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Tribute: Return to Castle Coris
Author: Larry Horsfield
Related reviews: 2-10 hours
Larry Horsfield has a long-running and fairly successful series of ADRIFT games with the hero Alaric Blackmoon.
I always have a bit of trouble finishing the games. These games are definitely in the older school fashion, which Adrift is suited for. Adrift only encodes specific verb-noun combinations, although you can set up a few synonyms. So in particular, if an action works in one room, it might provoke an error message in another. To climb down a rope, you must type ĎCLIMB DOWN ROPEí but not ĎDOWNí. This isnít necessarily a drawbackÖit ends requiring careful analysis. These games are the perfect games to slowly pick at over a month or so.
During the comp, though, I rushed with the walkthrough, until I messed up a part with a bucket and got stuck. In the part I saw (about 2/3 of the game), I found some really fun dynamics (like growing and shrinking), intervened in a goblin war and navigated through some crazy caverns. Definitely one to come back to later!
+Polish: It has a lot of effort put into nice color changes and complex mechanics.
+Descriptiveness: I could imagine a lot of the scenarios vividly.
-Interactivity: I frequently had trouble doing what I'd like to with things, and commands frequently had to be very specific.
+Would I play again? I plan on looking at this again.
+Emotional impact: A lot of parts of it were just fun, like crossing the ravine and changing shape.
Reviewed by Viv Dunstan
Ok lengthy parser game time! I went into this game with
some trepidation. Would I manage the online ADRIFT play system ok? As a Mac user
I canít run ADRIFT games offline at the moment. Also itís game 8 in a series and
I hadnít played the earlier ones!
Fortunately things went better than feared. I used the large font version supplied at the ADRIFT site - thanks for that. The online play never seized up on me, although I was saving frequently, in case I died - yes that happened! - and needed to restore.
The game is fun. Itís very much an old-style parser game, a very traditional text adventure. It is slightly unforgiving in the parser, but not as bad as I expected. Most of the time I was perfectly fine. My only recurring hitch was the commands to use with the grapple hook and rope. Also with containers that I was carrying I was a bit thrown that INVENTORY didnít show their contents, and that EXAMINE and SEARCH on them gave different results. I did learn to use EXAMINE and SEARCH a lot.
The game world is rich, and I only got a bit over halfway into the story in my 2 hours play. The game starts as a dungeon crawl, but contains much more variety. It also has some nicely realised NPCs. I particularly liked my encounter with some goblins.
My main recommendation to the author would be to provide a little more clueing re some of the puzzles in-game. There were a few cases where I needed to do something that wasnít apparent enough in the location. Thereís a balance to be struck in terms of too easy versus too hard, but I think a few more in-game clues would be helpful and give the game itself more polish.
So yup, I couldnít play through fully in the time I had. And for a few commands I needed to resort to the walkthrough. But generally it was a smooth, rewardi
Reviewed by Mike Spivey
Return to Castle Coris is the most old-school text
adventure Iíve played so far in this yearís IFComp. Itís huge, somewhat
sparsely-implemented, contains lots of puzzles, is set in a fantasy world, and
features a plot thatís pretty much ďExplore this interesting location and see
what you find.Ē Fans of this older style of interactive fiction will probably
enjoy Return to Castle Coris, but players who prefer shorter games with more
focus on story will likely not care for it as much.
Me Ė Iím somewhere in-between. I like big, puzzle-filled games, but I generally prefer more of a unifying narrative than Return to Castle Coris has. I played the game for maybe two-and-half hours before stopping. I earned 250/400 points, so this gives a sense of how large Return to Castle Coris is.
The best parts of Return to Castle Coris are its writing, its scope, and the cleverness of many of its puzzles. Descriptions of objects and rooms are more evocative than you normally see in old-style IF; I could picture many of the locations rather vividly. The game, again, is huge; it takes a lot of work to create a game of this size, and one canít help but admire that. Plus many of the puzzles are quite creative, using items you can carry and the environment around you in interesting ways.
The biggest flaw I see in Return to Castle Coris is the same one that caused me, finally, to give up on it: Too many of its puzzles require the use of a phrase that might come easily to an author but that isnít a standard IF command and isnít clued and so will be very difficult for a player to think of. This is, I suppose, partly a guess-the-verb problem and partly a guess-the-authorís-mind problem. The last puzzle I worked through provides a good illustration.
