Castling in Review – You Got Your Chess In My Puzzle Game…

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When I was younger, most notably in high school, I liked to play chess once in a while.  The problem with a game like chess is it’s not easily accessible like checkers or most card games, so it can be hard to find folks that want to play with you.  Earlier this year my kids started to gain an appreciation for the game, so when I came across Castling I thought it might appeal to both them and me.  The brilliance of Castling is that while it never presents a full game it teaches you how to move all the pieces, and it throws a nice bit of good old fashion puzzle strategy into the mix as well.  Add to that the entertaining representations of the different pieces and you have an instant classic for both chess lovers and puzzle gamers alike.

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Just like in the game of chess, the object in Castling is to take out the king.  In this case, however, you must literally remove him from the board, unlike this game’s inspiration where you can simply “contain” him to win the game.  Typically this means getting one of your pieces onto the same square as the king, though on rare occasions there are other ways to eliminate the royal thorn in your side.  The trek won’t be easy, as the king often has some evil henchmen surrounding him.  Thankfully the opposition will only attack and not move around the board, so as long as you stay clear of a piece’s attacking pattern you’re okay.  Of course there are times when you may actually want to get attacked, though you always have to keep one of your pieces alive.

Besides the king and his minions, the path to victory is paved with many other obstacles.  Sometimes the path will be obscured with drawbridges that must be lowered by positioning a piece on a button.  In the second level set you’ll have to deal with ice, which is a slippery proposition, and sometimes even cracks under your weight.  In the third group of challenges you’ll have to have a keen eye for color, as certain gates can only be traversed by pieces of a certain hue.  Luckily you’ll be able to merge and split pieces as well as simply have them land on color changers in order to get the exact shade you’re looking for.  There is also a set of eight levels that just tests you to see how much you’ve learned from the first 60.  In order to navigate this wonderful world of “not quite chess” you just have to drag a piece from where it rests to where you want it to go.  The game is even kind enough to show you all the available moves you can make.

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Castling is comprised of 60 levels spread across 3 worlds with an additional 8 level bonus which you unlock by completing the rest of the levels or posting on Facebook or Twitter about the game via in-app buttons.  Each level has three stars to collect and a special medal you can earn by completing a more challenging goal such as beating the level in a certain number of moves.  There are 21 achievements to earn via Game Center, but there’s no leaderboard since the only thing you could really compete on is overall time to complete and the game doesn’t time you in the first place.  This is a feature I really appreciate, by the way.

The backgrounds aren’t overly detailed or diverse, but the game looks good.  I particularly like how they’ve rendered the different chess pieces.  I could almost picture them making an animated movie with these characters not unlike such films as Cars or Finding Nemo.  It would be an unexpected subject for sure, but the depictions of the various pieces give them such character.  The sound effects help in that regards as well, especially when your pieces cheer after a victory or the various players start to yawn if you haven’t moved for a while.  There are some other miscellaneous effects throughout the game that provide some nice distraction in the background but don’t really seem to fit with the game.  It’s like someone left a “sounds of nature” CD running in the background.  There’s a halfway decent music track that plays during the menu, but sadly there is no music while you’re actually playing a level, which as I’ve said many times is a particularly bad thing when the game is slower paced like Castling.

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Castling is a great puzzle game that’s blends the movements of chess with a completely different style of play.  Pure chess fiends might not find it as much of a thrill, but casual players as well as general puzzle freaks like myself should really enjoy it.  The puzzles are well thought out and often challenging without ever being impossible, and the atmosphere is cute but doesn’t feel too childish.  Some music during the levels would be nice, and maybe just a bit of animation in the background.  Otherwise this is a solid, worthwhile puzzle game.

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App Summary
Title: CastlingDeveloper: Oddlabs
Reviewed Ver:1.0Min OS Req: iOS 7.0
Price:$0.99App Size:31.22MB
  • 60+ well designed levels
  • Nice blend of chess and puzzle solving
  • Cute character pieces
  • Nice sound effects for pieces
  • Background effects seem random and superfluous
  • No music during the levels

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