App Reviewed on: iPhone XR
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Castle of the White Night is a tough and unforgiving dungeon-crawler. It doesn't cut you down quickly, though. Instead it makes you grind out runs to the bitter end, even if your first few moves set you up for inevitable failure. This kind of design isn't exactly my cup of tea, but I can still find some enjoyment in how developer Game Stew employs it. The bigger issue with Castle of the White Night is how playing it is so inconvenient, which makes its overall design even tougher to swallow.
Fight for your life
Castle of the White Night is a throwback first-person crawler, a type of game that has seen a bit of a resurgence since the release of Legend of Grimrock in 2012. Game Stew has smothered this game in their house style, though. For those unfamiliar, that means stylish 2D sprite work, a dichromatic color palette, and a haunting atmosphere that drips with despair.
You play as a warrior venturing into the castle with the mission of defeating the 100 monsters that have taken up residence there. This involves creeping along and discovering the castle layout while managing your supplies, crafting useful items, and dodging the boss monster until you've gathered enough strength to defeat it.
Despite its simple look, there's a lot to manage and uncover in Castle of the White Night. On each run, you need to make sure you're keeping a healthy stock of torches, water, and food so you can stay prepared for your next inevitable fight, and combat itself unfolds in real time and rewards players who use their combat skills with precision.
The vast majority of the time, though, you're just wandering a largely empty castle full of narrow corridors. The winding and labyrinthian design of your dungeon seems intentional, both to encourage exploration and create situations where you need to weigh your dwindling supply cache against your desire to continue exploring, but ends up creating a lot of down time in the game. To help add variety, there is a mechanic in Castle of the White Night for you to "investigate" any given section of the castle you're in, but that rarely (if ever) yields anything of interest.
Few things can save you
As you're exploring in Castle of the White Night, you have to be careful not to wander too far from lanterns, as these locations are the only way you can save your progress and pick up where you left off the next time you play. These lanterns are pretty few and far between though, so you need to make a lot of return trips (and squander precious supplies in the process) if you're popping in and out of the game.
Of course, progress isn't everything in Castle of the White Night. The game is clearly built to be run-based, as your exploration and gold carries over between deaths. Plus, you can discover tons of items or spend gold on unlocking new warriors to mix things up for your next adventure. The only problem here is that you have to die or otherwise maintain your save state until you die for this progress to track. There are no rewards for starting a run and having your progress erased by needing to close the app. Given the slow-paced nature of the game overall, this makes Castle of the White Night pretty frustrating unless you dedicate long sessions to it.
The bottom line
Castle of the White Night is not a very friendly game. Some of this is tolerable, but some aspects of it are either uninteresting or otherwise ignore the reality of playing games on a mobile device. If you're the kind of player that wants to sit down and play dedicated sessions of Castle of the White Night on your phone, you'll probably get more mileage out of it than others, but you'll still have to trudge through quite a bit of dull gameplay to get the moments where the game really shines.