I had just arrived at the edge of a large rift, after traversing a desert. There appeared to be no way to cross the rift. While in the desert, though, there were numerous birds of prey soaring around, occasionally snapping up lizards or other small desert creatures and flying off with them. A while back I had acquired magical items that could make me small or large. The solution to this puzzle is really clever: Make yourself small, so that an eagle will think youíre prey, swoop down on you, and fly you across the rift. Before the eagle eats you, transform yourself back to your original size. Again, a good puzzle Ė especially since itís clued by the scenery descriptions of the birds of prey. So I did this. Yet nothing happened; no birds flew down to grab me. I eventually checked the walkthrough, and apparently you need to get the eagleís attention after youíve turned yourself small. And the way to do that is, according to the walkthrough, WAVE ARMS. Now, your arms are never (to my knowledge) mentioned before this in the game, nor are any of your other body parts. None of your other body parts even appear to be implemented. Thereís no hinting that this is how to get the eagleís attention, or even that you need to get the eagleís attention after making yourself small. I have no idea how I would have figured this one out on my own. Unfortunately, this isnít the only instance of this kind of problem. Itís just the one that, after two and a half hours, made me give up on the game.
I also had several unpleasant wrestling bouts with the Adrift parser. For example, L is understood as an abbreviation for LOOK, but L BEHIND (an object) doesnít produce the same behavior as LOOK BEHIND (the same object). The worst, though, was when I typed GIVE RAT TO CHICKS and the game responded with ďThe two chicks do not seem interested in the dead rat.Ē The solution to this puzzle was actually to give the rat to the chicks; the problem turned out to be that I had the rat in my bag rather than in my hands. The parserís response was incredibly misleading.
In sum, Return to Castle Coris has some strong features that will make it appeal to fans of older style text adventures: good writing, a huge game world, and some solid puzzles. Too many of these puzzles need to be better-clued, though: If the solution to a puzzle requires a nonstandard command, the player needs some indicator as to the exact command needed. Otherwise, the puzzle needs to be rewritten so that it uses a more common IF command. As the game currently stands, I think many players will find Return to Castle Coris frustrating or have to resort regularly to the walkthrough.
Reviewed by Annsi
The background to the story is already explained in the
blurb of the game, so you can start playing without necessarily reading the
introduction - quite handy. Knowledge of the background story is not needed
during the gameplay anyway; it is there mainly to connect this game to the
universe of some earlier games by the same author, making this one a sort of
sequel (the blurb mentions an earlier game in the series, ďThe Spectre of Castle
You start at the mouth of the tunnel you are supposed to explore, and once you are in, you have to solve a series of puzzles to proceed, and that is basically what this game is about. From the very start, you have to pay close attention to everything around you, or you might miss some crucial objects needed to proceed. You will probably get stuck very early on, and have to resort to the walkthrough. I had to quickly resort to playing with the walkthrough open on the screen simultaneously, which was not a good sign. There were some things you wouldnít come to think of doing by yourself at all - for example, at one point you encounter something in the tunnel, and you have to it to discover a couple of objects. You are supposed to throw an object into a shaft, and this was not hinted at in any way, etc. So, in effect, the solutions to the puzzles were such guesswork that most of the progress was just thanks to typing what the walkthrough instructed. After some time of playing like this, I was attacked and died, and didnít bother to play forward. Shame, as there obviously was a lot more to the game.
The puzzles are inventive enough in themselves, but they were not sufficiently clued, and there were also many guess-the-verb issues, and I just didnít want to bother trying to read the authorís mind as to what the next move should be. 6
Like Just another Fairy Tale, this game takes on the classic style fantasy genre head on, albeit with a more adult focus. The writing is remarkably solid, which perhaps is not surprising, seeing as Return to Castle Coris is episode eight of a series. Here, the action takes place underground, further and further into the unknown. It actually reminded me a lot of certain games taking place underground that I played in the past, especially Ultima Underwold and Legend of Grimrock. Such were the feelings evoked by the writing. Unfortunately, however, I found this even harder than Just another Fairy Tale; not only are the verbs many and (to me) obscure, but it seems you also have to imagine nouns that are not described, and perform rather random actions that work in specific places while giving no informative response in others. Perhaps itís a learning curve, going through the episodes chronologically. At least I managed to die spectacularly a few times.
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