There is a constant attempt by detractors outside the gaming industry to belittle games as “just for kids.” I’m happy to report that, in the case of Castles In The Sky…they’re absolutely right. But anyone can appreciate and enjoy the childlike wonder it captures.

Castles in the Sky, by two-man studio The Tall Trees, is an interactive picture book, or more accurately a playable bedtime story. Over its 15 minutes I became a small child exploring the seat of every infant’s imagination: the endless sky. Drawing on classic childlike imagery, from shapes in the clouds to a fascination with fireflies, Castles in the Sky transported me back to a time when anything was possible.

Guiding me through Castles In The Sky were lines of poetry; broken stanzas faded in and back out to the sky as I floated and jumped my way upward through the clouds. The pacing of these gentle verses, together with the excellent soundtrack and subtle changes in backdrop combined to perfectly lead me into a dreamlike state as if I was about to go to bed.

The soft piano soundtrack has a very natural arc, from a bright and cheery beginning to a muted, nocturnal finish with memorable marriages of music and spectacle scattered throughout the playthrough. And all the while, beautifully detailed sprite animation captures the blustery windiness of jumping through the air. Small, token gestures of “traditional” gameplay (rings of light to collect in various patterns) serve as a good focus distraction, something to engage a more active mind. But the almost oppressive calmness of the surrounding music, art and slow rhythmic gameplay soon lulled me into a deep relaxation, even during hectic lunch breaks.

Coming initially out of an idea for a gamejam, designer Dan Pearce and music maestro Jack de Quidt have fleshed out the game into its final form at the expense of several nights sleep. But the effort shines through in every word, tiny-sprited detail and heart-felt note in the delicate soundtrack.

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The game’s length seems a moot point as the time it takes to enjoy it is perfectly suited to its intended use. To argue otherwise would be akin to complaining about a walk in the park. The real genius of Castles is how it uses simple, well-designed game mechanics to present an equally well-produced story. And though short, this is the sort of game that can be experienced over and over without fatigue.

I’ve never really wanted kids, but Castles In The Sky makes me wish I had children to share it with. I can imagine, in the same way I used to be read Going on a Bear Hunt every night before bed, a kid and parent going through this calming story together would be a really memorable and formative experience.

At $1.50 it’s an absolute steal, and though I hate talking about games in economic terms, the replayability is endless. Castles In The Sky will be out for Mac and Windows on October 18, but is available to pre-order now.

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About The Author

News Editor

Chris has always been, and always shall be, a gamer. He sometimes does not enjoy that label, but he does enjoy games so it's mostly accurate. He likes rain, Adult Swim cartoons and T-shirts with obscure gaming references. He dislikes mushrooms, bigotry and speaking in the third person. You can follow him @higgyc if you should so choose.

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