What is Castle Adventure, and why do I remember it so well?
The "Rouge-like" game was released in 1984 as one of the very first games to be called "shareware". By today's standards the game is a complete joke. But when my cousin and I played it, it ruled our minds. For one, it has no graphics. Instead it uses ASCII characters to simulate graphics. It is black and white also, no colors. The game play is somewhat like the later released: The Legend of Zelda, only you type in actions like: Get Key, and Wear Necklace. The story is not really a story at all. It is more like: Here's your situation, deal with it. I say this, because at the beginning of the game, you're trapped in an abandoned castle and you have to get out. Why are you there? Unknown. How did you get there? Unknown. At that time, we didn't care about those trivial things. All we needed to know, was there was a goal in sight. And the goal was that we needed to get out of the castle. And eventually, we did.
Sometime after the game's release, a company called Keypunch Software found it and illegally published it. The game came in a package called Swords and Sorcery which was release in 1987. It contained four games (Swords of Glass, Amulet of Yendor, The Golden Wombat, and NYC Adventure). The game Golden Wombat, is actually Castle Adventure with a different name.
This is all peachy, but why did I like this game so much? Well for one, at the time when I played this game I had no idea what a computer was truly capable of. A computer was this all-powerful glowing artifact of power that held unlimited potential. Of course now I'm a computer programmer and have a much different view of the evil box of unlimited GPF's. The mystery of a computer helped in my love of this game. Also, because the game is so primitive visually, you're forced to use our imagination. A totally foreign concept in today's games.
Something else that makes the game more interesting, is that it describes each room in detail. Each time you go into a new room a box of text will appear describing the room and its occupants. This gives a much better description then any cheap CGA graphics could have done at the time. With this "story book" kind of description, the game is a cross between a graphic novel and an action game.
Also, the game is in real-time, a concept which very few games had at the time. When you walked into a room with a monster it charges its way towards you and attacks instead of waiting for you to type in a command like attack ogre. This makes the fighting more exciting.
Probably the most important thing about the game was that there are a lot puzzles making the game much more of a brain game as opposed to a "fastest finger" game. Some of them are fairly easy, others are downright difficult. Some of the puzzles allow you to avoid some of the difficult combat. For example, the Mad Demon in the throne room can be totally avoided if you know what to do.
Another great thing about the game is that it has a carrying capacity. In many adventure games you can pick up every thing in the world and carry them with you. In Castle Adventure you can only carry a certain number of items at any one time. So you have to drop an item somewhere and come back for it later.
Castle Adventure isn't without it's share of bugs though. The SAVE and LOAD commands worked, but created a few invincible monsters with names that are numbers. Beware of the unkillable 23! There are also a few typos, but aside from that it is a solid game.
You won't find much about this gem of a game anymore. I found almost nothing on the web about it. But it does exist, and I do still have it. I really reminisce about it, as one of the things from my childhood that shaped my life. (I know I'm a total nerd, but I'm proud of that.) The game is only two files (excluding the documents), Castle.EXE and Castle.RAN. I've actually hacked into the RAN file, and have been able to draw the rooms through a custom program I wrote. (No descriptions yet.) It would be nice to resurrect this classic though. (See the links for a remake!)
If you have trouble playing the game on your new computer, it's because Castle Adventure doesn't use a real time delay. Thus, the faster your computer runs, the faster the game runs. This obviously makes the game unplayable on the new PCs, but there is still hope. A very nice program exists called DOSBox, which is a DOS emulator with speed adjustments. The old way of slowing the game down is to use the MoSlo progam, but it doesn't work that well on really fast PC's. You can also download the clone of CA here that has a real-time delay, but it's not a perfect clone.
Castle Adventure is a shareware program! Download it here!
© Copyright 2001-2004: Dean Tersigni. All rights reserved.