The puzzle genre of games can feel somewhat familiar. This style and type of game has been around for some time and the huge boom in mobile gaming through tablets and phones has also lead to more developers venturing into the world of puzzles. There are plenty of options out there for people who like a brain teaser. One of the current options on the Xbox One is Mystery Castle.
Mystery Castle was challenging in places with some of the puzzles taking me a while to solve. Others I cracked first time and occasionally I wondered if a particularly easy one wasn’t just thrown in to keep up the morale after making you feel dimmer than an energy saving lightbulb for a few rounds. The aim is to collect gems through each level. Once every gem is collected the end door will open and you can clear the stage. Simple enough you say, but there are plenty of obstacles in your way as you go. Floors will give way under you, rocks will have to be blown up and locked doors unlocked with specific keys that you’ll need to collect in order to progress. It got my brain ticking and I always enjoy a game that can do that.
The story is slim, but there. You are a Wizard in training and go about helping the people of each Mystery Castle, all of whom have had some serious misfortunes rain down upon them. The first of the helpless castle dwellers you meet is a stout dwarf and his dialogue had me thinking of a thick Glaswegian accent which made me chuckle. He explains to Monty the troubles, calls him fat a few different ways and then you get to solve some puzzles. And that’s how it continues along this thin line. New castle, new character, new fat joke, new puzzle. Its all done in text with no voice over but the story line is a background really. Occasionally funny dialogue aside there isn’t much to it. The game is about solving the puzzles. Which is fine. I’m sure it’s not the stellar storyline writing that you play a puzzle game for anyway.
I just can’t help but like a character with some charisma and Monty (self-confessed fancy hat owner) has that. The bounce of his little hat and the flick of his beard as you walk are nice touches displayed through the bright and colourful graphics. However, the movement can be a bit sticky and sometimes I found myself missing a timed move when the controls simply hadn’t responded properly and left Monty stranded in the path of a monster or wandering into something less than pleasant. It isn’t prevalent enough for it to really effect the gameplay but is just enough to notice it and usually at a key moment. As with many other Puzzler’s your character can move some objects around, by pushing for example. Unlike most other games in the genre, though, in Mystery Castle, you cannot pull them. I frequently found myself wishing that was an option and can’t fathom the decision not to include it. Perhaps I am just motivated by wanting an easier way to solve some of the stages. These are two minor points on a game where I found the controls and mechanics pretty logical and easy to use.
As you continue through the different mystery castle’s on your map you help the people as you go. The stages and levels change mechanics and introduce one (often unique) mechanic to keep you on your toes. For instance, in the second world you skate on ice rather than walk. This means you have to plan your routes, as once you set off, you can’t stop until you hit something. If you get it wrong you’re off the edge, into the abyss and it’s a restart. It also changes up the way you can interact with objects. No ice means no grip, so pushing an object can no longer be done. Just another example of how this game likes to switch up and keep the puzzles interesting. Most of the puzzles seem to only have one way of doing them, especially the harder ones and finding that specific combination of moves can be frustrating.
Summing Mystery Castle up, the story is slim, but there. You are a Wizard in training and go about helping the people of each mystery castle, all of whom have had some serious misfortunes rain down upon them. Its top down style and graphics are nothing revolutionary, its a familiar game in a familiar setting. In saying that, I have played worse and the puzzles did challenge me for the most part and that in itself drove me to play more of the game. There are some nice graphical touches and for the want of an extra game mechanic or two, this could have been even more of a fun experience.