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First impressions weren't too good as the graphics aren't exactly awe-inspiring, but the game is surprisingly compulsive. The puzzles aren't as restricted as I feared they might be by such a basic graphical system and, with so many rooms to map, it isn't a game you'll complete in a few hours - well, I didn't anyway. Though I normally avoid games with an arcade element like the plague, I found the monster-bashing to be pretty easy so long as I was properly equipped and attired.
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One of the first graphical adventures I played, Castle Adventure was literally written by a 14 year-old in his mother’s basement using nothing but BASIC for the game and ASCII characters for the graphics. Given the tools used and the year it was made, it was quite an impressive achievement.
You control an ASCII clover, moving around using the arrow keys. Commands are of the two-word variety, and most tasks you can complete just by running into things. At its heart this is a treasure hunting game, with the goal naturally to pilfer as much as you can from the castle without getting yourself killed and finding the key to unlock the gate that for some reason locked behind you.
I’m still impressed at not only the amount but also the variety of puzzles implemented using ASCII graphics. They’re not complex puzzles by any means; it never gets more difficult than bringing item A to point B, or making sure you have item A before you go into room B. But it’s refreshing to know you can’t just rampage your way through the castle. There’s even plenty of tension, as demons, bats, and other creatures guard treasures and you either must run away from them or attack them using limited available weaponry. There is at least one walking dead situation, though the game is short enough that it’s not terribly annoying. And while the original version had plenty of bugs (and some glaring spelling errors), and playing this on a new PC is impossible (even with DosBox you have to fine tune the game’s speed perfectly to avoid battles from being an exercise in learning the “restart” function) you can find ports and remakes that will do just fine, including one version that's point'n'click.
Ultimately, Castle Adventure is not a great game and other than the sweet nectar of nostalgia there’s not much worth recommending. Though much like a younger me in awe playing around with a rotary phone, this could be briefly entertaining for someone who’s never played a game programmed in BASIC. But man, major props to Kevin Bales. Keypunch Software even stole–-literally stole–-his game and sold it under the name Golden Wombat for a while.
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