In this crazy mixed-up world, one over-whelming stereotype of the male species is the need to protect his family. With a doting wife, two loving kids and a house full of cash, the husband’s role can be reduced to protector. In The Castle Doctrine, this is only half of the story because as well as looking out for your loved ones and life-savings, you must also be the bread-winner of the household. Rather than send out CVs and await crushing responses until an employer decides you meet the criteria, it’s much easier to just break into a neighbour’s home and steal from them, isn’t it?
With $2000 to your name and a barren house with only your offspring, spouse and safe within it, you must attempt to create a series of traps which any would-be burglar will fall to. By spending your money on concrete walls, pit bull terriers and a series of doors that will eventually result in something resembling a Benny Hill skit, you’ve made your vault almost impenetrable. You can make your open-plan dwelling as elaborate as you see fit, too. With a fairly vast array of circuitry, you can have robbers trigger the deadly, electric floor panels that once seemed safe to walk across, trapping them between the proverbial hot coals and a canine that smells blood.
The map in which you create the sadistic playground is surprisingly large, but there’s no option to zoom out of your house and see the entire creation. This also poses problems when navigating around the area as the window in which you place your various guard dogs et al, is rather small, making the process more lengthy than you might wish. However, as previously said, there’s a decent amount of things to choose from when building your palace of pain. There are also a few items to help you in your own nightly escapades.
Once your home is secured and you’re happy with what you’ve constructed, you’ll be shown a long list of double-barrelled names. Just like Jon Wilkes Booth, Mark David Chapman and Lee Harvey Oswald, every single one of your thieving, murderous neighbours will be displayed with over-extravagant names; after all, every single one of us will do anything to get to that safe, even if that means killing a wife in the process. On this list, you can also see the number of people who have managed to get rich or died trying in the process of attempting to reach another player’s vault – along with the amount of money that’s sitting in the safe.
Upon entering one of the many homes available to you, you are greeted with their vision of Fort Knox, and the only way to come out alive is to either retreat out the door with your tail between your legs or reach the illusive safety-deposit box. Vision is restricted to a very limited area here, and trying to see what’s ahead of you is painstakingly difficult. Armed with a saw, drugged meat (for the feral hounds) and a handgun – all of which you must purchase when in your own home – you can go about your business of robbing next-door blind. Of course, if you fall at the hands of one of their various traps, you relinquish your tools and that home you spent the last thirty minutes fortifying.
In the blink of an eye, you can lose absolutely everything and will have to start over from the very beginning. If there was some way to save your creation for use later on, this wouldn’t be as infuriating as it is. The rogue-like nature of The Castle Doctrine may sound appealing to lovers of the unforgiving, but here it just results in a feeling of wasted energy. After spending a considerable amount of time building what you perceive to be the home of an evil genius, you enter the mansion of someone far more maniacal and die within seconds, forcing you to start over.
There are some really interesting ideas in The Castle Doctrine, such as being able to view CCTV footage of anyone who enters your little corner of the Earth and the imagination of some players truly is a sight to behold, but all of that feels redundant once you meet your maker and everything you worked on is lost in a split-second.
From what I can see, I’ve built a fortress and my vault is hidden from relentless thieves. There’s no possible way that anyone can break in, avoid the myriad guard dogs, side-step the electric flooring and steal my wealth. However, I’ve just entered a house that poses the exact same threat and within seconds, I’m dead and my booby-trapped residence is nothing but a distant memory.
VERDICT: My cranium is red raw from tearing strands of hair from my scalp in frustration and I’m sure plenty of others will be bald within an hour of playing The Castle Doctrine. It’s a shame that this is the case because there are some interesting options available to players, but the cutthroat design choices are a step too far.
AVERAGE. The epitome of a 50/50 game, this title will be unspectacular but inoffensive, charmless but amiable. We aren’t condemning a game by scoring it a 5, but we certainly aren’t championing it, either.
Review code provided by publisher.