Mystery Castle Review
Mystery Castle was developed and published by Runestone Games, and released for Xbox One and PC on May 6th 2016 at a price of £7.99/$9.99. A press review copy was provided for The Hidden Levels.
Mystery Castle is a retro inspired puzzle game where you play as Monty the wizard who has to use his wit and cunning to work his way through 180 levels dodging monsters, solving fiendishly tricky puzzles, and battling devious bosses. A well balanced sense of progression and a thoroughly charming look give Mystery Castle all the ingredients needed for a fun filled game that tests your IQ while almost never feeling unfair.
What I enjoyed:
Nostalgic Feels – The looks and sounds of a 16 bit game immediately drew me to Mystery Castle. The in-game tutorials are kept relatively simple to start with, you are taught all the relevant movement mechanics, and as you start to progress you’ll encounter various characters that will teach you specific skills that are required for each level. The graphics are pretty crisp and each castle has a very unique theme although some of the levels can look a little samey after a while. The soundtrack is also castle specific and again reminded me of some of the games I would play when I was younger. I wish more tracks were included though as after 36 levels the music can start to feel slightly repetitive.
Minimal frustration– With 180 puzzles to solve it can initially sound like an overwhelming amount. Previous puzzle games I have played have led to high levels of frustration due to a poorly implemented progression system that insists you finish each level before you can progress. Runestone Games has come up with a great system that helps to minimize this issue. Once you unlock a castle you have access to all 36 levels contained in it, so if you do get stuck on a certain level you can simply skip it and move on to the next one. It makes playing Mystery Castle a pleasure as you never feel like you are unable to progress.
Prepare to be tested – To be able to progress through each level you need to collect five castle specific objects to open the door to be able to carry on to the next level. This seems like a simple affair but some of the levels in the later castle can be fiendishly difficult to get past. To start with you’ll just be moving boxes around to make platforms but as you start to move through each castle new obstacles appear. Icy walkways will only allow you to slide the entire length of them while any contact with lava will result in instant death (as well as an achievement for your first time). Ghosts and Fire/Ice Golems also appear in the later castles to obstruct your path although these can also be used as an aid to solve some of the more difficult puzzles. For the most part the balance in progression and difficulty is managed well although there are a few occasions where some poor design choices artificially raise the difficulty, fortunately though these are few and far between. As an added bonus one of The Hidden Levels media team has made a 100% walk through for the game so if you do ever get stuck visit www.youtube.com/thehiddenlevels and you’ll be able to pass the level with ease, although working out the solution for yourself is far more satisfying.
What I disliked:
Odd design choices – For the most part playing as Monty the wizard is a joy however there are some odd choices that make the game frustrating from time to time. One issue is with the actual movement of the boxes themselves. Any box you come into contact with can only ever be pushed. The ability to be able to pull the boxes would alleviate some of the frustration that occurs when you accidentally move Monty one space too far and wedge a box against a wall, causing you to have to restart the level. The movement of Monty himself also felt a little cumbersome at times although not enough to have any major impact on the overall enjoyment of the game. When completing a level it would take you back to the main level select area but instead of moving your icon over to the next level it would stay on the level I had just completed which resulted in me accidentally selecting the wrong level on several occasions. An option to move straight to the next level after completing a puzzle would easily remove this issue.
Later level despair – You can skip any level that you struggle to find a solution for; however completion-ists like myself will want to finish all 180 levels to get one of the achievements in the game. It feels at times that some of the level designs later on were a deliberate attempt to inflate the difficulty. There are a few timed levels where you race to collect everything and reach the exit before you encounter a monster, which can feel like a case of trial and error. Another issue I had was that certain levels required you to push objects at precise times to get them to stop at a particular point. It felt to me that the hit detection when pushing these boxes was rather off as I pushed the same box at least 10 times at very similar points yet it would stop at a variety of different spots. Again this is nothing that spoils the game but it still left me a little frustrated.
Mystery Castle was a fun game that really tested my imagination and puzzle solving skills. It wasn’t quite perfect but I still enjoyed almost every minute I spent playing. Anyone who is looking for a puzzle game that is easy to learn but hard to master should definitely check this out. This is certainly one of the better puzzle games available on the Xbox and is a contender among the many on PC. The graphics and clean theme really help make this a puzzle game worth buying.
Score: Buy it now
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