The days of pick up and play games on the console seem to be long gone and the smart phone has reigned supreme in entertaining the masses with those glorious time wasters when you’ve got 10-20 minutes to blow. Sometimes those mini-gaming sessions turn into hours because of the addictive quality of the gameplay and Runestone Games Limited hopes to capitalize on just that with their puzzle game Mystery Castle which offers short levels with brain teasing conundrums. Sounds alluring, but is it really worth the money and space on your hard drive? Let’s explore the depths of this castle and find out.
Your journey begins as you take control of a portly little wizard named Monty who is tasked with exploring 5 different castles and taking care of the bad guys that have infested them. There is a small story to be found in Mystery Castle, but as with any puzzle game the focus isn’t on spinning a tale worthy of a TV mini-series or its own Netflix original. You’ll run into characters like Stumpy the smart mouthed dwarf or Cassie the princess who insistently continue to crack fat jokes on Monty.
Mystery Castle follows a very familiar formula with its puzzles where you push a block here, avoid a trap or enemy there, and make a dash for the exit. Even though it may not be groundbreaking gameplay innovation for the genre it does have its own unique personality that sets it apart from other games. The top down view is great for plotting your path across the treacherous terrain of 180 different levels. Monty must navigate around bottomless pits, golems, lava, ghosts, and crumbling tiles to snag the 5 level specific pieces (diamonds, snowflakes, etc.) needed to open the exit. While this sounds simple on paper it is much more complex when you actually are working with the puzzles hands on. Sadly, there is a lack of variety with many of the puzzles leaving you knowing exactly what needs to be done next. Yes, this keeps things easy going, but real puzzle fiends will want much much more.
Each level progresses in difficulty adding new obstacles and urging players to use their heads to figure out which order they need to push objects to create bridges across chasms. In addition to the escalation of difficulty, players will have to fight off a big boss as the finale for each of the 5 castles. These don’t really add much in the way of gameplay and to be honest they are quite dull and uneventful. Sure each of these climaxes lead to the next castle, but a little more fanfare around them would make them feel like an actual triumph.
Mystery Castle is a port from a few different Android games so graphics and sound aren’t going to make you Ooohhh and Ahhhh with amazement. Visuals are cartoony and colorful giving the initial impression that the game may be geared towards children, but thankfully the puzzles are much more challenging than what you’d find on Blue’s Clues or Dora the Explorer. The music isn’t terrible, but it isn’t memorable either and add in that all dialogue is through text only so you’ll have to do without any cheesy voice acting.
Overall Mystery Castle does a great job of presenting a recognizable puzzler with a nostalgic feel of yesteryear. The challenge increases as you progress testing your problem solving skills, wit, and resolve through a massive amount of levels. Players will love that they can help Monty for a few minutes or a few hours and never feel like they left something unfinished that needed to be completed right now (unless you’re OCD like me). There are a few quirks in game like the level design that will leave you frustrated and bored as well as the less than average sound and visuals you’ve come to expect from this generation of games. Mystery Castle is entertaining, but it doesn’t create an air of excitement when you jump on and play for a few levels making it nothing more than your run of the mill puzzler.
Score – 5.5/10
Review code supplied by Team Xbox.