CastleMine is a title that, upon first blush, looks like your run of the mill tower defense game. Instead of building your weaponry above ground, the strategy lies in a protective battlefield amidst the tunnels you dig in the dirt. Aside from that difference, what makes CastleMine stand out from the pack? Protecting a castle has never been more fun, and if you're expecting to put this puppy down after a few minutes, think again.

At the start of each level you are given the option of shoveling through different sections of dirt, with each path having its own set of pitfalls. When digging through a gold colored section, coins will be accrued that will help build the type of defense you want to set up along the way. When carving your way past the blue colored sections, you can gain the ability to set off either mines that will explode when the enemies come into contact or freeze them for several seconds. As for weapons, your ammunition comes either through ice, fire, or lightning driven contraptions. By accruing more gold during each level, which is done by finding more coin or killing your enemies, you can also upgrade the destructive capability of your arsenal. Each level is completed by successfully protecting the castle's summoning stones, which are located at the top of the tower, from the creatures below. If all of the stones are taken by the monsters during the battle, or if your digging leads to a total dead end, the mission ends. The exclamation point will appear on the upper left side of the screen during the earlier rounds to give you advice on how to properly defense your stronghold.

The huge asset featured in CastleMine are the plethora of upgrades one can achieve throughout the game. The amount of summoning stones you protect, as well as skulls and relics you discover in each stage will net you a certain level of skill points which can be used for a myriad of purposes. Whether it's adding the amount of gold one receives from killing the enemy, increasing your experience points with each kill, or even freezing your adversaries for a longer period of time, the upgrades add a deeper level of fun to the proceedings.

The only real drawback is the title's lack of Game Center integration. With 50 levels to spare, the developers should have thrown iOS enthusiasts a little bit more meat on the stick. Hopefully this minor flaw will be changed in future versions, since playing hours on end without any kind of Pavlovian gaming reward is not a good thing, especially since this is a basic feature for most titles.

In terms of innovation, CastleMine doesn't break any new ground, but it exceeds expectations with its addicting game play. I may have a few more intricately designed games to play on my iPad, but most days I just don't need all that complication or fuss. Sometimes the basic are all that you need, and thankfully this castle wasn't built on sand.


App Store Link: Castlemine for iPhone | By Mugshot Games | Price: $0.99 | Version: 1.0.0 | 37 MB | Rating 9+

7.5 out of 10 arcade sushi rating