Admit it, you love to destroy. There’s something so satisfying in bringing the untimely demise of an opponent, at least in video games. Zen Studios’ CastleStorm satisfies this feeling with a fluid blend of genres, essentially being a hybrid of action, tower defense, and Angry Birds. Deep and varied customization options augment this mix of gameplay elements to make something very unique. However, how well does it all work and for how long? It’s actually all handled and executed splendidly, especially on the Wii U.
Basically, you have your own castle, ballista, and troops to send and wreak havoc on the enemy’s faces. All three of these gameplay elements are equally important, and CastleStorm makes a great effort to show you that by switching up the gameplay frequently. The game occasionally restricts or insists on you using a specific strategy to ensure victory, such as when a giant stone wall is preventing you from using your ballista so you must only use troops, or all your troops are incapacitated and you may only use your ballista and projectiles. Most of the time, you can beat the level any way you’d like, by either decimating their castle or tearing down their walls and capturing their flag, and that bit of freedom feels very nice and never lets the game feel too repetitive.
Nevertheless, the game can feel a bit repetitious in spite of the several ways to approach battles. Fortunately, the game hardly ever borders on tedious, as new weapons and units are unlocked all the time, allowing you to swiftly build your desired castle and strategy to bring the pain as you see fit, until the following chapter where you are set back to square one in a new scenario with new environments, enemies, troops, and projectiles. Some levels had me aiming for the enemy’s heads, another had me trying to blow up as many crazed boars as possible, and one more had me firing everything, sending everyone, and casting every spell in a frenzy just to stay alive. It’s a feat for any developer to get such a simple concept and make it truly engaging for dozens of levels. Zen Studios has nearly perfected the art of keeping you entertained.
I mentioned before that the game works especially well on the Wii U, and that’s mainly due to the GamePad, allowing you to have the screen right in your hands and tight joysticks for improved accuracy. Likewise, the PlayStation Vita version should have the same benefit as well. Playing on an entirely separate remote screen like on a TV just makes accurate shots slightly more difficult to coordinate, especially when headshots can be vital to beating the level and getting the best score possible.
In terms of presentation, CastleStorm only has several negligible flaws. I was delighted to see that the game’s cutscenes featured the characters carrying out complete animations with their dialogue, rather than just standing stationary while the text hovers over their heads. It’s a breath of fresh air, and it adds a lot more life to the game itself. Unfortunately, the effect can be spoiled a bit by the music, which can occasionally and awkardly switch back and forth in the middle of a cutscene. On top of that, several of the songs hardly seem to fit what’s actually happening. Nevertheless, everything works where it really matters: in the gameplay.
As for the multiplayer, the local and online multiplayer alike work very well with minimal lag. You’d better properly prepare before diving into an online battle though. It’s then very rewarding to build up your own sturdy fortress, customize your troops, and unleash the fury onto some unsuspecting unknown person. I learned that the hard way though; I was the unsuspecting unknown person who got my ass handed to me by someone else.
In all, CastleStorm winds up as a very well-crafted hybrid of genres, with elements of tower defense, action games, and catapult type games a la Angry Birds that continues to hold up well years after its initial release. On top of being able to construct and customize your own castle, there’s a lot to love here. The campaign itself offers plenty of content, especially for perfectionists that yearn to fulfill every side mission to get those classic, but still rewarding, golden stars for your efforts. It’s got a few problems in its presentation, but it’s all negligible compared to the content at hand here.
At a pricetag of $9.99 on plenty of platforms (Nintendo Wii U, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita, and Steam), CastleStorm is a great value and an excellent example of arcade-style indie gaming that challenges players and offers tons of customization options for unique and varied gameplay experiences. Yes, I know what you’re thinking. Finally, you can destroy your friends with a castle expertly shaped like a penis.