Long before the modern age of mobile gaming and pocket-handy computers that we refer to as "smartphones," poor, lowly players would flock to the Internet in order to get their cheap gaming fix. In this era that time has forgotten, those seeking digital entertainment would subject themselves to monstrosities known as "Flash games," primitive versions of the mobile games that we know and enjoy today. Among these relics was a game known as Castle Clout, the great grandfather of many modern games including the illustrious Angry Birds. Not ones to leave the past buried, the dedicated archeologists at Teyon have dug up the bones of this web-based favourite, breathing new life into it in the form of Castle Clout 3D.
Those who have played Castle Clout before – or any of its countless clones – will immediately recognize the gameplay. Positioned at one end of a side-scrolling field is a castle filled with enemy soldiers and royals. Directly opposite the castle is your weapon of mass destruction in the form of a trebuchet or ballista. Your goal, quite unabashedly, is to take out all of the villainous castle-dwellers by pummelling their home from a safe distance. Beyond using the 3DS’ touch screen or physical buttons to adjust your angle of fire, gameplay lacks any real depth, but that doesn’t stop this title from being an endlessly amusing undertaking.
The world map is divided into five islands, each of which is further divided into smaller regions populated by castles. As you progress through each region by liberating the castles located within, new areas will become available with progressively fortified strongholds. Each stage has a limit on how many times you can attack, and trophies are awarded to you based on how well you demolish your foes. Firing less ammo is obviously the best way to get a gold trophy, and mastering all of the stages with gold is sure to keep most players returning for repeat sessions long after each level has been unlocked.
As you make your way through the campaign you will unlock an assortment of new ammunition to fling across the field. Remembering which weapons are strong against the different materials that comprise your opponent’s castle is key to finishing each stage in as few turns as possible. The premise may be straightforward and mostly unchanging, with the exception of different defences and weaponry to counter it, but the further along you go there is a palpable increase in difficulty. To truly conquer each castle your strategy will have to go well beyond simply bombarding your enemies, but will instead require thoughtful use of your varied arsenal.
Completing stages will also unlock pieces that can be used in the castle creator. In this mode you are given a grid on which you can customize your own castle and fill it with enemies and allies before smashing it to bits. The castle creator is basic, but it works well as all of the pieces fit into the geometry of the grid, making it effortless to both learn and master.
For those players looking for a more direct challenge, there is also a multiplayer gameplay option, known here as Hot Seat. This mode allows you and up to three additional local or AI players to compete against one another in team-based pass-and-play castle crushing action. After choosing your game settings and selecting your castle, you will then be pitted against the opposing team in a race to demolish the other’s stronghold first. It’s a change of pace from the campaign as you’re directly competing against another player rather than simply bombarding your enemy with projectile after projectile. There is also the option to use one of the custom castles that you designed in the creation tool, adding an extra touch of personalization.
As an entirely two-dimensional game, it makes sense that the handheld console's trademark 3D effect isn't exactly used to enhance gameplay, but it does help bring depth to the otherwise flat environments. The hand drawn art style compliments the tone of the game well, and adding the simulated depth makes the environments pop. The complete lack of soundtrack during gameplay – beyond the environmental sound effects and fanfare at the end of stages – makes the game feel somewhat hollow, which is unfortunate as the menu music, just like the visual style, is a great match for the medieval theme. The one positive note about a missing soundtrack is that it doesn’t detract from hearing the satisfying sounds of your enemies’ comical cries of agony as they topple to their deaths.
Like many Flash games that predate the modern era, Castle Clout 3D is straightforward and simplistic fun. It’s far from complicated, and it doesn’t strain itself too hard to do anything that we haven’t seen a surplus of since the rise of mobile gaming, but what it does provide is hours of casual amusement. For fans of Angry Birds who are looking for a change of pace, or anyone who is craving a bit of relaxing fun, this castle is definitely worth crushing.