Point-and-click adventures are enjoying a second life on touch-based devices. Thankfully, this means that new games are being made in this genre. One of the most visually distinctive of these new games is BulkyPix’s new Cardboard Castle. You must guide a brave knight through a treacherous countryside, overcoming obstacles and solving puzzles along the way. Oh, and everything is made of cardboard. This means that if you get something wet, it becomes a soggy pile. When everything is made of paper, a pair of real scissors becomes the ultimate weapon.
The gameplay is your standard point-and-click puzzle game. Your knight will enter from the left and you must clear all obstacles in his path so that he can continue to the right. This can be as simple as cutting down a tree so you can make a bridge across a gap. It can also end up being a long sequence of events that ends with lighting the tail of a bull so he charges into a gate to let you pass. Do not let the childlike aesthetic fool you, for the scenarios become rather challenging before you know it. As with adventure games of old, it all comes down to working out which objects to use on what obstacles in the correct order so as to progress. Each object can only be used once, following that wonderful puzzle game formula that once you use an axe to cut down a tree, the axe disintegrates. It does come down to a sequence of trial and error, with some frustration that is inherent in the design. You could have a tree that you need to chop down to make a bridge, but in that tree is an apple, which you will need to feed a crow so it drops a key. If you chop down the tree first, the apple disappears, leaving the puzzle unsolvable.
It's cases like that which make me wish there was an 'undo' button. Just taking a step back instead of having to start at the beginning of a stage would do wonders to keep the frustration levels down. This would also help the surprisingly common problem of accidentally activating the wrong object when two are close together. Another minor gripe is that the pause, restart, and hint buttons are actually easy to accidentally hit due to their placement at the bottom of the screen. I would often try to click on an object on the ground but accidentally hit one of those buttons instead. My last little quibble is that for a game that requires you to scroll, it doesn’t have a very responsive finger swiping function. It's frustrating, attempting to move the screen up to three times before the game allows it to happen, especially since you are being timed and the gamer in me wants to finish the level as fast as possible.
There is a hint system in place should you get stuck. You can locate two “sovereigns” in most levels that are similar to Professor Layton’s “hint coins”. These hints will help give you a nod in the right direction without giving the solution away.
The main reason to play this game is for the charming art style. Objects are made of crayon drawings on cardboard and backgrounds look to be made with the torn edges of pieces of paper. It is surprisingly satisfying to click on a cow and watch it kick an enemy down a pit. The sounds are delightful without being annoying and the music is soothing and fitting to the theme.
There are three quests, each with five stages to complete. These do get gradually tougher but the learning curve is nicely balanced. Once you complete the main stories, there is a time attack mode where you come up against a constant stream of obstacles. You must get past these obstacles as fast as you can, earning a few seconds for each stage you pass. At time of review, the game is sitting at the $0.99 price point. You will be sure to get a few hours of play out of the full game, so this is a simple purchase. As with all games in the app store, updates could bring new levels and minor gameplay polishes.
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If you twist my arm, I guess I could sum up this game in the time-honored reviewer technique of comparisons to other games. This game feels like a King’s Quest game designed to look like Scribblenauts. However, it fully commits to the idea of a world made of cardboard and is clever in its execution of the concept and design of the puzzles. It's easy enough for a child to play but don’t be surprised if it happens to stump mom and dad. And while it is a tad short, it left me wanting more, which is probably the best compliment you can give a game.