CastleMiner Z – PC
Developer: DigitalDNA Games
Publisher: DigitalDNA Games
Release Date: November 9th, 2011
Nerd Rating: 2 out of 10
A few weeks ago I reviewed a game called Redshirt, developed by The Tiniest Shark, and I gave it a pretty poor review and went as far as to state that it was the worst game I have played in quite a while. That was until CastleMiner Z showed me what a truly bad game is. I can honestly state, that in my opinion, CastleMiner Z is the worst game I have ever played that I can remember. Now before you pass this review off as just a troll saying mean things about an indie game, let us take the time to mine into the exact details of why I dislike the waste of time and money that is CastleMiner Z (pun intended).
The first thing you’ll notice about CastleMiner Z upon playing is the resemblance and similarity to Mojang’s famous survival/sandbox Minecraft. To those of you who play Minecraft, you will most likely feel like CastleMiner Z is a modified version of Minecraft with an HD texture pack, guns, and dragons. For the most part, you wouldn’t be entirely wrong to feel this way. CastleMiner Z was released in 2011 on the Xbox Live Indie Arcade, which is a store on the Xbox platforms in which indie developers can publish their games. In fact, DigitalDNA Games claim CastleMiner Z to be the all-time best-selling indie game on the Xbox Live Arcade, but what they really mean is that it’s the all-time best-selling indie game on the indie arcade, not Xbox as a whole. It’s easily beaten by many other indie games that weren’t added to the indie arcade, like Minecraft, Terraria, etc. The reason why the date and where this was originally published is relevant is because the whole thing was a sales tactic by DigitalDNA Games. At the time, Minecraft had not yet been ported to Xbox, so DigitalDNA Games created this mess of a game to try and steal the Minecraft audience who just couldn’t wait for it to be ported and had to have it RIGHT NOW (like that annoying Geico commercial which in this case tends to be pretty accurate). At the small price of $1.00 on Xbox, CastleMiner Z became the go-to game to hold those people over while they awaited Mojang to port Minecraft.
Due to the reason this game was even made, it came to me as a shock when it was not only ported to PC, but also greenlit by the Steam community. While on the topic of PC, let’s talk about the PC port, shall we? For something that took two years to finish, the PC port is simply terrible. The entire menu is full of Xbox controller prompts, even when I am not using an Xbox controller. The keys are not changeable, which is always annoying to me in any PC game. The menu mentions that in hard mode when you die, you lose everything. It also mentions when you die in easy mode, you lose nothing. The menu fails to mention, however, that in normal mode, you lose everything except what is in your inventory bar, which would’ve been good to know before I died. Some parts of the menu are also worded rather oddly, for example: to delete your saved game, the button says “Erase Storage.” What is storage? Does it perhaps mean data or saved file? Do you Think CastleMiner Z’s settings couldn’t get more annoying? You are sadly mistaken. The game has no resolution options whatsoever! If you are going to take two entire years to finish a port, it should actually be a port and work as such.While CastleMiner Z copies much of Minecraft, it successfully made it uglier. As if they installed an HD texture pack to the original Minecraft, the land is basically that: an HD version of Minecraft. While HD is usually a good thing in video games, they make voxel-based games ugly. You simply cannot try and make a Minecraft-esque game HD and pretty, because the unique art of Minecraft is part of what makes it work and look good. The skybox of CastleMiner Z is boring, and I could even see pixels from a distance. They attempted to make the land HD, but the skybox still shows pixels? It doesn’t work that way, DigitalDNA Games. The snow looks absolutely nothing like snow, and the sand is so white that it looks more like snow from a distance and even up close. The one thing I felt was the worst part of the art of CastleMiner Z is the inconsistency. They chose to make the setting voxel-based, but have enemies that resemble the old PC era games like Quake, Half-Life, or DOOM. The enemy design feels like it was ported from a totally different game and just does not fit the setting at all. The only redeeming quality of the art is that the copper ore color is green instead of the usual brown. Why does that matter? It doesn’t, but from a realistic standpoint, copper would oxidize making the outer core of the ore a greenish color instead of a brownish color.
