iOS Review: Angry Spears? Sort of…

Unless you have been living in a cave for the past few years, you’ve probably seen Angry Birds and probably even given it a shot in some form or another. Well, what if the buildings and pigs moved, threw axes at you, had bosses and were trying to destroy your slingshot? That’s essentially what’s happening here in this bizarre action/casual/RPG/physics game from ZEN studios. So get ready to warm up those ballista’s and catapults, it’s time to fling sheep (you read that correctly, I promise).

Love the army troops playing their own game…

The main premise of CastleStorm is that you’re a hero. You’re a big burly knight dude, defending the kingdoms and what not, from Vikings, wolves and all sorts of creatures. Your trusted weapon of choice: a Ballista mounted on the city gate. Unlike Angry Birds, you wont be pulling it back, more like telling it where you need it to land, which the thing is actually pretty accurate at accomplishing. Where the challenge comes in, is knowing when to fire. The large spear-bolts take time to move through the air, and if you aim improperly you will miss your target. Thankfully you unlock and earn all sorts of power up weapons such as giant spiked balls and sheep. Hitting an enemy in the head will do a considerable amount of damage, typically killing things in one swift blow as long as that weapon has been upgraded. There’s nothing quite as gratifying as throwing a spear full length across the game’s map and assassinating a Viking. Probably like how Bill Murray felt when he finally took that clock to town.

Boy! I can’t wait to move around some Donkeys! The world will be safe once again!

Boy! I can’t wait to move around some Donkeys! The world will be safe once again!

On top of that, you also have troops that you can summon and magic spells you can cast. There is never an idle moment for your fingertips and the game provides quite a bit of entertainment especially considering it’s free. One of the gripes I have with this game though is its mission select. Maybe I’m just spoiled after playing Battle Gems, but the level select in this game is just a bunch of scrolls laid out in a very linear fashion, with the occasional side quest. Battle Gems did the exact same thing, except they had a full world map representing their progression. It made me feel like I was progressing, gave me a sense of location, and felt like what I did mattered. Here it’s just “great, mission number 342” time to get crackin’ I guess”.

The characters in the game are pretty wild, and rather remind me of the kind of cast you’d expect to find in a dink smallwood or American McGee’s Alice game. Smart, witty, with just a bucket full of crazy poured over the top. Plenty of the dialogue between the missions and the game’s many cut scenes do a great job of moving the plot and story forward. I think its one that many game designers tend to avoid since people just “skip it anyways” But honestly if its done right and I’m entertained, I’m not skipping annnyyyything.

Vikings, sure. Fat Vikings, why not. But that troll is carrying half a TREE. Run? Yeah. Run.

Vikings, sure. Fat Vikings, why not. But that troll is carrying half a TREE. Run? Yeah. Run.

On top of that the game comes with a castle designer, so you get to build the castle you’re defending. Sadly, I didn’t get enough time to play with that, as it didn’t seem to affect the game all that much, and I was having waaaaay too much fun playing Aerate the Vikings from 80 yards. But you do get to move all the pieces around in a fairly pretty looking editor. However, even I, who taught level design classes years ago, could not get a good grasp on the editor.

Admittedly, it’s a great game that very much deserves some attention, so go and give it a go. I’m quite sure that you wont be disappointed with the decision. That being said, I’m going to rant a bit now, so if you want the scores, head to the bottom.

I fear that politics and needless censorship is creating a rather hostile environment for game creators to make content. No one bats an eye if someone gets stabbed in a movie, but CRANK THE SIRENS, someone just took a ballista javelin to the FACE and bled! NO seriously, ZEN thought it would be needed to leave blood OFF by default. In the menus and only by exploring the options fully, will you see the ability to turn it on. This seems kind of backward in my opinion. Video games, just like music and movies is an art, are a form of expression. Censoring the creative flow of game designers only limits the number of masterpieces that will hit the shelves.

No way are you getting to the treasu… I mean.. donkeys!

No way are you getting to the treasu… I mean.. donkeys!

This being said, I am a dad. I have a little guy who’s nearly 3 years old, so what’s my view on video game violence? Perception is key. If a child can determine what is real, what is not, and what is or is not to be re-enacted, than it doesn’t matter. I remember being what, 10? When the first Mortal Kombat came out? Man I wrecked that game for hours, ripped peoples heads off, smashed spines, even crushed a man with an arcade cabinet of the very game I was playing, at an arcade. And what do you know … I haven’t been arrested, I’m not a violent person, and would like to think I have a really good moral compass.

What’s my point? Only the fact that I was exposed to the same material as many, many other kids, and most of us turned out just fine. So was it the material that rotted a few eggs? Or was it the egg that was rotten before the media was applied? Sounds like a topic for another blog, so I’ll leave it at that. Carry on fellow warrior, and may all your ballista shots fly true!

Graphics: Rating-Bar4

Pretty darn good. By no means any sort of masterpiece, but the set pieces were believable and the characters were not any sort of horrible renders in need of being beaten with a hammer to make them seem alive.

Gameplay: 

You know, for a game that is centralized on flinging things off the roof of a castle, I have to say I was pretty hooked. I mean its no Fable 2, Mass Effect, or Grand Theft Auto 5, but hey the game did a darn good job of keeping me playing. I’d be willing to wager that the developers had gamers play, and watched when they got bored, and that’s when they added a power up, side quest, or new troop unit to deploy into battle like the fodder they are.

Audio: Rating-Bar5

Well. There’s no voice acting and things just mumble and grumble at you, so that kind of makes me frown. But besides that the sound of the wolves dying, to ballista bolts thumping skulls, all sounded very, very well done. On top of that there were plenty of samples for each event, so nothing ever felt repetitive.

Innovation:Rating-Bar4

I don’t think that I’ve really played anything like this one honestly, so good job to ZEN. You guys got me hooked.

Overall: Rating-Bar4

Not quite a flawless victory, but a really close one. Perhaps a few updates and neat patches will bring the game up to par with my other games that have earned 5s and I’ll change my score, but as of right now, a solid 4.

See ya next week gamers!

What Didn’t make the Cut this week:

Skyline SkatersRating-Bar2

Super Casual game that may appeal to those needing a quick fix for 90 seconds at a time. Reminds me of all the temple run games, except horizontal.

Shattered PlanetRating-Bar1

Holy GARBAGE Batman. UNINSTALL! I don’t want to even tell you about it, just no.


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