Magic Castle Kingdoms is the third title from Mutation Software's Fun 'n' Value series. Although this is only release number three, you kind of know what to expect - cartoon characters, green baddies and a new take on an old idea.
Tin Toy Adventure looked and played like a classic old platformer, Tommy Gun resembled Terminator but with vegetables and this new addition harks back to the old wizards and warlocks, find the five gemstones type of games you'd have found on the Speccy or Vic 20.
Graphics apart, the game resembles something I had on the Vic when I was knee high to all action man. An evil sorcerer has split a magic amulet into five pieces and spread them about the land. Unless you retrieve the five pieces, the land will be plunged into darkness and will be ravaged by wizards for eternity, or something along those lines.
Your job is to retrieve the talisman and save the land. You shoot round maze-like castles, pick up keys, unlock doors and slay the little green bad guys.
So what's the game actually like? Well, I hate to say it, but slightly disappointing really. This magic stuff can get a little tedious sometimes, and this is one of those times. The storyline and plot are just too unoriginal. Tommy Gun was genuinely funny and quite amusing, but this just doesn't ring my bell.
Graphically, Magic Castle Kingdoms is something of a curate's egg. On the downside, the sprites are so small that playing the game gave me a ringing headache after a few minutes. Another criticism is that the monsters definitely look a little cack, the scariest ones look like they've escaped from a Doctor Who episode entitled Attack of the Unscary Monsters.
The castle layouts also look a little boring - if you look at the play area in The Chaos Engine for example, there are plenty of rooms to duck into and escape your opponents - not so in Magic Castle Kingdoms.
On the plus side, having to control five sprites simultaneously is quite a challenge. As each character's health runs out you must flip between them to enable those with less health to much up the health powerups.
Having said this, you'd probably find it less hassle to look after one character only - played like this your magical companions irritate the crap out of you. They follow the lead character around like some mentally handicapped clutch of chickens walking headlong into monsters and generally either getting in your way or getting themselves killed.
This game could well have benefited from being made a multiplayer game in the vein of the old Golden Axe. Instead of the characters getting each others way you could co-operate in complete the mission.
This game might well appeal to some - especially those with a predilection for retro gaming. It's a well made arcade puzzler, and for £14.99, not a bad game. Just not brilliant.