Puzzle games are a dime a dozen, and some genres are so oversaturated that it’s hard to imagine a developer doing any more with them. Then a game like Cardboard Castle comes along that doesn’t really fit neatly into a category and reminds us of why we love puzzle games in the first place. You’ll find no matching or physics related quandaries in this game. Instead what you get is a series of rooms that contain multiple “use this object for this purpose” puzzles that while in hindsight are fairly simple, can be quite perplexing until you’ve figured them out. Add to that the awesome cardboard graphics theme and you have one pretty snazzy puzzle game to include in your collection.
Like any good knight’s story, Cardboard Castle is about saving displaced kings and damsels in distress. In this world, however, you can’t just charge in with lance flailing and hope to emerge victorious. Instead you have to gather all your wits (or someone else’s if you’re a little short) and solve a series of puzzles in order to perform your heroic deeds. Each mission has several levels full of sometimes diabolical puzzles. You simply drag elements of the scene around to interact with one another – or in a few cases just tap things – and assuming you do everything in the right order you can beat the level.
What I really like about the level design is that many objects in a level can interact with multiple other objects. For instance, a matchstick and an axe can both be used to dispose of an enemy solider. You can even dispose of soldiers by dumping a glass of water on them. However, the glass of water might be needed to grow a tree on the same level, whereas the axe or matchstick obviously would not. Just because an object will work with another one doesn’t necessarily mean it should be used with that object, and you might need to make several attempts at some levels before determining the right combination of every object.
As stated before, the controls mostly consist of tapping or drag and drop. This basically works really well, except for when it comes to trying to move the knight across the river on a raft. Because of the positioning of the objects it is often difficult to both keep the raft on the appropriate side of the water and click the object you need in order for the knight to exit the raft. The other thing about the interface that’s kind of annoying is that there is a restart button but no “undo last move button”. There’s a clue system that you can partake of by collecting coins found on each of the levels. There are two clues per level, and besides being of only moderate use, I always found myself having to buy one that I didn’t need in order to get to the one that I did need.
In addition to the campaign mode there is a Race Against The Clock mode. This is actually kind of interesting in that you must keep the knight moving forward for as long as you can. You do this by solving one puzzle after another as quickly as possible. You start with a limited amount of time, and naturally your time rapidly ticks away. However, every time you solve a puzzle you get a little bit of time back. Sometimes the amount of time given back doesn’t seem commensurate with the complexity of the puzzle, but it’s still actually quite fun. There are a few different trophies you can win, and apparently the game is integrated with OpenFeint, though I wouldn’t have known it without reading the BulkyPix website. Unfortunately there are no clues as to what you need to do to win those trophies.
As you might expect, the visuals are certainly a highlight of Cardboard Castle. There are a number of games that utilize the 2D paper style look, but Cardboard Castle definitely adds a flair that few can compete with. The characters and objects look great. The backgrounds aren’t always that thrilling, but the overall look is still quite strong. The characters themselves don’t sport much animation, but what animation does exist when objects interact with each other is on par with the whole vibe of the graphics.
The sound effects are a nice compliment to the visuals. I especially like when you are cutting things up, because it is an interesting mix of what you would expect the objects to sound like and plain old paper being mutilated. When there is music playing it is nice and light to flow with the mood of the game. Otherwise there are usually some decent background effects to keep the game from being completely silent.
Cardboard Castle was certainly an enjoyable experience. The aesthetics worked well together, the puzzles were fun and sometimes challenging, and the Race Against The Clock mode was rather intriguing. Besides the few interface quibbles I pointed out earlier, my biggest disappointment was in the length of the game. There were three missions with five levels apiece, and even though some of the levels were “long”, the whole experience only takes an hour or so to complete. I still think it’s worth the trip, but I do hope that we’ll see more missions in the future.
Overall Score: 9/10
App Store Link