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Game Info:

Mysterious Castle
Developed By: OpenXcell Studio
Published By: OpenXcell Studio
Released: March, 25, 2016
Available On: Windows (Steam)
Genre: Puzzle (Escape Game)
ESRB Rating: N/A
Number of Players: 1
Price: $4.99

Thank you OpenXcell Studio for sending us this game!

What grabbed my interest about Mysterious Castle was the atmosphere. Playing as a nameless thief inside a dimly lit mansion and solving obscure puzzles brought back loads of nostalgic feelings from my days playing Thief Gold. To the game’s credit, the moody atmosphere is fairly consistent throughout the entirety of the game. This accomplishment is somewhat undercut, however, with the realization that the game is easily completed in under an hour.

Mysterious Castle is a point and click, escape-the-room, puzzle game. In theory, this means you explore a room solving logic puzzles. In reality, this means you end up clicking a number of random objects until something (often seemingly unrelated) happens.  

Oftentimes, proceeding through the puzzle is an exercise in patience as well as the process of elimination rather than actual logic. A perfect example of this is how in one room you are tasked with retrieving a small item through a hole in the floorboard. Naturally you might think to simply click it, but after that yields no response, you search the room until you come across a hammer. Returning to the floorboard again, you would try and use this hammer on the hole to no avail. So you again search the room until you find a chisel; combining it with your hammer, you return to the hole to again receive no reaction. After repeating this process again, with a wooden board added to the mix, you may finally retrieve the small item that a normal person would just grab through the hole instead.

Mysterious Castle
Highlights:

Strong Points: Consistent atmosphere
Weak Points: Painfully short; Buggy; Puzzles are random
Moral Warnings: The main character is a thief; The villain uses magic

This is a common issue among games of this genre. However, it is usually remedied by some sort of hint system that either gives enough context to handwave the “game logic” or at least points you towards the solution the designer intended. Something such as our nameless thief saying, “My hand is too big to fit through that hole. I’ll need some tools,” and “I can’t get proper leverage with just this hammer” would go a long way towards making the situations easier to swallow as well as give the creator the opportunity to better characterize the thief and the world.

The problem was further exasperated by various bugs. Several times throughout the gameplay, when trying to solve a puzzle, I would click on an interactive object. Sometimes this object would make a reaction sound but nothing in the room seemed to have reacted. Other times it wouldn’t react until a completely unrelated object was interacted with. Worst of all was an incident where an interactive object stopped working as it was intended, making the room unbeatable and forcing me to start from the beginning.

Mysterious Castle
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 46%
Gameplay - 5/20
Graphics - 6/10
Sound - 6/10
Stability - 3/5
Controls - 3/5

Morality Score - 90%
Violence - 10/10
Language - 10/10
Sexual Content - 10/10
Occult/Supernatural - 7/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 8/10

Mysterious Castle doesn’t so much have a plot as it has a setting. The intro cutscene describes a thief caught in the act of stealing by an unexplained monk. As is common among monks, he solicits the thief to free him from the mansion with the promise of a golden skull. In the nine puzzle rooms that follow, no further plot is given. The tenth room is a cutscene that rather ambitiously sets up a sequel. Both of these scenes are shown in a comic book style with dialogue that never failed to make me laugh. The awkward phrasing and lack of contractions made the dialogue seem childish. The voices in my head corresponded accordingly. Whether this is intentional or not, however, is up for debate.

There is little moral content to worry about within the Mysterious Castle, but this is largely due to there being little content in the first place. You pass through an area that might be a wine cellar, but no alcohol is seen or ingested, so the cellar might contain some vintage lemonade for all I know. You do play as a thief, as shown in the introduction, but said thief doesn’t actually get around to stealing anything in game. He is shown to not be a moral person by any stretch of the imagination, however. When asked to help the imprisoned monk, he responds “I’m a thief, not a saviour… Now go away! I need to steal some stuff.”

It’s not as if Mysterious Castle has no redeeming qualities. The subtle music and consistent mood had me initially intrigued. The final room actually had a puzzle that stumped me because it required out-of-the-box thinking rather than endless clicking. The tiny amount of story presented is very entertaining. (Though not perhaps for the reasons that were intended.) I would say to whoever made this that there are some good ideas that can be improved upon. However, to a potential buyer, I could not recommend this game. You can easily find better games in this genre for free online, and better still are games like Phoenix Wright or 999, which offer much more refined gameplay and better paced stories.

-Dallen Malna

 

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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