Returning with a guide may be helpful…
Return To Castlerama is certainly an interesting one. This iOS game from Codenrama is essentially the sequel to what was effectively a tech demo (Castlerama) in which the user could explore a photorealistic 3D setting based on a town in Italy. As far as prequels go, Castlerama certainly left a lot to be desired.
But the interesting fact comes from Return To Castlerama being a 3D, first-person, fantasy adventure set within this very well realised world. Return To Castlerama is not the sequel that it appears to be, and players of this iOS title that are left wondering what the hell to do in the game will not find any answers in the prequel, just more questions.
As this is the biggest problem in Return To Castlerama – the lack of direction. The world in which this first-person adventure is based looks quite beautiful, with the emphasis being on photorealism, but without any direction, the game has real trouble achieving anything more than the original tech demo. Maybe I am being a bit harsh here, as I am sure that Return To Castlerama will manage to gather a cult following, but mainstream gamers will have trouble.
But let’s start at the beginning. The player takes control of a young lad called David – a hebalist’s son who turns out to have a pretty important destiny in the grand scheme of things. Play is controlled using two virtual sticks that can be moved around the screen in an attempt not to hide anything of importance. There are also a couple of other on-screen buttons providing further actions beyond the movement provided by the sticks. On-screen virtual stick controls are very much a matter of taste, but they work okay for what it’s worth.
The player begins the game in the shop, and from there things become very vague. The story and hints about what to do are presented to the player as massive blocks of text to read, and I am sure that the vagueness comes down to laziness on my part as I skim through the text without reading it properly. In my defence, there is a lot of reading in the game. The quality of the writing is without issue, but there is just too much of it. This text comes in the form of scrolls that can be found within the explorable areas.
Besides finding scrolls, the player will also find Tarot cards that have been beautifully illustrated, and there are the occasional puzzles to deal with. These puzzles are generally fairly easy (once the player works out what to do) but are surprisingly few and far between, with the largest portion of the game revolving around exploration of these stunning environments that takes them beyond the castle walls.
There has obviously been a lot of work go into Return To Castlerama, and the game world has been extensively fleshed out thanks to the large amount of text to read. But the game still feels very empty. The player is free to explore the mostly quite large playing areas, but there is not a lot of life and not much to see beyond the eye-candy enviroments. Whilst hours can be spent exploring, other aspects of the game such as puzzles or quests take up very little time.
Return To Castlerama is a difficult game to recommend to iOS gamers in general. There is too little direction and too much reading. That being said, if you are the type of gamer who can happily spend hours just exploring a rich environment without the need of someone telling you want to do, then maybe Return To Castlerama will tick your boxes. For everyone else, there is fun to be had in Castlerama, but the player will have to work hard to find it.