The beauty of many, if not most, video games lies in their ability to distance players from the real world by taking them into a fantastical alternative reality. So imagine, if you will, that you live in a world covered with elaborate castles made from wood, iron, and stone, but that are held together without mortar or indeed any sort of connective material between pieces. Further, imagine that it was your task to kill all the inhabitants of these castles armed only with a trebuchet and various projectiles.
It is to this world that the game Crush the Castle for the iPhone/iPod Touch takes you. The mechanics of the game are simple: You simply tap the screen once to start the trebuchet in motion, and tap again to release the projectile(s). Should you want to change ammunition, two more taps will take care of that. Your task is to crush the castles, as the name states, but most importantly to kill any and all the people in each castle.
These people — who are meant to look like kings, ladies of various kinds, and guards — don’t fight back, and won’t even move as giant boulders or bombs streak through the air, raining doom upon them. If that makes the game sound easy, it isn’t. Sure, you’ll earn a gold medal on some castles on your first try (the kind of medal you earn depends on the number of shots you need to kill all the people, and is based on each castle’s difficulty). But some castles will have you tapping Reset to start over again at zero shots, and desperately trying different trebuchet release points until you find something that works. One castle took me well over twenty tries to crush, and then I only just managed to earn a bronze medal.
I leaped at the chance to play the iPhone game, because I’d played the original Flash game and its sequel online, and thoroughly enjoyed both. The iPhone game has many very different castles from the online versions, and at least one new projectile type as well (I have yet to finish the iPhone game, so can’t be certain it stops at one). So even if you’ve played the originals, you’ll find lots new with the iPhone version, but the fundamentals are still the same.
It’s a great game for kids, too. Yes, you’re trying to kill people, and yes, when they die there is a little splatter of blood. But the people never move on their own, so it’s unrealistic enough that it’s not likely to traumatize or desensitize anyone. And the mechanics are so dead simple that any kid who understands how to tap the iPhone screen can play.
Crush the Castle is $1.99 from the iTunes App Store, and will provide hours of entertainment. If you’re unconvinced and want to try it out before spending money on it, there is a limited free edition of the game available as well.
Wired: Way more fun than it has any right to be, really, and well worth dropping $1.99 on.
Tired: Some of the castles were a bit more frustrating than necessary, I thought. But if it weren’t challenging, it wouldn’t be much fun, would it?
(Full disclosure: I received a free copy of the $1.99 version of the game.)