Story File
Requires a Z-Code interpreter. Visit IFWiki for download links.

Have you played this game?

You can rate this game, record that you've played it, or put it on your wish list after you log in.

Playlists and Wishlists

RSS Feeds

New member reviews
Updates to downloadable files
All updates to this page

Castle of the Red Prince

by C.E.J. Pacian profile


Web Site

(based on 50 ratings)
10 reviews

About the Story

Welcome to Amaranth, foreigner. The Red Prince haunts your dreams, you say? If you want to overthrow our tyrant, you’ll need to consider this whole blighted land at once.

(Castle of the Red Prince is a small text adventure with a different perspective on how locations can work in a parser game.)

Game Details

Language: English (en)
First Publication Date: February 25, 2013
Current Version: 7
License: Freeware
Development System: Inform 7
IFID: F780982A-853B-4B70-9EC0-7B7CF3492972
TUID: bw3bnlf4ho8gqq1v


Nominee, Best Use of Innovation - 2013 XYZZY Awards

Editorial Reviews

Emily Short's Interactive Storytelling
The whole game... feels a bit gauzy and distant, reminiscent of Ebb and Flow of the Tide or The Guardian. There’s something intriguing and pleasurable about it, and I enjoyed seeing the experiment in IF world model, but it wasn’t a very intense or compelling experience. I am likely to remember Pacian’s other work longer.
See the full review

The game compresses space and time. It makes sure only the important plot points are left in the story, cutting out all the extraneous fat. In this way, Castle of the Red Prince offers a more cinematic game experience with only text than most AAA blockbusters.
See the full review

Old Games Italia
Altri giochi dopo Castle of the Red Prince ne hanno ripreso la tecnica delle descrizioni telescopiche, portandola in altre direzioni, però qui la vediamo implementata su un gameplay classico. E la cosa funziona molto bene, perché semplifica l'approccio al gioco e la curva di apprendimento. Al tempo stesso incide anche sull'atmosfera: eliminando i riferimenti spaziali, cambia il nostro modo di visualizzare le scene e dona al ricordo del gioco un tocco piacevolmente onirico.
See the full review

Radiator Design Blog
The mechanism in Castle of the Red Prince is this: to navigate, you don't type "north" or "south" or "w" or "e" as in most interactive fiction games. Instead, you just focalize on something -- you "x" or "examine" it. The result is a dreamlike movement as you fly around a space, the IF-equivalent of noclip mode.
See the full review

Rock, Paper, Shotgun
After two years CEJ Pacian (author of Gun Mute and Rogue of the Multiverse, if you follow parser stuff) quietly releases another perfect little piece that pushes intfic forward. What to praise? The hint system that works while you sleep? The hidden interactions? How about the dreamlike approach to movement.
See the full review


- View the most common tags (What's a tag?)

(Log in to add your own tags)

Member Reviews

5 star:
4 star:
3 star:
2 star:
1 star:
Average Rating:
Number of Reviews: 10
Write a review

Most Helpful Member Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful:
Intriguing gameplay and an undercooked story, July 15, 2013
by Jim Kaplan (Jim Kaplan has a room called the location. The location of Jim Kaplan is variable.)
Related reviews: C. E. J. Pacian

Play it if: you want a short, sweet game with a smoothly-implemented gameplay gimmick.

Don't play it if: you prefer gameplay to be accompanied by a fleshed-out story, because in narrative terms this does feel a bit incomplete.

The most memorable aspect of this game is immediately noticeable: verbs of movement are discarded in favor of an alternative mode of transportation, and EXAMINING a place is what takes you to it. What impresses me more than the coding (not that I'm a wizard, but I can make a couple of guesses at how it was done) is the manipulation of English in order to make the effect seamless.

A common flaw in descriptive writing is the provision of information that confounds the mind's natural means of acquiring that information. For instance, in an oft-quoted sequence from the novel Bronwyn: Silk and Steel, the observing character is implied to be standing some distance from the lady he is observing. But then:

"Her face had the fragrance of a gibbous moon."

