Castle Storm PS Vita Review

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Alright, its time to come clean. Castle Storm is the first proper tower defense game I’ve played in years. It’s not that I have something against the genre, I’ve just been busying myself with different kinds of games in recent years. What I love about tower defense games is that they typically mesh a couple of my favorite types of games together. There’s building simulation and real-time, class-based strategy. What really surprised me about Castle Storm was it’s ability to evolve the tried and true tower defense formula while meaningfully stuffing more gameplay styles into the game. Developer Zen Studios creates some of the best digital pinball tables money can buy, and Castle Storm has been available for some time on PC and XBLA, so how well did the studio manage their port to PS Vita?

Zen took the best-selling elements from the tower defense genre and polished them beyond belief. A variety of gameplay types were mixed into the fray to add a depth that I wasn’t expecting from the title. The addition of a castle editor, deep unit and projectile customization, and a fully controllable and upgradable general make Castle Storm much more than a run-of-the-mill bow and arrow tower defense game. When you combine all the elements that have been crammed into the title you get a fantastic amount of value and an amazing amount of replayability.

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As I mentioned, this isn’t a boiler plate bow & arrow tower defense game. Zen added an astonishing amount of content to this little game. You’ll have access to nine deployable unit-types, projectiles, and spells. Mission objectives are either defensive or offensive. Defense consists of simply surviving the onslaught that your attacker throws at you. Offensive missions typically have an ultimate goal of either destroying the opposing forces’ castle or capturing their flag with your deployed units. With several conditional bonus objectives available, there’s reason to return to missions over and over to satisfy all of the available goals.

The variety of unit-types, projectiles, and spells available give you the ability to tailor the experience to your strengths. Mixing up your unit types keeps your AI or even human foes guessing and gives them less of a chance to focus on attacking you. For the most part, the units on the battlefield act as cannon fodder to slow your would be attackers approach, but there’s a few that pose a very real threat. Having the ability to position your general where you need him on the battlefield is a really fun feature of Castle Storm. The general character also injects hack & slash gameplay into the mix, but that’s not all, he also has the ability to fire a bow and arrow from the heart of the battle. Controlling the trenches give you the time you need to dissect your opponents fortress and send them to sleep without dessert.

When reviewing Vita titles I typically look for some kind of device-specific functionality. I didn’t find anything astoundingly Vita-specific within the package, but I honestly didn’t find it to be a detriment to the experience. I almost feel that if Zen had tried to shoehorn in ill-conceived touchscreen or trackpad functionality it could have affected the development schedule or possibly detracted from what the core experience delivered.

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The cartoon-inspired visuals of Castle Storm work extremely well on the Vita’s OLED display. A bright color palette and distinct animation style give the title a good amount of flair. Each deployable unit had a distinguishable design and an unexpected amount of detail. Being able to zoom in and out of the combat area lets you really appreciate the illustrations. There’s nothing out of this world about Castle Storms graphics, but they really do work awfully well.

The online multiplayer component is also sure to please. We tried a large selection of available game modes, but versus and hero survival were the standouts. It was tremendously fun destroying Zach’s castle and continuously raining on his parade by destroying his army, except for that one time when he did it to me. Hero survival gave us wave after wave of enemies to slay with two powerful heroes fighting back to back. While not the showstopper of the title, the online capabilities are sure to add to the time you spend with Castle Storm.

In the end, Castle Storm was so much more than I ever thought it would be. The addictive gameplay is joined by a bit of hack & slash and building simulation. The genre blending ultimately offers more than what a strictly tower defense game ever could and I’m now waiting for the next time Zen decides to venture outside the silver ball.

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Dylan Zellmer

Dylan splits time between games journalism, designing video games, and playing them. Outside of his deep involvement in the games industry, he enjoys It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Shameless, A Song of Ice and Fire, fitness, and family.
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