The goal of the game is to build a fortress to protect you from a small variety of enemies including zombies, skeletons, skeleton archers, and dragons. You are also supposed to explore the land and mine for materials to craft different weapons and other necessities like torches. The game is very co-op based, as it is nearly impossible to build a fortress while protecting yourself. That being said, upon release the multiplayer had no forms of communication, and the recently added chat feature is very annoying and for the most part useless. To this day, voice chat is still not an option without an external program like Skype or Teamspeak. Mining blocks is also very annoying, as it kicks up what seems to be dust to the point where you can’t even see what you are mining anymore.
As previously mentioned, there is a small variety of enemies which tend to get boring pretty fast. While there are recolors of each enemy, that is simply all they are, recolors. The recolors have no edited stats or any other modifications other then color. The enemies spawn by randomly popping out of the ground with absolutely no justification, and they will also randomly disappear. The zombies tend to walk right through you, but you cannot do the same to them. The zombies are also able to jump over your head, which is a first in any zombie game I have ever played. There are no footprints in CastleMiner Z, so you never know when something will sneak up behind you and murder you. The zombies do make a sound, however, you cannot use it to pinpoint the direction that the zombie is coming in as the sound plays all around you. The dragon is massively overpowered, and basic weapons you can make like pistols or shotguns either don’t reach the dragon or barely damage it. The bullet speed is extremely slow and unrealistic and can easily be avoided by enemies. You can aim down your sights in CastleMiner Z, but it severely slows down the camera movement and is so unreliable that it makes you miss more times then not. I can’t forget to mention that the shotguns take bullets, not shells, which is interesting to say the least.
While a pretty small complaint, the crafting is completely unrealistic and rather laughable in CastleMiner Z. First of all, opening the crafting menu does not pause the game, and you will be killed. It’s more of a guarantee that you’ll be killed rather than a chance. Instead of being able to scroll down the crafting menu to see the crafting recipes, you have to press the button to go down, which tends to be annoying. You can’t even click the craftable item image to see the crafting recipe, as that automatically crafts it! Fully functioning guns are craftable using basic materials that aren’t hard to find. Bullets are made using rocks, which is odd. As you progress further into the game, you can craft laser weapons, which makes me feel like the game was created by children. Nothing against laser weapons, but in a survival game with dragons? That seems to be the wrong era of time and the wrong genre of game for laser weapons. On that note, for a survival game, CastleMiner Z is missing important survival aspects like hunger and thirst. Finally on the subject of crafting, for a copy of Minecraft, CastleMiner Z is missing in-depth and awesome creations like those made in Minecraft using redstone.
The game audio for CastleMiner Z is very subpar to modern games. As previously stated, there is no footstep audio and the enemy audio is just in the background and cannot be pinpointed to an exact location. The guns sound like toys as opposed to real guns. The music tends to be just another annoying distraction and has no decent transition at all as it has a tendency to play at completely random times and does not fit the gameplay. I could be doing something as simple as mining, and then suddenly random intense or celebratory music will start playing like I just did something amazing or completed a long, difficult, heroic quest.
CastleMiner Z was a successful attempt at abusing the Xbox market before Minecraft was available, and while it may be smart, it is lazy and distasteful. When released on Steam, the developers tried to charge $10.00 for the game when it was originally $1.00. DigitalDNA Games has recently lowered the price to $5.00 on Steam, which is still too much and it’s not even an original idea. I could install an HD texture pack and mods that add guns and dragons to Minecraft, and I would already have a better version of CastleMiner Z with much more content and gameplay time. This game is rather irrelevant on PC, as we have Minecraft and mods. There is no market to try and abuse here, DigitalDNA Games, and I have no clue why this game was greenlit when there are so many more, better games currently in the greenlight program. This game plays more like an Early Access title, and not a full game due to all the bugs. Personally, with all the flaws mentioned in this review, I wouldn’t play this game if it was free-to-play, let alone $5.00
Do you agree with my review of DigitalDNA Games’ CastleMiner Z? Feel free to grab a pickaxe and mine your way into the comment section below to tell me how YOU feel! Watch out for the multiple-colored trolls though.
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