A little wizard makes his way through perilous castles in search of…something. It’s Mystery Castle.
Developer: Runestone Games Limited
Publisher: Runestone Games Limited
Release Date: May 2016
Played: All Levels…
Purchase At: Steam
I started playing Mystery Castle on the same week as Demetrios, so that definitely wasn’t the best week for adventuring or puzzling. To be honest, I didn’t want to write this review, because I have nothing good to say about the game, though that much is obvious from the empty “good” list on the overview above.
Mystery Castle puts you in the shoes of a wizard seeking to vanquish the Demon Barons that have invaded the land, taking them out one by one in different fortresses with dozens of puzzle rooms and things to collect. That’s as far as the plot goes, though with this being a puzzle game I’m not gonna harp on it in any way. Plot isn’t really the focus in a puzzle game.
What is important is puzzle design and while Mystery Castle has many puzzles, 180 of them in total, none of them are even remotely interesting, challenging and even less entertaining. While there are different environments, castles with their own unique layout, the puzzles are all the same: a combination of opening doors and pushing blocks across different ground types, be it lava, holes or slippery ice. In each level, you need to collect five items to open the exit door and the puzzles revolve entirely around their collection. It becomes a repetitive affair, as there are only so many combinations of “push box, collect item” puzzles you can do. Mystery Castle attempts to alleviate this by giving you different things to push but in the end, you’re still pushing boxes.
Every castle has 35 puzzle levels that never manage to capture your interest, but if you persevere against the oppressive boredom, then you’ll unlock the 36th level: a boss fight. I would love to tell you the boss fights are worth it, but in the end they’re just the same: push object—often a bomb—across a ground type, towards the boss to damage them. The bosses do nothing but stand there and look pretty and there is very little logic in finding the right ‘path’ to victory, you’ll get there after trying over and over. This is especially true with the first boss and its collapsing floor tiles.
Overall the game just feels unambitious, just another ‘retro-inspired’ game that doesn’t even attempt to do something unique, content in imitating classic games but without making the effort to becoming something memorable. And that is perhaps the greatest of all sins. Mystery Castle doesn’t innovate in any way and is a thoroughly bland and forgettable experience.
Visually it’s appealing, but in a puzzle game, cutesy visuals aren’t enough to grab my attention. I will say though that the messages you get on successfully clearing a level become as repetitive as the levels themselves. I don’t think it’s too hard to create 180 unique art pieces and lame puns to go with them.
Beyond the victory jingle, I couldn’t remember a single tune at the end of my playthrough, and on returning to the game to back to make sure I hadn’t misheard, I realised the reason for my forgetfulness: bland and completely forgettable soundtrack.
Mystery Castle disappointed me to no end, with bland puzzling, uninteresting mechanics and even the basic desire to be unique, content in being unoriginal and unambitious.
1/5 – OH HELL NO!