There are many gamers out there who want nothing more than the big Triple A titles filling their hard drive. They want to sit down for months on end, get taken on an adventure, given the opportunity to live out a virtual life and have the chance to unleash all their pent up frustrations by firing a ton of bullets at opponents from around the world.
And there are others who will happily check out the smaller titles; the ones that cost very little and just about help fund the super extravagant lifestyle of an independent developer. Or at least give them enough cash in order to pursue their dreams even more.
I have to admit to being in the latter camp, much more in tune with the indie way of life than the glitz and glamour of multi-million pound budgets. But even I have to worry about the spate of games which have appeared on Xbox One recently with a stupidly low price tag attached. I mean, I’m all for cheap and cheerful, but do these micro-budget games really warrant our time?
My god yes, and Castle Invasion is a glorious example of that.
Priced at just £3.99, Castle Invasion: Throne Out is most definitely cheap and it is most certainly damn right cheerful. It’s full of wisecracks, comes complete with just enough content for the price and is enjoyable enough for you to want to sit through, button mashing for a good few hours. And that’s really all I want in a game. I don’t want big in-depth lores, I don’t always want stunning visuals – although there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the graphics in Castle Invasion – and I don’t always want a game that will keep dragging me in for months on end. At times I just want to sit down, have a laugh and mindlessly blast my way through what is sent my way.
Castle Invasion is simple. You control a young man who has been tasked with keeping his castle safe from oncomers. When the spoiled man-child of a King comes along and tries to take it from under your feet, there is nothing left to do but to stand and fight him, and his army, to the death. All he wants is this castle, but he’s not going to be taking it easily.
As the castle’s saviour, you find yourself tied to the left side of the screen, with your only movement being up and down as you scan the horizons and fire out arrows, spears, crossbow shots and catapult stones at the oncoming forces. Each weapon fires slightly differently from the next and comes with its own unique stats and upgradable items. For example, the initial bow and arrow is your everyday run of the mill weapon, firing at a decent rate with a medium damage hit. The spear however is slower, but much more powerful whilst the crossbow is an altogether faster weapon that dishes out little in the way of hit points. There is also a bag of stones which you can catapult out in order to take down numerous enemies at once, but this only really comes into play much later on in proceedings – by which time you’ll find you would have upgraded the other three weapons so significantly that you need not worry about it too much. You’ll need to combine all four weapons in order to deal out the most damage, in as quick a time as possible, all whilst stopping the invading forces from damaging your castle too much. Because you see, if they get too close, the entire battlements and their foundations may come crashing to the floor.
With standard peasants willing to do whatever the King asks, hog backed dwarfs armed with axes, shielded Knights, magical wizards, bomb throwing jesters, nifty ninjas and more all running at your castle without a care in the world, the button mashing required for your success is right up there with the very best of them. It can, at times, become a little overwhelming in fact and repetitive strain injury is most definitely an issue for players of Castle Invasion. Unless of course you figure out that the crossbow, when upgraded fully, is an absolute beast of a machine and a simple hold of the A button is enough to save your wrists and fingers from utter damage. But hey, I found that out a little too late.
With each death of the enemy, you’ll see a credit, or bunch of credits, appear on the battlefield. You’ll need to shoot this again in order to bag it, but they are plentiful in supply and it matters little if you miss the odd one or two. It won’t take you long to earn enough cash in order to take a visit to the local friendly, humorous blacksmith as he upgrades your weapons for you. It’s not a particularly in depth upgrade system, and the ease in which you earn credits essentially means you’ll just keep dropping by in order to fire off a new upgrade without too much of a care, but it works well none the less and is essential for your success.
All the levels contained within Throne Out play out pretty similarly, although the inclusion of a few timed ones, in which you also get to slow down and speed up the enemies as you see fit, throw enough variation in for you to not really ever get bored. Cleverly, Cat Trap Studios have also mixed things up a bit with a few stages that are set in the dead of the night. Equipped with fire arrows, if you fail to keep your torches fully lit at all times, you’ll be left shooting blind and never knowing where the next attack is coming from.
As you would expect, there are also a smattering of boss battles to sit through, but yet again these turn into nothing more than a hardcore mash of the firing button and none of the fire breathing dragon, mindless orge or sharp witted Knight will cause too much hassle.
With 50 levels in all, and each of those coming complete with three challenges which gift completion stars, you’ll find that Castle Invasion is well suited to multiple playthroughs, if only because the vast majority of it is so damn easy that the completionist in you will find a real reason to go back through and pick up any leftovers. It’s not completely straight forward though and a number of the challenges are really going to push your shooting skills to the limit. In fact, a few of the latter challenges are so damn tricky that you may eventually come to curse their entire existence.
For the price, Castle Invasion: Throne Out is more than worth your time. You may be seeing the credits roll some five hours or so after you first purchase it, but that in itself isn’t bad for a title that costs the equivalent of a beer or two. The opportunity to at least go back through the levels and pick up the remaining stars – and the only achievement that actually needs working at – is also just about in your grasp and chances are you’ll have had enough fun initially to at least think about picking up the whole 1000 Gamerscore set.
It may be fairly simple stuff, but you could do worse for £3.99. A lot worse.