There was a tech demo from Epic called Epic Citadel, an app that demonstrated what could be done using the unreal engine and did this by giving you a beautiful town to explore (there is also Codenrama’s original Castlerama as well). When I initially saw the beautiful photorealistic screen shots of Return to Castlerama (RtC), I wondered if this game could top what Epic did and make a game that looked as nice and also had a game within that world. I thought that at the very least it would look great. At times it does looks nice, but there’s an overwhelming amount of times that it doesn’t.
RtC presents itself as a medieval fantasy style game, a world filled with lore and magic. There is no shortage of the lore of the world, as there are scrolls littered throughout the landscape. These are packed full of text and quickly become a chore to read. Some may enjoy all the effort put into filling the world with lore, but the world is never compelling enough to justify all that reading. For those interested in the basic story, you are David. He quickly finds that he's descended from noble blood and is destined to rid the world of evil. If you want more story than that, brace yourself for lots of reading! You'll get to solve puzzles every now and then, take on fetch quests and there's even some fighting.
Every now and then you'll catch glimpses of the game that screenshots suggest, but often you experience an empty lifeless world. I feel bad in picking apart the world that Codenrama have spent time building, as at times it feels like they really wanted to make a detailed world filled with things to look at. Unfortunately, there’s not much to interact with besides picking up tarot cards and scrolls. There's plenty of times I tapped on the screen at things that looked collectable but alas were only part of the scenery. While I love collecting things in games, I've more recently found it’s not worth doing the extra work if there isn't anything rewarding in it. In RtC I never felt compelled to scour every inch of this game for scrolls or cards.
For a game that pushes its photorealistic graphics, the scenery looks nice and same with the lighting. But as I mentioned earlier the world feels empty. There are some NPCs in the world but you can't even interact with all of them.
Cutscenes are presented in a smaller box on the screen. The animation isn't bad for a mobile game but in 2013 it's not that great either. The most frustrating cutscene is the one that plays whenever you open a door.
The controls are dual joysticks on the screen, one to control movement and the other to look around. Both are difficult to use, in fact movement in this game is slow and difficult. There is a run button you can press as you move, but it's of no use indoors and just because you can run it doesn't make it any easier to look around as you move.
I feel bad for being so tough on RtC, but in the end I'm here writing reviews because I enjoy gaming and I want to be able to share with people games that are worth checking out. What started off as high hopes for this game were quickly squashed by the slow pace and walls of text while sluggishly moving around looking for what I needed to do next.
To add something positive Codenrama have put in the effort to give their world lore and mythos, I believe that there is an audience for this game who enjoy world building text. It could be possible that the game might get better after updates in the future, but it will take more than making the controls better. For over $5 I cannot recommend this game.