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Castle Quest Reviews
Author: Andrew Cornish
Date: 2000

Review by David Whyld

In brief: there's a castle full of wonderful treasure which you've decided to go and plunder.

There are problems with Castle Quest from the very beginning. The introduction does a poor job of setting the scene and while it's at least written competently enough that there are no glaring spelling mistakes or grammatical errors, it's hardly the sort of thing that is going to be winning the author any awards for his literary skills.

Descriptions are basic in the extreme: the welcome mat has the word 'welcome' written on it; the chair is just an ordinary wooden chair; the description of the green button indicates simply that it hasn't been pressed. Those the items that are described; a good few aren't. Are they simply unimportant or did the author miss them? Probably a bit of both.

By far the most puzzling thing about Castle Quest is the sheer abundance of items scattered throughout the castle that don't serve a purpose. Now quite a few games I've played have red herring items, i.e. items placed in the game that serve no real purpose other than to confuse the player into thinking they serve a purpose. The poor player might spend an age trying to find a use for said item, only to find it doesn't have a use at all. Irritating? You bet. Yet it's the sort of thing that crops up in no end of games all the same. Heck, I've eve done it myself on several occasions.

But this is the first game I've played where every single item is a red herring. Yep, every one. Scattered around the castle are various body parts - including a brain, a bone, a skull and several others - as well as weapons, food items, etc that seem to be there for no other reason than the writer felt like putting them there. Did he originally intend to write a larger game and was going to include a use for these items at some point? Who knows…? I finished the game with a score of 50 out of the maximum possible score of 50 and carrying a dozen or more items, not one which I managed to find a use for. There are no darkened areas in the castle so no need for the lantern and as there are no enemies to defeat in combat, there's also no need for the weapons either.

There are no actual puzzles in the game but several points where making a wrong move can kill you off without any kind of warning. Frustratingly, there's often no way of knowing what the right and wrong things to do are. Here's a great example: in the Brass Hall, you come across two levers: one blue, one black. Pull one lever and it kills you. Pull the other one and you move on to the next part of the game. How do you know which is the correct lever to pull? You don't. It's just a case of pulling one and hoping you don't get the one that kills you. Clearly this is the sort of game you want to be saving every few moves.

This is the kind of annoyance that used to plague text adventures back in the 80's and, along with mazes, is something I'm glad doesn't tend to bog down the modern IF scene. If there was a way to figure out which lever was safe and which dangerous, then fine. But killing the player off for making the wrong decision when there's no possible way of knowing what the right decision is, is just bad game writing.

Another example of bad game writing, and one that any mimesis-breaking fanatic will be up in arms about, is the game's annoying way of telling you when you've done something you needed to do. In one location, you need to press a button: press it and a message flashes up on screen telling you that you've done something you needed to do and can now go through the north door in the main hallway. How would the player know that pressing a button opens a door in a completely different room? Can he see around walls or something?

The final nail in the coffin has to be the ever hateful guess the verb, here at full strength and every bit as frustrating as you might expect it to be. The green button can't be "pushed" but can be "pressed". Try "push lever" and you get the default response saying you've pushed it but nothing happens. Try "push blue lever" and you get the proper response. Ouch.

All in all, Castle Quest is one of those ADRIFT games that has disappeared over the passage of time and is probably better off forgotten.

2 out of 10


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