Have You Played… Castlestorm?
The Angry Birds catches the Worms
Castlestorm was Angry Birds re-imagined as tower defence, with a dash of Worms and a WoW-lite aesthetic, and it was extremely good! If it was released today, however, I’d probably ignore it. Because, even though it isn’t even a mobile game, it’s got a massive case of rubbish mobile game energy. It’s all exaggerated, cartoony fantasy characters, bright colours, and humour of the kind that got stale around the time Clash Of Clans spent its second billion on marketing. But in 2013, the tsunami of identikit mediocrity was still just a (free to play!) bulge on the horizon, and so I picked it up, thinking it looked like fun. It was.
Before a level, you’d build up your castle from a series of modular rooms, taking into account both the structural integrity, and the troop types those rooms would provide. Then you’d hit play, and face off against an enemy castle across a short stretch of ground. You would send various brutes and roustabouts marching across no-man’s-land, with the aim of capturing and returning a flag, and the enemy’s scoundrels and ruffians would wade in the opposite direction, mashing yours when they met. While all this was going on, your castles would be wellying each other with a variety of silly siege weapons, battering down walls and collapsing turrets in classic Angry Birds style. Once you’d lost the room that generated a particular kind of unit, you couldn’t send them out any more. And so on, until someone had the others’ flag.
There’s probably more to it, but that’s what sticks in my head seven years on. And it’s a fairly neat formula, that I found utterly compulsive for the week of evenings I spent playing through its campaigns. There was no multiplayer, which was a shame, but the story-driven campaign was fun, with a surprising amount of variety in levels, and jaunty medieval bops playing throughout (funnily enough, by the same composer who scored Castle Crashers, the game which reminded me to write about this one by virtue of preceding it in my steam library). As for the humour, I can’t remember whether it swung towards actually-half-decent or inoffensively bland, but I’ve no recollection of being annoyed by it.
So, yes, Castlestorm! There have probably been a billion games with this format since then, but this was a cheerful, well-polished little game that pulled off its concept brilliantly, and I can’t imagine many people failing to find seven quid’s worth of fun in it. Seriously, pick it up, I’m going to replay it now, if only as a bit of respite from Age of Empires 2.