The reader is confused on two counts: first, the assertion that the moon has a fragrance (which given that's located in space, is impossible); and second, that the observing character can smell her face - specifically - from more than arm's length. In Silk and Steel, this is just poor writing. In Castle of the Red Prince, though, it's twisted into a means of travel. Essentially, examining locations from a distance will often bridge the spatial gap by simply beginning to provide information that would be unavailable from your original location. Coding aside, it's a fascinating linguistic trick.

(I should mention that this gimmick plays havoc with your ability to appreciate the relative locations of things, but given the small size of this world it's not really a major drawback.)

What's also interesting about this device is that it's left ambiguous to what degree this travel is simply a novel description of normal movement, and to what degree it's a form of sorcery available to the player character. This also leads into a minor disappointment I experienced: the player character has a sort of ambiguity which is suggestive of depth, but that depth is never really exploited. I mean, in theory the PC's dreams are being haunted by this Red Prince, but it's not used for much more than a basic motivator to tell the player what they're doing in the game. The Red Prince's rather blase attitude to your machinations, couple with the contents of a certain book, made me think that the PC was the Red Prince's son, or that the Red Prince had some sort of personal role in the PC's dreams and backstory. None of this appeared to be true, which is a bit of a shame.

The point is not to judge Castle by the arbitrary standards of my personal imaginary alternate universe for this game, but to point out that this game ignited my curiosity in a way it wasn't prepared to engage. In fact, the story itself is not particularly engaging, lacking much in the way of twists. The titular antagonist knows what you're doing from quite early on, but he'll be damned if he expends any energy on trying to actually stop you - and speaking here as a reader rather than a game-player, seeing that sort of thing feels like it's the story itself expressing this attitude to me (though I'm hardly going to go about accusing the author of laziness). Victor Gjisbers's The Baron might have been fairly unremarkable gameplay-wise but it made better use of a similar sort of premise.

On the whole, then, I have to agree with previous comments that this is a better experiment than a game. It's not that it's a bad game, it's just that what actually happens in it is barely enough to fill a two-page short story.

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
Wonderful - Must Play if you write IF, July 28, 2013
by Hanon Ondricek (United States)

Castle of the Red Prince is a short puzzle-box game. Your goal is to kill the Red Prince. He knows you have studied the arcane arts, but he's not particularly worried about your ability. Your ability is that you don't have to trudge N, S, E, W, U, DOWN. The player simply imagines where they want to go (by examining a location you can see or know about) and -zap= there you are. The entire game world is in scope for you to discover and peel away.

It's a very simple, not particularly complicated plot, but this game mechanic places your focus on examining everything. The prose is simple, direct, and well-written without florid verbosity. This gives CASTLE OF THE RED PRINCE's player and PC a refreshingly objective perspective on the actual goings-on. Who cares about directions when you needn't even bother with walls? You can go right to the Red Prince and stab him in the face. It won't work...but that's the game.

I find myself sometimes with very little patience for some IF. This one was direct enough to grab and hold me to completion. I did cheat by sleeping a lot, which essentially hands you as many next steps as you need to get you back on the right path. It took me about a half an hour, but it can be played longer (perhaps like a crossword puzzle for very experienced if-readers) if you avoid sleeping and figure it all out yourself.

I encountered only one place where I struggled with the parser and implementation: (Spoiler - click to show)In my dream I knew I had to place dynamite in the cave at the castle's weak foundation point. I was skimming the list of steps provided in the dreams perfunctorily, and I spent a while trying to PUT DYNAMITE ON FOUNDATION. The foundation is a container, not a supporter. True, the hint steps spelled this out, but I thought "on" was reasonable for placing dynamite on what I pictured as a timber beam.

Yes, it's short and yes, it has all kinds of potential in a larger game. I could see this approach being taken to tell an epic with the breadth of ZORK or STAR WARS or A GAME OF THRONES within the manageable size of a Infocom-ish length work.

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful:
Amaranthan dream, March 20, 2013
by Edward Lacey (Oxford, England)

In C.E.J. Pacian's Castle of the Red Prince, a student of "the arcane" suffers from nightmares about the land of Amaranth and its tyrannical Red Prince, and sets out to end the Prince's oppression by killing him. It's unclear whether the whole game takes place in a dream, but there is something dreamlike about the setting – broadly fantasy, but with horror-like features common even outside the Prince's territory, and occasional intrusions from modern technology and real-world place names. Dreaming is also something of a theme, especially in an ingenious hint system that allows you to SLEEP and watch "your dream self" carrying out actions you can try after awakening.

