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A Real Trip Back To The Heady Days Of Mainframe Sessions In Messy Computer Rooms, January 11, 2022
I have always been a sucker for old text based puzzlefests and a double sucker for old Mainframe puzzlefests (viz. my efforts at getting Warp uploaded to IFDB) and when I read that Arthur O'Dwyer et al had discovered this old game from 1980 that had previously been on the GENIE network I couldn't resist.
I downloaded the game from the intfiction.org website where it has been tweaked by David Kinder and others and can be run using the ¦asa pipe added to the executable command to allow an onscreen DOS session that doesn't close down when using the SAVE command but does still end your current game.
Castlequest is about as old fashioned a text adventure as you could wish to see this side of Wander and Willie Crowther; written in Fortran so the game only understands upper case letters it is in size similar to the original Crowther creation too.
The premise is two-fold, that is to find and kill the evil personage in his castle and then to complete the endgame which entails collecting ten treasures and storing them in a certain location. There are bonus points for carrying out certain actions and yes, a last lousy point which at least makes more sense than the the one in the original Colossal Cave.
It exhibits most of the limitations of games from this era, including a lamp timer, an inventory limit, mazes (only one of which is really annoying) locked doors, fearsome beasts to be slayed or otherwise mollified, an elevator, a boat and a limited two word parser which fails to recognise many objects in the described locations. These tend to be fairly terse but longer when needed.
There are several bugs, none of which are game killing but can be annoying such as a message when entering a number combination that is liable to put the player off continuing but is in fact incorrect. You should recognise this when you find it. There are also multiple solutions to some problems (in some cases these may be as a result of lurking bugs) and at least one problem which doesn't lead anywhere when solved involving an NPC. Some of the location exits also appear illogical, for instance when entering a dark tunnel you go down but also down to climb out of it. There are also quite a few typos and other grammatical infelicities. There is an odd way of giving objects to other NPCs too; without wishing to be spoilerish you will need to think laterally to achieve this.
The game does have a dry sense of humour, and I loved the discovery of what must be the world's largest contact lens. Bausch and Lomb eat your heart (corneas?) out.
Amongst the problems there are some nice original puzzles which up the difficulty quotient. There is also only the facility for one saved game so you may choose to hack the saved file and rename it if you want to store multiple copies of saved positions.
Lovers of IF antiquary will have a lot of fun with this.