Castle of Secrets
Castle of Secrets is a promising point & click adventure with a poignant dark, mysterious atmosphere and beautiful gothic-themed graphics. The storyline revolves around Susan Tranton – the young heiress of an old line of English noblemen – whose parents together with the adoptive father have been killed under bizarre circumstances, making her the only person left to decipher the mystery surrounding her family and fight off the curse deemed upon it.
The game is built upon a peculiar mix of 2D and 3D: the hand-drawn 2D characters can be moved along a single layer (to the left or right, just like in a side-scrolling game), but the environments seem to be designed as a 3D space, allowing the camera to be zoomed in or out at any point. While this gives the game some sort of uniqueness due to the fact that this design is rather uncommon, it also brings a lot of issues, also making the object interactions extremely frustrating.
Like in any point & click game, you can pick up objects and store them in your inventory for later use. However, in Castle of Secrets, once you see that the action you want to perform with a picked up object is not the correct interaction, there is no way to put it back in your inventory. You can only drop it somewhere in the room area, and since this is designed as a 3D space, the object does not fall right below the clicked position, but *somewhere* quite random, often off-screen (if you’re zoomed, thus you’ll have to zoom out to find it again), or in a spot that is covered by décor elements, making it not fetchable any more. Because this happens so many times during the gameplay, a “Respawn” button has been added with the purpose of restoring the objects that have not already been used or that are not in your inventory to their original positions. On the downside, this also means that you have to pick them up again, and again, every time an interaction fails and you can’t find the used object any more.
Castle of Secrets is split into short distinctive levels that are played sequentially, and which unfold the storyline one step at a time. In each of these levels, you have a set list of tasks to complete and the progress happens only when you manage to finish them all. The chapters are thus contained in small rooms that require you to find certain objects and use them in order to unlock puzzles, and then solve these minigames.
The game offers a hint system that reveals the hotspots in the area on which the screen focuses, however these are displayed regardless of the current game state. Inside a scene, some areas can be unlocked only after performing certain actions, but the hint will show you all the possible hotspots, regardless of whether you can reach them or not in your current state. On the other hand, there is absolutely no hint / indication (apart from the tasks list) about the actions you still need to / can perform, and there are also no explanations about what the goal of a puzzle is (what is expected from you).
During my gameplay, I encountered several bugs, making it impossible for me to progress beyond the second area because of the items required for completing the tasks simply not spawning. At the moment of writing this review there are still 2 months left until the official release, therefore running into issues is expected. Hopefully these will be addressed and fixed in due time, and this review will be updated accordingly when this happens.
Castle of Secrets is planned to be released on Steam on 19 Aug 2022. In the meantime, a demo is available for anyone who wants to try the game, although it’s also not bug-free: one quest item is duplicated but that doesn’t affect the progression, one voice line is not translated into English, the main puzzle – which is extremely difficult to solve – does not register the solution even when it’s correct, but it does work when solved for a second time (at least that what happened when I played the demo). Despite these issues the demo can be completed in full and the game progresses a bit further than what can be achieved at the moment by playing the main game.