GameLoft is almost always bringing some of the most innovative, fun and high quality games to iPhone. Sure they have some duds, but for the most part all of their games are quality. I went into Castle of Magic expecting the same quality I always do from GameLoft. For the most part I got what I expected here, but there are a couple nagging issues that keep this side scrolling platformer from being as great as it could.
Before we get right down to the nitty gritty, let’s talk about how Castle of Magic plays. It is a side scroll platformer, like an old school Mario game. In each of the many levels the player’s objective is to navigate from point a to point b, and do so without dieing. Along the way there will be various power-ups to help the journey go a little more smoothly, such as the power to shoot fire, and my favorite, the power to shoot a bow and arrow. What makes the bow and arrow so great is that the arrows can be used as platforms if stuck in a wall. This comes in handy a number of times during the game, and even in the situations where I didn’t really need to, it was still a fun mechanic just to mess around with.
Of course there are also tons of enemies who will be there to prevent the player from reaching his goal, because what platformer would be complete without lots of little baddies. Enemies work much like Sonic, in that when they hit the player they will lose their gems, and they need to keep a supply of gems to make sure they stay alive. Of course, if the player falls of a ledge, then it doesn’t matter how many gems are possessed, it’s death time.
Choosing the level is done by navigating the main hub world. Inside the hub there are number of doors to walk through, each one of the these doors leads to a different level, or a different set of levels, depending on what layer of the hub world the player is in. Once a level is chosen the nice looking load screen comes up, and then it’s time to start jumping and killing.
The story of the game is very generic, but not necessarily in a bad way. The main characters girl friend is kid napped by an evil villain, and the player is thrust into the world with the job of rescuing her. It’s not the deepest story of any game, but compared to most games on the iPhone, it is quite good.
The game is controlled with an on screen d pad, which is really the only control method I could see being used in a game of this nature. The buttons on the screen will change depending on the situation, so if there is a door that needs to be opened near the player, then the door button will appear on screen, and once the player is out of range of the door, it will be gone.
The smart on screen buttons are genius. At all times there will be the two main buttons, but they always change to reflect their current use. For example, when the player powers up to the hunter, the one that shoots the bow and arrow, the attack button will change to reflect this. Also getting rid of buttons that are only needed in certain situations is a clever way to save screen real estate.
The graphics are beautiful. The art style is super easy on the eyes, and even with the high visual quality it still runs at a silky smooth frame rate most of the time. I did find a couple rare instances where it lagged a little, but these were only minor slow downs and they are few and far between.
The sound is also incredible, and I would even go as far as to say that it might be the best sound of any game on the iPhone to date. Every detail from the music to the effects are incredibly well timed for the pace and flow of the game. It is incredibly pleasing on the ears to listen to the game, and I highly recommend putting on headphones when playing Castle of the Magic.
The game play it self is part good and part bad. The fact is that with no buttons a side scrolling platformer is tough to do, and I think GameLoft pulls it off the best they possibly could. The game is a ton of fun to play, but….
While bad might not be the right word, the controls can be a little inconsistent. They work well most of the time, but there was a few times that I died, and I know for certain that it was due the controls, and not due to my lack of skill. (because I’m awesome at everything) When jumping and pressing down in the air the character lunges to the ground, and there was a number of times I would jump and press right to move forward but my thumb would be slightly on the down part of the d-pad, and I would lunge down straight to my death. After playing the game more I found that this happened a little less because I got used to the feel, but still I feel like if the control pad functioned more like a joystick instead of d-pad it would be more enjoyable.
The final word
Castle of Magic is good, in fact it is very good. Once you get used to controlling the game it’s incredibly fun. It’s not the longest game in the world, but if you are looking for a really solid throwback to old school platforming on your iPhone, look no farther then Castle of Magic.
Presentation & Graphics
The visuals are absolutely gorgeous. Enough said.
Possibly the best music and sound effects in an iPhone game.
I wish I could give game play a higher score, but unfortunately the controls are a little to inconsistent for it be any higher. As much fun as the game is to play once I got used it, I have to knock the score down because the controls frustrated me with their inaccuracy too many times.
While the game is really good, it’s not very long and there is virtually no reason to go back to it once it is beaten.
The game is really good, and in spite of the fact that the controls could be better, I would still call the game a must play.