Build a tower of blocks, and we'll see what sort of person you are. Are you the type who builds for the joy of creating something? Or are you the type of person that only builds it up to knock it right back down? Either way, The Big Big Castle! [$0.99 (HD)] has you covered. Created by Ron Gilbert (that's Monkey Island's Ron Gilbert to you) and Clayton Kauzlaric, it's about building and destroying in equal measure, or any which way that suits you.
It looks a little childish, and it is the sort of game your kids (or perhaps that should be "you kids") could have a lot of fun with. But very much like Gilbert's other games, it's also the sort of thing that can be pretty great at any age. If you're down with his sense of humor, you're in.
There have been any number of games about stacking tottering towers of blocks ever upward, but The Big Big Castle plays out a little differently. It gives you chunks of buildings—walls, arches, window frames and pillars—not to be built into anything sensible, perhaps, but to be built into something strong. As your castles stretch up into the sky, 100 feet, 200 feet, 300 feet and beyond, they waver at the slightest nudge. There's no such thing as a speed run to the sky here, because your tower will crumble and fall well before you reach the finish line.
Stability isn't easy to achieve. There's a huge variety of pieces, and they have little in common. Some are long and flat, others are tall and slender. Some can only be placed on the top of a tower, others must be tucked away. Rarely will two different pieces line up in height, so perfectly planned walls just don't happen. You only have four bits of castle to use each time, so it's not like you can shop around for just the right piece. You'll just have to learn to juggle those four down and back and around until everything has a home.
At first the game seems very much like any other stacking puzzle game, but that only lasts while it's easy. After a few short levels you're asked (by your rather cold-hearted royal employer), to build very tall, thin castles. One slip of the finger will have your castle wobbling and waving in the wind, but it gets worse: you're under attack. Cannonballs are being lobbed at your walls as you build, so a shoddy section may well bring your masterpiece down.
Any good builder could overcome a little thing like a cannonball or two with a nudge here and some shoring up there, so The Big Big Castle does it one better. Each level is filled with coins that are collected whenever you build something stable over top of them. This means you've got to aim not just for the top but for things all over the field. And speaking of things all over, there are usually towers and pillars and gardens just hanging up there in the sky, ready to drop onto your castle whenever you reach them. Usually they're topped with fragile little people that can hardly survive a half-story tumble. No pressure, or anything.
Building is only half the battle, because what is built can also be destroyed. Do you have Game Center friends who need to be taken down a peg or two? Enjoy the cathartic exercise of blowing their castle to bits with fireballs and sending UFOs in to clean up the rest. If destruction really gets you going, you can also take out your own towers or play against the top castles in the game. This is where those coins come back in, by the way. You only get a little bit of destructive power with your free download. Want more? Pony up. Coins or cash will do.
The Big Big Castle stands up well to repetition. Each level demands that you reach greater heights, and the challenge involved grows exponentially with each bump upwards. If you run out of fun building castles, you can pick up the cathedral pack to run through next. There are also a few special blocks you can unlock, though I'm not convinced they do much but make the game more complicated.
While playing with The Big Big Castle, I keep coming back to the same thing: we should all play with toys more often. Gilbert and Kauzlaric do a great job of hiding the childish playfulness of the game under dry wit and game trappings like missions and goals, but underneath all that it's pure play time. Maybe today I'll be the grand royal architect, building a mighty palace for the king. Or maybe I'll be the monster that stomps along and takes it all down to rubble. Either way, it's great to take it easy and just play a while.