Put bluntly, Castles is a cutesy puzzle game about making matches of 3-5 blocks either alone or with a partner in order to create the tallest tower possible. To be fair, there isn’t a whole lot more to the game because even the extra modes follow the same rules as the story mode. This isn’t a bad thing per se, but it does mean that players will really have to like the semi-simplistic gameplay in order to continue enjoying the game after the first couple play sessions.
Regardless of whether a player enjoys the gameplay, it is hard to deny that the game has a unique and adorable art style that is easy on the eyes. With everything in the game being sharply defined and very brightly colored, the sights of the game are always wonderful to look at. Coupled with a happy, upbeat tune that speeds up as the player progresses through the various levels, Castles certainly captures a light-hearted feeling that bleeds into the gameplay it offers. Players are asked to use a little character to push and pull blocks around the top of a tower. Most of the individual gameplay aspects work fine, but moving around feels rather floaty and has caused me to lose a few times.
By making the gameplay simple and accessible, Castles allows anybody to pick up the game and start playing. While this is great and everything, it does not tell anything about how hectic the game will get very shortly after starting the story mode. Earlier I said the gameplay consists of making matches of 3-5 blocks. While this makes up most of the gameplay, it does not explain why the game can become hectic without warning. Working on a 5 by 5 board, players can either make matches with blocks of the same color and/or blocks with the same tools on them. For example, if a player had the blocks available in the top screenshot, that player could hypothetically make a match with the yellow, orange, or red blocks while also having the opportunity to make matches with either the 3 ladder blocks or the 4 shovel blocks. While having all these options is quite nice, it also serves to confuse the player when more and more colors/tools are introduced or when the player reaches the story stages that drop these blocks faster and faster.
The story mode asks players to create certain matches in order to continue on to the next stage. This can be managed nicely when a player matches 4 or even 5 blocks of the necessary type. After so many of these stages, players will face a boss using these match mechanics. For reference, if a stage asks for 1 match with pickaxe blocks, a player only needs to match 3 pickaxe blocks to complete the objective. On the flip side, if a stages asks for 3 matches with red blocks, a player could match 4 red blocks so the match counts as 2 matches or even match 5 red blocks so the game will count it as 3 separate red block matches. Not only is this useful for these story objectives, this technique awards players either hammers (for 4-of-a-kind matches) or dynamite barrels (for 5-of-a-kind matches). Only one of these tools can be carried at a time but can be extremely useful if used correctly.
Hammers can be used to break one block in front of a player while dynamite barrels can destroy up to 9 blocks from where ever it is placed. If all of the options a player has to clear a stage are not enough, a partner can join in to help out (or inadvertently hurt). Cooperative play can make short work of levels if players can synchronize their movements and actions. Unfortunately, between the small area the game gives you to work with, the floaty controls, and the fact that players can push each other, cooperative play can quickly turn into absolute nonsense as blocks fall from the sky and players scramble to find matches before the board fills up.
Beyond story mode, there is a survival mode that simply asks players to survive (duh) as long as they can by making matches so the board doesn’t fill up. This mode does not have any objectives besides simply surviving and is really only for the people who care for high scores. There is also a competitive mode that pits players against one another in a battle of speed. When a player completes an objective, the other player receives more blocks on their board. Whichever player’s board fills up first loses and that is really all there is to it. Between all these different game modes, there is quite a bit of game to play even if the gameplay really never evolves or changes. While not being a bad game by any means, only players that love puzzles will enjoy this game for very long.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Microsoft Xbox One code was provided to Brash Games for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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