The Castle, by Blueline Studios
Posted: 28-Apr-2002

3 1/2 out of 5 Mice

Vendor: Blueline Studios Type: COMMERCIAL

Reviewer: Bill Catambay Class: GAMES

The Castle is a strategy adventure game, much in the same style as the popular Myst game. The story involves Naomi and two other men trapped in a dreamlike world which centers around an engimatic castle (complete with its own oracle, and contraptions which allow you to turn day into night and night into day). As the player, your goal is to unravel the plot by finding pieces of Naomi's diary, solving different puzzles, and finding secret passages.

Gameplay
In this adventure game, you travel through each scene by point and click actions. Each scene is a still shot of the location you are facing. By moving the mouse, the cursor turns into an arrow indicating what would happen if you clicked. A straight arrow means you would go straight towards the object or place the cursor is over, a left or right arrow means that you would turn in that direction, and an up or down arrow means that you would go up or down, like climbing stairs.

I had some problems discerning what I could do, as sometimes clicking with the straight arrow did not always achieve a movement. It would have been more clear if the cursor turned into something else when clicking would result in no action. Likewise, sometimes the turning was no consistent. For example, sometimes turning left would turn me 180 degrees around, while other times turning left would only turn 90 degrees to the left. This inconsistency occurred even in the same location, for example when facing the garden maze outside the castle.

The story unfolds as you collect different pieces of Naomi's diary, which I found to be an interesting method of telling the story. The more you get into it, the more anxious you become to locate more pieces of the story (both to learn more about the story as well as picking up needed clues for some of the challenges).

The graphics were not quite up to snuff with Myst, but they were still pretty good. There was good ambient sound, and some very interesting puzzles. One puzzle involved entering numbers on a keypad in a sequence that resulted with a specific number. As you explore the lock, you learn that each point in the star performs a specific function, and once you know the functions, you can mathematically deduce the sequence which would provide you the desired number. Some puzzles I found a bit too confusing, requiring more than common sense to figure out. For example, to get the key to the castle, you had to turn the day into night; not an intuitive conclusion. There are hints about this in the diary pages, but there aren't enough diary pages outside of the castle to get the needed information (i.e., it wasn't until I was inside the castle before the diary clued me in). Fortunately, I was able to download the "HintBox" application for this game which allowed me to gain clues when I became desparate. The puzzle with the wine glasses is not intuitive either, but I'm still hoping to locate some clues in the diary before reverting to the HintBox.

Certain objects can be approached which perform special functions. There are two machines in the two towers that once you click on the machine, you get a close-up view of the buttons. Your task is to figure out what to push. Likewise, certain dressers and desks can be examined, and drawers and doors can be opened (some of them requiring a key to unlock first). Then there's the oracle, but I don't want to give too much away here.

As with all static scene driven games, movement is not fast nor lively, and sometimes not so intuitive. For example, traveling through the maze I found it difficult to sometimes figure out exactly which way I really ended up walking. Sometimes I just clicked and clicked until I ended up somewhere new.

Summary
The Castle is a fun adventure game, with an interesting story unfolding as you discover pieces of the diary. The puzzles will keep your brain working. On the other hand, trying to navigate some areas, especially when retracing paths you've already been, may lull you into boredom. The latter is generally the nature of this genre of adventure game, slow and sticky. If you are already used to games like Myst, you may not mind it at all. Whether you're a Myst fan or not, this game has a nice and stable interface and some intriguing content, definitely worth a look.

Pros:

  • Intriguing story and story revealing method
  • Challenging puzzles
  • Nice overall ambience

Cons:

  • Some puzzles too difficult without clues
  • Navigation can be slow, sometimes repetitive
  • Navigation sometimes inconsistent


Overall Rating:

3 1/2 out of 5 Mice