CastleStorm-Review-PS-Vita CastleStorm Review PS Vita

   20/11/2013 at 18:25       Flying_Pig       1 COMMENTS. - Score 4/5
 - Vita, Sony, PSN, Angry Birds, CastleStorm

Whether you like it or not, one of the runaway successes of mobile gaming has been Angry Birds and its multitude of sequels and clones. It works because it's a simple, entertaining premise (smashing down castles), with intuitive controls (all via touchscreen) and a mildly amusing storyline (Birds vs Pigs). It works because most people using that smartphone for gaming are happy the simplicity and bite-sized nature of the levels.

From a personal perspective, Angry Birds just doesn't do it for me. OK, so I enjoyed playing a few levels when it first came out, but I found it all a bit one-dimensional and, well, basic. As a gamer, I wanted more depth and sophistication.

You've probably just re-checked the title of this review and confirmed it's not that of Angry Birds, and so I get to my point – CastleStorm isn't an Angry Birds clone, but what it does is take elements of the Angry Birds formula; add in some further ingredients and refine it into something significantly more engaging, entertaining and varied.

CastleStorm (from those lovely folks at Zen Studios) combines the physics-based projectile flinging of Angry Birds, with some light-weight tower defence and side-scrolling combat. The background story is that you play as Sir Gareth the sworn protector of the kingdom against those nasty Vikings as they attempt to storm your castle and steal the Teardrop Gem. It's a decent storyline, told though mildly amusing (rather than genuinely funny) cut-scenes between the levels.

Aiding you in your defence is the ability to send troops out onto the battlefield to go head-to-head with the enemy, but they tend to be relatively weedy, so to back them up is your trusty ballista, enabling you to fire projectiles at the incoming invaders, or more significantly their castle. Topping this all off, are certain magical abilities, including being able to take Sir Gareth out and get stuck in yourself. Soldiers start off as basic grunts, but new types unlock as you progress through the game giving you access to archers, mounted knights and even a griffin. The same goes for the ballista ammo – your basic arrow is soon supplemented with exploding apples or even a potion which causes enemy troops to switch sides and fight for you.

Aiming your ballista can be a tricky affair, with the left analogue stick used for aiming and the X button to launch your projectile. It's not perfect, especially in the heat of battle, as you try not to hit your own troops, but with time and practice works as well as anything else I can think of. The game does allow you to fine tune your aiming with the D-Pad, but this is too slow to use in reality.

Levels typically require you to balance your time and resources between keeping the Vikings away from your castle, while attacking theirs. Victory is usually dependent on completely destroying their castle with your ballista, but the game does mix it up quite a bit as you progress. Each victory rewards you with gold, which enables you to upgrade your troops and types of ballista ammunition – something which is essential as you encounter progressively tougher resistance.

Another consideration is your own castle, with larger, stronger variants being unlocked as you go, but more interestingly, the game enables you to re-design these castles to best suit your own strategies and preferences. It's a very unexpected addition, but something which can become quite engaging in it's own right. You castle will house the barracks for the troops you want to issue, with each type requiring it's own barrack, along with the ability to add rooms which give you some further enhancements to your armoury, which include being able to issue more troops, or generate food (the currency for buying soldiers) more quickly. These too are upgradable and add quite a lot to the overall strategy of the game as you select where to invest your gold for best results.

The real challenge with CastleStorm is balancing your competing priorities – both in terms of upgrading your castle and weapons, but also while you're playing each level. If you spend too much time attacking the Viking castle with your ballista you'll miss the enemy troops smashing down the gate of your castle and stealing your flag (meaning that you're defeated), so the key is keeping enough of your own troops on the battlefield, with some support from your ballista, to keep the enemy soldiers at bay, while you flinging the occasional exploding sheep into their castle. Later levels, especially become pretty frantic and require some dexterity as you switch between your different offensive options.

The game also offers cooperative and combative online play (both ad-hoc and online), upping the mayhem and fun-factor. You'll need a well upgraded arsenal and decent strategy to make any headway online, and most battles are knife-edge affairs, with whether you win or lose, seeming down to a single misfire. Online is great, but get a friend in the room with you (with their own Vita and copy of the game obviously), and everything's just raised to a whole new level.

In short, I like this game a lot. While it may not be the most sophisticated game, nor have the deepest of story lines it's high on the fun factor and a real blast to play with friends. The imperfect aiming of the ballista is a slight gripe, along with the odd difficulty spike, but it's certainly a game which will keep you playing through to the end, with enough of an incentive to re-play some of the earlier levels with your upgraded weaponry.

CastleStorm is easily head-and-shoulders above a mere Angry Birds clone, with Zen Studios pulling together this mish-mash of genres into a seamless and complete offering. While you can get Angry Birds on the Vita, CastleStorm is the game to go for if you want a physics-based smasher or even just something to play with a smile on your face.

User Comments:

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DMorgan - on 20/11/2013 at 20:56 wrote:
Might have to play this then!

/weeps into backlog

1 comment(s) in total.
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