Once upon a time, there existed a small three-story castle overrun with strange vermin. Every evening, the groundskeepers would scour the perimeter for any sign or trail leading to the source of the infestation and every evening they would return empty-handed… until one fateful night when a drunken bard decided the simplest solution was to dig straight down.
More Tower, More Defense
Just when you thought the tower defense genre had all but been tapped-out, along comes Castlemine. Unless you’re a total rookie in the mobile gaming sphere, you know the drill – kill waves upon waves of steadily marching mobs using skillfully placed turrets before they reach the other end of a path. In Castlemine’s sixty-odd levels of vertical doom, you’ll place ice, fire, and lightning turrets, plant exploding mines, and give your turrets buffs using new “support” structures, all in the hope of stemming the tide of advancing pixels. Turrets gain experience per-shot and can be upgraded once they level, as in most tower defense games, but unfortunately you won’t know what you’re buying until it’s already been bought – kinda like going to the hospital here in the good ‘ol US of A. I digress.
A Path To Your Own Destruction
Unlike most tower defense games, YOU create the path that will inevitably lead a stream of rodents all up in ‘yo biz. This begs the question, “If you don’t want these things in your castle, why would you dig a path for them in the first place?” Don’t ask questions. Questions are for newbs. Yes it is true, in Castlemine you simultaneously create and prevent a threat to your own castle by tapping on little red shovel icons. As you dig down into the supporting foundation, you’ll unearth gold (to buy/upgrade turrets), crystal (to build support structures), gold crosses (end of level xp), and skulls (increases difficulty). Finish a long enough path and you’ll hit “the fire” – an arbitrary red line where you’ll have no other choice but to attack once it’s been crossed. Defend, I’m sorry… I meant defend.
Shovel Of Mystery
Castlemine’s map is the same game in and game out – a castle of varying height sitting atop a bunch of dirt. How you dig the path to your own destruction is controlled by some mystical game logic that I have yet to decode. Little shovels will appear for a few digs, but you won’t be able to dig anywhere you wish. Sometimes they let you go left or right, sometimes down, and just when you thought you could dig to the edge of the map… you’ll get a dreaded, “Dead End!” message resulting in a failed level. Several times I encountered this befuddling message and my usual reaction was, “Why the $%!#$ can’t I just dig DOWN!?” Logic. Silly, tempting, comforting and deceiving logic.
Naturally after crossing the red line, bad stuff happens – in this case triggering a wave or two of uninspiring sprites. After a few more digs and a few more red lines, you’ll get to the really-really big red line that reveals a cavernous abyss beneath your castle! The source of all your woes. Of course, who knows… maybe the rodents are only attacking in self-defense.
Min/Max Your Turrets
There are sixty same-themed stages in Castlemine for you to bang your head against, and after each stage you’ll have the opportunity to spend experience points unlocking various skills from the ice, fire, and lightning skill trees. I do believe this is the first time I’ve ever seen a skill tree system used in a tower defense game. Using your skill points, you’ll increase the number of lightning branches, decrease the cost of upgrades, or add more height to your tower (which is a really good idea, considering the fact that you’re undermining its foundation).
Most tower defense games have some sort of addicting quality – if only due to the simple fact that they keep you busy – and I suppose Castlemine could fit this bill. However, the lack of variety in terms of maps and units gets old quick. You’re constantly digging down, building up, and looking at the same general graphics game after game. While the skill tree and digging mechanics make a sincere effort to change things up a bit, it doesn’t do much in the face of 60 repetitious levels. In fact, I would even go so far as to say the skill trees and skills themselves are far too granular in nature and too detailed. Add to that the confusion of purchasing turrets and upgrades without any up-front info and a semi-manual dig mechanic that leaves you dead-ended when you could easily dig down… This game feels a bit amateur to me. But, it’s free. And, if you get too confused, there’s a Castlemine guide on the Play store to get you through the slog.