If you look back to the first year following the release of the Nintendo DS, most of the games released were little more than GameBoy Advance games re-purposed to use the second screen with perhaps some touch controls thrown on for good measure. Similarly, in my first six months with the Apple iPad I have witnessed many iPad games that are little more than up-scaled iPhone games. I would definitely put Knights of the Phantom Castle in that category. That doesn’t make it a bad game, as you will see – it just tells you something about what to expect.
“Knights of the Phantom Castle” is a (fully featured) robust strategy game that incorporates massive monster armies, gigantic monsters and stage devices.
* Simple one-step “Tap – Flick – Drag” finger commands.
* “Multi-Touch” simultaneous control of several army units.
* Six classes: Defender, Soldier, Assassin, Ranger, Mage and Healer. Each has its own specialized skills that use Tap and Flick controls.
* Over 50 stages with numerous stage devices and difficulty levels.
* Over 150 items to shape your unique army of knights.
The core gameplay is RTS – real-time strategy. There are six possible classes, with you having a main character and getting support from a variety of characters for other classes throughout. In terms of how it controls, everything it done with a tap or swipe of your finger on the screen. Before you say ‘but isn’t that how EVERYTHING works on the iPad?’, let me be clear that this is unique: you have to successfully execute specific actions to control each character and get them to do stuff like attach from melee and ranged positions, heal others, and execute support skills by working together.
There are a dozen stages in Knights of the Phantom Castle, each more complex and involved than the last – and as you progress the levels have waves or stages that you must pass before reaching the next level and gaining some new skills. Overall there are more than 50 quests to complete, some that took me less than a minute, others I struggled with for more than an hour.
The struggles I had were two-fold. Controlling with the swipe and tap actions often works great, but at other times is dreadfully frustrating. You might be trying to get an archer to launch a ranged assault but instead have him walk straight into a line of warriors (and therefore to his death). The other issue is that your main character really needs to be suited to how you play – and what controls work best. At the same time not all quests are suited to any one character type, which goes back to why some quests took a minute and others took an hour!
This isn’t a large story-based game, but rather a basic fantasy backdrop with loads of combat – and that is just fine. The main purpose is the RTS combat, and Knights of the Phantom Castle does a solid job with that. It was obvious from the start that it was just an up-scaled iPhone game, though it was an early example of a ‘universal’ game that didn’t run in a 1x/2x mode. I give Hudson credit for that and for bring a RTS to the iPad right out of the gate.
So should you get it? Knights of the Phantom Castle has a regular price of $4.99 on the app store, which is a price that makes me ensure I’ll get the use out of it. However, it has on sale for $2 – 3 more than a couple of times, and at either of those prices it makes an easy recommendation. In fact, right now and until October 20th it is on sale for $1.99! Check it out!
Review: Knights of the Phantom Castle
Where to Buy: iTunes App Store
What I Like: Solid RTS gameplay; Large game for iPad with loads of content; Classic RPG visual style
What Needs Improvement: Just an up-scaled iPhone game; Difficulty all over the place; No character progression; Controls not always adequate; Tutorials could be more helpful at times
Source: Originally reviewed for