Castle on the Coast is a hark back to the N64 era of 3D platforming. Big, bright visuals. Colours everywhere. A sense of crazy abandonment in each place you visit. It’s also crammed full of collectables and that drives most of the gameplay of Castle on the Coast forward too. It has its heart in the right place but its control scheme and character physics will determine just how much you enjoy this game.
George the Giraffe is busy trying to help orphaned children get along as they live in a giant castle and to do this he has to beat some of the bigger kids who’ve turned into witches to bully the younger kids. George doesn’t really seem to care though, he just wants to collect things which is just as well as every area is stuffed with items. Some open up portals to new areas, some gate off new levels entirely, some are required to trigger off bosses. This keeps you in check as a player because the central castle acts as a main hub area (and an entire level itself) to make the entire game feel open world-ish. However, if you haven’t got loads of a certain collectable beforehand, you can’t get to certain areas.
World design is chonky and varied. By that I mean everything has a fat polygon design and often means you’ll need to rotate the camera around to see what’s going on in busy areas. Thankfully the camera works quite nicely which is key to all this as it has to keep up with your traversal. George is one of the most agile characters I’ve played in years. He can have a triple jump, glide, wall hop, tightrope walk, swim, climb, hover and short spurt fly with his booster jets. As soon as he is in contact with land, his jumps reset too and this doesn’t mean in contact with his feet – it’s anything. This means you can attempt a jump, face plant a wall and then try and wall jump up it like a broken puppet. At first I thought this was weird – and really it is – but it feels like the game was partly designed with this in mind. There are a lot of moving platform portal levels in the game and the paths twist in ways you can’t walk on – so its as if you aren’t meant to smash into things like a gyrating puppet and then splat up them. George also floats a lot. He has an after run slow down. His jumps can have aftertouch arcs that ping him about like mad. It is a very acquired taste and not one I’ve seen implemented quite to this extreme for some time. It’s that marmite I think it’ll make or break the game for you. I found it funny at times but as soon as any precision platforming was involved, I had to flip the camera to above my head to work out where I was vaguely going to land on any jumps or glides.
The last oddity of the game is its length. The game has four distinct areas plus the castle hub but the first level is over half of the actual game. Level two is about half the size of the first level and then the other two areas are really just boss fights. It just feels really lopsided and odd as if the game ran out of steam. It’s still a good 4 – 6 hours long and getting all the collectables will take you a bit longer maybe but when the first level takes over 2 hours to complete, you set yourself up for a bit of a longer ride. Completing the strangeness is the bonus co-op mode that adds a second character onto George called Swirlz the Squirrel. Swirlz makes bounce pads, parachutes and shoots magic which means you can cheese the game even further. Nice to have though, especially for younger players as you can do the game entirely solo without problems.
With its weird psychedelic graphics (especially in portal worlds), wonky movement, imprecise controls and strange level design – it’s surprising then that its a fun experience to play. It is as if Castle on the Coast has embraced its janky edges and incorporated them into the game. The game is unusual and unique in many ways but it still feels like a fun N64 collectathon and that brought me joy as a player. Just know going in, it’ll be a weird one!
Review copy provided by publisher.
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