If you strip away all the story, dialogue and characters from point and click adventures like Tales of Monkey Island and Simon the Sorcerer you get close to what Cardboard Castle has to offer. In this point and click adventure the story is limited to our hero trying to solve three different missions involving orphans, princesses and a king. Our wordless hero is kind of hapless, and in dire need of some divine intervention in the surrounding cardboard world. This is where you come in oh mighty iOS wielder.
The noble knight has the same basic task for each of the 15 levels: travel from left to right. In the way guards, cows, endless pits and the odd beast all stand in the way of victory. Logic is needed to understand some of the more intricate levels, but as soon as you start to grasp the results from different actions it will become quite comprehensive. There is even some tampering with time affecting the items at hand. To give you some clues to how a puzzle might work: turn a guard into paper mache using a glass of water, put paper mache in a gap, use the sun to harden the paper mache, and the knight can pass the section. If you get completely stuck you can buy in game hints using coins that you find across the levels. I have had to resort to these hints for a couple of levels, and generally they are not that helpful. Trial and error is still the best way to go.
The controls aren’t that good, and sadly it is sometimes hard to get the correct interactions. For example a tree with an owl in it needs water. It is far too easy to pour the water on the owl instead turning it into paper mache, and thus messing up the entire level. This is a game where you must be prepared to retry levels often. Most of the time the game tells you that you have nothing left to do, and it is easy to restart. When it doesn’t tell you that you have messed up, and you sit there with your brow wrinkled it is just cruel. Another aspect of the controls that is lacking is the fact that when you move an item, and has to pan the level it is really easy to loose the held item. I would have liked to have at least a temporary inventory.
The presentation is fun, and creates a really interesting game world based on cardboard. I like how it is used in menus as well. The music is soft low key music that is soothing at first, but drives you bonkers when you have retried the same level ten times.
There isn’t much to do once you have finished the 15 levels, other than a speed run of the entire game. I don’t really think that is such a fun idea, and since the controls aren’t responsive under stress it is rather an exercise in frustration. There is a low amount of achievements not really interesting to pursue in my opinion.
I have had a couple of challenging, frustrating and in the end quite rewarding hours playing Cardboard Castle. I like to be able to try my solutions to puzzles right away, and in that regards it works better than the more story driven point and click adventures. The 15 levels can last anywhere from two hours to forever if you get mad, and just delete the game. At a buck this is frustration worth dealing with, and at least I chuckled when I managed to pull off some of the solutions.
Cardboard Castle $0.99