I’d understand if you felt you’d clicked on the wrong button and ended up at a computer game review section, but Castle Builder is a slot machine! Granted, a slot machine packed with side games, sub games and numerous levels, but a slot machine nevertheless.
Rabcat offer this as a ‘new breed of 5-reel slot machines featuring truly innovative level-based progress.’ and I have to say that, after the few thousand spins that it takes enable me to write this review, their sales patter is fulfilled at every level.
The game looks a little complex at first, but you soon realise that the complicated stuff looks after itself and you just need to play, make a few decisions and immerse yourself in the fun that this game brings you. That said, if you are the type of player that want’s a ‘no frills’ experience, you should keep walking, as this game, with its layers and levels, will infuriate you.
The premise is simple. You begin as a lowly builder in Forana ‘The Kingdom of the Gracious’ and, by successfully spinning ‘building’ symbols, you slowly build your first building – a small Summer Residence for the daughter of ‘King Lomquer. the third ruler of…’ well, you get the idea.
The slots part of the game is fairly standard – There are 15 payout lines across the 5 reels. You’ll find wild symbols, kings, queens, and other standard ‘medieval’ fare determining your results. You can bet between 1 and 100 coins from a range of preset amounts, as well as choose from the fairly flexible autoplay options. It’s crisp, it’s clean and it’s smooth. It would have benefited from a faster autoplay – time is money, my friend – and maybe the slot symbols could have been improved with a little animation, but apart from these minor niggles, it’s a solid contender for my favourite slots game. In terms of the UI Everything’s logically placed, the icons are large and nothing is confusing. It has obviously been designed with tablets in mind, but, unlike some other mobile facing platforms, it didn’t feel out of place on my large monitor.
During your first few spins, you’ll be met with a couple of pop-ups that explain the various features of the game: Building Symbols, the Marriage Dowry Indicator, etc. I found them a trifle annoying and I didn’t find any option to bypass them, other than to click the ‘Continue’ button each time they arrived. However, they’re soon behind you (or at least, a lot less frequent) as you progress further.
Keep spinning, keep building and you’ll soon see your Summer Residence take shape as you hit those winning building combos. In the meantime,especially in autoplay mode, you can listen to the choral music in the background and later, the organ recital that indicates you’ve nearly completed your building task. The sound, like this graphics, is full and impressive.
Once completed, you get to choose a husband for the Princess. It’s a simple ‘pick-an-option’ game with each suitor hiding a different value which is added to your balance. CONGRATULATIONS – You just received your first ‘rank-up medal’ and ‘achievement’? Yes, you guessed it – another popup!
If you wish to see your progress in the game, you can click on the globe icon to see whereabouts in the kingdom you are, or on the old man (with the rather impressive mustache) to see your ranking, unlocked achievements and properties built.
I, at least, have not seen too many slot games that have put this much effort into their retention features. The progressive in-game jackpot keeps you coming back for more, or at least to the completion of that level, just like any normal computer game does. It’s a good hook, and something, I am sure we will see a lot more of.
Obviously, with this progressive type of game, you’d expect a huge amount of features and whistles and bells which this game does have. However, the lack of settings customisation (you can only change music and sound settings) cost it a point or two. It would have been nice to offer quick-play and resolution controls, as well as the ability to skip those periodic popups, particularly as once you’ve done the round once, it’s business as normal for the remaining 34 castles.
Obviously, within the scope of a single review, I was unable to progress more than a few buildings, but the gameplay during that time was fun, the progression steady and, with the different buildings, kings and princesses, varied enough to keep the game enjoyable and fresh. Based on the wins I would say this game isn’t hugely volatile, in fact I was getting a hit frequency of around 1 in 6 with most wins riding in the ‘just above the bet zone’. Of course the dowry payment you can pick at the end of each level can still give you a big win, but generally this doesn’t belong on William Hill’s Vegas tab 😉
Ultimately I loved it. The quirky, medieval theme appealed to me, watching the construction of the buildings held my interest and the ‘pick-a-suitor’ subsection was silly enough to keep me smiling. There was something smugly satisfying about choosing Puss in Boots or a frog as the princess’ husbands.
It’s not perfect, there are a few minor tweaks that would have made it better, and collectively, they add up to a few points lost here and there, but it’s close. If you enjoy a slot that immerses you a little further than the average game, you’ve just found it.