The game's main innovation is its novel approach to location modelling. The world is still divided into locations (at least from the player's perspective – I can't comment on the programming), but all characters and objects that the player has discovered is in scope simultaneously. There's no compass, and no need to use movement commands in exploration; ENTER INN is equivalent to EXAMINE INN. Pacian appears to have avoided disambiguation problems by ensuring no two objects share a name, and it's impressive that this never leads to the prose becoming unnatural or obvious synonyms going unrecognised by the parser.

I think the experiment succeeds in at least two ways. First, it suggests that the protagonist's movements are extraneous to the real activity in much parser-based IF. (Several times in Castle I discovered an item and realised it could be used to solve a problem in a location I'd already visited; the fact that I could just use the item without retracing my steps brought my interaction with the program much closer to the process of solving the problem mentally.) Secondly, it demonstrates that making all of game-space available for interaction conflicts with the player's expectations about game-time. The time of day appears in the title bar and advances every two actions, regardless of how much movement those actions would realistically require from the protagonist. The effect works here because it's suggestive of the sudden changes of place we experience in dreams, but a naturalistic game with an internal clock couldn't follow the same approach.

Castle seems to me less successful as a game than as an experiment. It's short (it would probably have 15-20 rooms if implemented conventionally, but most are empty or contain one thing of importance), and the combination of brevity and eccentricity of setting kept me from feeling immersed. Puzzles tend to adhere to well-worn IF tropes ((Spoiler - click to show)lighting a dark area, attacking an enemy with the appropriate weapon), perhaps as a way of suggesting that the game's approach to location-modelling is applicable outside experimental works. I didn't find the Red Prince a dramatically effective antagonist, with his lack of concern at the protagonist's attempts to defeat him. He isn't even responsible for either of the two losing endings that I found.

Despite the monsters I encountered, my journey to Amaranth was more like a brief dream than a nightmare that would haunt me for days. However, a dream can be memorable for one unusual element, and Castle's success in dispensing with the usual IF approach to location is easily enough to make it worth playing.

See All 10 Member Reviews

If you enjoyed Castle of the Red Prince...

Related Games

Other members recommend these games for people who like Castle of the Red Prince, or gave both high ratings:

The Ebb and Flow of the Tide, by Peter Nepstad
Average member rating: (13 ratings)
You have done a horrible thing, so horrible that burial will be denied you, either in soil or sea, neither can there be any hell for you. You wait for some hours, knowing this. Then your friends come for you, and slay you secretly and...

Draw Everything You See That's Mine and Yours, by kaleidofish
Average member rating: (10 ratings)
A story about a casual relationship between two men that grows into something more over the years....

The Milgram Parable, by Peter Eastman
Average member rating: (14 ratings)
Your job is simple: do whatever you are told, without question or hesitation. If you don't, people will die. Probably including you.

Suggest a game

Recommended Lists

Castle of the Red Prince appears in the following Recommended Lists:

2013 XYZZY Awards Nominees by Molly
Here are the nominees for the 2013 XYZZY Awards, roughly by order of appearance on the finalist page. Note that this list does not cover the Best Technological Development Award.


The following polls include votes for Castle of the Red Prince:

Lost Pig type puzzle complexity by Mostly Useless
I haven't played a lot of IF, as I'm often put off by what are (for me) difficult puzzles. Without doubt the most satisfaction I've had from finishing a game has been Admiral Jota's Lost Pig, and I would love to hear about other games...

Best Short Games (5-60 minutes) by Sasha Davidovna
I'm pretty new to IF and am having a lot of fun, but in between a toddler and a job and other real life stuff, I'm having trouble finding time to finish many of the longer games I want to play. Can you please recommend me some fun and/or...

Games with non-standard directions by Andrew Schultz
I'm wondering about games (primarily parser) with weird directions beyond NW/SW/SE/NE, up, down or inside/outside. I like the example in the Inform docs (Charles S. Roberts) about hexagonal directions but have no clue how to go about...

See all polls with votes for this game

This is version 7 of this page, edited by Zape on 21 June 2020 at 2:32pm. - View Update History - Edit This Page - Add a News Item