Castles Review

Slide blocks, get high

A.J. Maciejewski

Reviewed by playing a PlayStation 4 on

Castles is also available for Xbox One

ESRB Everyone rating

Sometimes, a simple puzzle game is all it takes to occupy your gaming time. Castles has you slide blocks in order to build towers as high as you can so it's time to head to the construction site and clock in.

Castles screenshot 1
We've reached the 27th floor, how about we call it a day?

Castles is played by running around a seven-by-seven tiled stage that has its centre 25 tiles containing blocks that you can freely slide around. Each block is coloured and has a symbol of a tool on top of it. Making a match of at least three of the same colour or tool makes them disappear. If you manage to match four or five then you get a power-up. Hammers allow you to smash one block while dynamite can explode up to nine surrounding blocks. You're not restricted to just walking and pushing blocks, however, since holding square lets your character pull blocks and pressing X makes them climb on top of a desired block. Learning how to push, pull, climb, and use power-ups efficiently is the key to success. Trust me; things get tricky very fast so you'll need to be a master builder if you want a chance to prosper. Overall, the simplistic gameplay is quite refreshing and undeniably addictive.

By looking at the screenshots, you can tell that Castles is one cute game. The chubby ninja-like chums that you control are delightful while stages are surprisingly detailed with vibrant colours and animated backgrounds. Additionally, the jaunty music suits the childlike presentation perfectly. In the end, I did not expect Castles to be as charming as it is.

Castles screenshot 2
Enough cooperating, it's time to see who's the best builder in all the land

Castles contains three very distinct modes to enjoy. Story mode consists of 50 stages with a boss after every tenth one. To advance, you basically have to fulfill the requirements that are specified on the side of the screen. Survival mode tests how long you can last without having the tiles completely fill with blocks. Finally, competitive mode pits two pals against each other. As you complete tasks, the opposing player's difficulty rises so being able to clear blocks quickly while accomplishing tasks becomes a very fun dynamic. By the way, all of these modes can be enjoyed with another local player. That's right, even story and survival can be played simultaneously with a buddy. It's rare to see a game feature three very different modes and being able to play them all multiplayer is the icing on the cake.

After beating the first area of story mode, you'll wonder if it'll ever get challenging. Then, the second area is introduced and it amplifies the difficulty way too much. It's not extremely difficult, but the difference in challenge between the first and second areas is staggering. After you reach the third area, most gamers will probably quit after a dozen or so attempts. This insane difficulty curve is completely out of place for such a cute game. On top of this, there are countless frustrating events that'll make you feel like throwing your controller such as being crushed by falling blocks constantly, having desired blocks crushed by inferior ones that then take their place, picking up a hammer by accident when you already have the dynamite, and having your friend unintentionally push you out of the way when you're about to make a cool move. It may not look like it, but Castles gets maddening fast.

My only other negative point is that after you get stumped in story mode (or miraculously complete it), play a few rounds of the competitive mode, and reach as high of a score as you can in survival mode then there really isn't anything left to do. This could easily take you about an hour and that's just not enough gameplay for most puzzle enthusiasts.

Castles screenshot 3
I don't think I'm going to survive much longer with a block about to fall on my head

Castles is an enjoyable little puzzler with a cute presentation, easy to understand gameplay, and a variety of fun modes. However, the intense difficulty, low replay value, and many irritating aspects make it a tough game to widely recommend.

  • + Simple, addictive, and refreshing gameplay
  • + Adorable visuals and fitting music
  • + A few very different modes that can all be enjoyed with another local player
  • - Difficulty spikes way too early
  • - Many incredibly frustrating aspects
  • - After only about an hour, you would have seen and done everything it has to offer
6.1 out of 10
Gameplay video for Castles 4:06

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