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My First Text Adventure, April 29, 2012
This isn't going to be a normal review. I completely unfairly give this game five stars, for instance. And I'm giving it five stars because it was an unforgettable part of my early childhood.
Back when I was in elementary school, my parents bought Leading Edge computer which ran DOS. I remember it came with a ton of 5 3/4" gray floppy disks--many of them had legitimate programs on them, but I soon enough found the ones with games on them. Janitor Joe, Castle Adventure, Dig Dug, Eliza and many others which I barely remember and will probably never rediscover, since I don't know their names. And among them all, this game, The Wizard's Castle, really captured my attention.
I loved to read as a kid, and I loved fantasy. I started reading The Lord of the Rings in fourth grade, wrote stories, and before long I'd be getting involved with role-playing games like Dungeons and Dragons and MERP. So stumbling across this game, in which you create a character and explore a ruined subterranean complex, fighting monsters and grabbing treasures, completely hooked me.
In retrospect, the game is nothing too impressive. It begins with character creation. You choose a race (Human, Elf, Dwarf, Halfling) and sex, which determine your base statistics. You are then given 8 points to distribute among your STR, INT and DEX, and 60 GP to buy armor, a weapon, and a light source.
Light isn't a big deal in the game. It just allows you to look at the map. There are always 8 floors, 8x8, but the contents are randomly generated each play. And what are the contents? Well, there are the treasures. Some of them have in-game effects, like protection from blindness. Others only have a cash value. Every treasure can be sold to a Vendor, if you want, who also sell new weapons and armor (your gear can fall apart) as well has potions to increase your stats. You can always attack the Vendor, but he is hard to kill and once you do that, all Vendors will fight you. It's often worth it to kill the Vendors anyway, since they carry good gear.
There are lots of other monsters, too. When you enter a room containing a monster, your options are to attack or retreat, until you bump up your intelligence, in which case you can also cast web or fireball spells, or the risky deathspell.
You walk around and fight monsters, prompted to attack or retreat (or in some instances, if the creature is sentient, you can attempt a bribe.) There are pools and books which will have various effects: they can alter your stats, including sex and race. They can also render you blind, and some books glue themselves to your hand, which really sucks. It's best to acquire the Opal Eye and Blue Flame, which protect against these bad things, before messing with books.
(Spoiler - click to show)In order to find the Orb Of Zot, you have to get the Runestaff, which allows teleportation. You can only get the Orb if you teleport to its location, which looks like a Warp on the map. How do you get the Runestaff? keep killing monsters. One of them has it.
There are plenty of environmental sound effects--like footsteps, screams, the sound of a Wumpus (an in-joke I didn't get). I mean, it's not much, but as an 8 year old, this dungeon seemed like a dark and terrible place. I would spend a lot of time here, just walking around, until I'd uncovered every spot on the map, jumping in sinkholes, warping around, etc.
I'm glad I found this game again, even though...well, it's not a great game. It probably ruled for its time, and I loved it back then, and I can even play it now nostalgically. But I doubt it's an "important" game to play.