funny. The humor can be a tad mature, but it is enjoyable enough to keep you interested in the story of the game.
The game’s graphics aren’t anything impressive, resembling a Nintendo 64 title rather than next-gen. The board layout is the real draw, with different twists and turns that keep you guessing. Just when you think the gameplay is getting stale, a new twist throws you for a loop. In the middle of the first level, you are given a lantern to illuminate the board in order to grab the jewels, and it’s up to the player to maneuver through the board to find a way out.
There are no immediate rewards for completing levels aside from the satisfaction of edging closer to the finish. There are no alternate costumes or power-ups, or combat moves to fend off enemies. Some levels of the game are simple, while others are meticulous enough to push you to the point of quitting. Special attention must be paid on each board, especially when moving boxes and objects. The slightest flick of the analog can push a box in the wrong position, forcing you to start over. Despite the difficulty, beating each stage feels rewarding. Despite the large number of puzzles, the content is fresh as the scenery and enemies change as you delve deeper.
Mystery Castle is all about correcting your mistakes, forcing the player pay attention to detail to get the full satisfaction of completing a level. Surely some will watch a walkthrough on Youtube to speed through the game, but it’s euphoric to finally beat a level that you have constantly failed.
The game will often throw a wrench in a level by giving the illusion that there aren’t enough tools necessary to complete the mission. On the other hand, some levels will scatter unnecessary tools that can help entrap you if you stray from your course. Character control is more of an issue than the actual board at times, as Monty will often move too fast in an area and fall to his death.
The biggest issue of the game is not the gameplay or graphics, but rather the level screen. After completing a level, you are taking back to the mission select screen, with the mission you just completed highlighted. This will constantly force you to head back to the level you just completed by accidentally pressing the A button multiple times. Levels do not automatically advance, which can be a tad bothersome.
Mystery Castle is a fun puzzle title that anyone can pick up and play. It’s also available for PC & Mac and with 180 levels, there is more than enough gameplay to keep you interested and the quirkiness of the levels stays unpredictable. At £8 / $10, you are getting more than enough bang for your buck.
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