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Castle of Terror - Review

Review by NomadColossus


Last edited:


Castle of Terror was a great little graphic adventure that came in two parts on cassette tape. You had to turn the tape over to load in part two. Although written entirely in machine code there was only room enough in the Commodore’s memory for one half of the game at a time.

Objective: Your quest is made clear when you talk to an old man drinking his sorrows away at the ‘Duck Inn’, a nice little pub with friendly villagers. He asks you to buy him a tankard of ale after which he spins a sad tale of his beautiful daughter’s kidnapping by the evil Count. In part 1 you must search the village for items you will need to enter the castle. In part 2 you must find the treasure, rescue the maiden and escape back to the village.

Items: Part 1: Coin, cross (found amidst the rubble of the ruined Church), lantern, rope, rung, piece of flint, tankard of ale, steel bladed knife, small key, piece of bone. Part 2: Axe, spear, sword, armour, shield, dagger, note, mace, stale food, book, treasure, maiden. The small key is given to you by the old man and can be used to enter the castle. It is inscribed with the letter ‘D’. The dagger is used to cut the bonds holding the maiden, the mace is used to dash away some spiders web in the tunnel.

Parser/Vocabulary (Rating: 5/10)

The parser allowed for full sentence input, although using the usual two word input seemed to get better results. There was also the facility to string a sequence of commands together using a comma between each command, speeding up the game play. The game featured a score value(up to 290) with points awarded for completing certain tasks or subtracted for making bad moves.

Atmosphere (Rating: 5/10)

Graphics: Impressive image of Dracula leaping out of the screen as the game loads. Nicely drawn and colourful locations featuring some animated characters such as villagers toiling in the fields or the glowing eyes of a skull in the castle library.

Music/sound: The game begins with an eerie, gothic music score that sets the scene beautifully. The music changes from screen to screen adding a real sense of foreboding to the experience.

Cruelty (Rating: Polite)

Winning: This game became famous for suggesting an ending that was not possible. At the end of the game when you attempt to kill the Count a message is displayed: "Too late you remember that only a wooden stake can kill the un-dead, you have but a steel blade". Dracula escapes leaving you wondering what item could be used as a wooden stake. But you can still escape with the treasure and the maiden to complete the game.

Puzzles (Rating: 5/10)

Puzzles: The first major hurtle is getting inside the castle. A rung comes loose from a ladder inside the one of two identical windmills and when examined is described as being similar to a locking pin. You will need this to safely pass over the drawbridge. When trapped in the castle dungeon you could escape by dousing the cauldron with ale (the villagers shout you one if you wait long enough) this leads to a small escape tunnel under the dungeon that leads out to the village. If you are carrying the cross Dracula will be unable to stop you freeing the maiden as he is paralysed by it’s dazzling light. Fighting the guards gave you access to the Count’s tower.

Hazards: In part 1 you must move a sack of corn before you get the lantern in the mill or it will burn down with you inside! If you don’t lock the wheel as you cross the drawbridge you will be crushed by a large hanging portcullis. In part 2 you can get trapped in the dungeon and the treasure chamber with no way out. You loose points for various actions such as getting bitten by the spider in the tunnel or bruising your toe with a loose brick. Fighting the suits of armour could also be hazardous as was falling into the pit of spikes. overall_score: 8 overall_comment: Notes: The score never reached 290 out of 290, I assumed this was due to the extra points needed after killing Dracula, but try as I might, I could never make this happen. A rumour began to circulate at the time that the spear found in the armoury could be broken and used as a stake but no one it seems could repeat this action. I managed to track down the programmer, Grahame Willis and he admitted that there was no way to kill the Count as no such object as a stake existed in the game. The scoring system was flawed so that it was impossible to reach the full 290 points. His message at the end was deliberately suggestive to entice further play.