Monday, 19 April 2021

Missed Classic: The Palace of Deceit: The Secret of Castle Lockemoer – WON!-ish and Final Rating

Written by Will Moczarski
Thou shalt not pass.
First of all let me say: what a fantastic community we have here at The Adventure Gamer. I had five people respond to my request for assistance with great advice – alas, it was not to be: The Palace of Deceipt indeed appears to be a game of deceipt, it is unwinnable in its present state and I’ve boldly gone as far as I could have gone in playing through it. However, the good news is that the remaining text bits of the game are somewhat readable as parts of the main .exe file, so I will try my best to provide you with a second-hand account of what the other parts might have played like.

Let’s resume our story, and go back to the armoury where I found a shield with my family crest on it. When I try to take the shield, I hear a deep rumbling from within the suit of armour next to it. The suit comes to life and proceeds to attack me with a sharp sword. If I try to kill the knight, the game informs me that I left the knife (you know, the cutz-o-matic one) with the carcass – however, there’s still a sleeping lion next door, right? I open the door and...the lion springs at the knight and knocks him over. He proceeds to tear him to pieces, and then turns to me. There appear to be multiple solutions for what happens next: holding up the shield either results in the lion shredding it to pieces of metal but then blacking out because there “must have been something in the meat”, or the lion’s head “clangs off the shield, and he drops to the ground, knocked out, several of his teeth scattered around the room. […] There are now 19 knights here, a knocked out lion, shreds of metal, lion's teeth, and a frustrated adventurer (you).” A frustrated adventurer? You can say that again. It’s strangely meta to read this parser output after THE CRASH.

Even more meta is the continuation of this farce: Another knight comes up to me and won’t let me pass. When I talk to him, I get the following message: “EXCUSE ME, SIR, BUT I WAS WONDERING, WHO MAKES THE BEST LOW PRICED GAMES ANYWHERE?” Hum, let me think about that for a minute, knight. “Cliff Bleszinski” does not work as an answer, but “Atomic Revolution Software” does – the knight thanks me and leaves the armoury to go buy one of their games. “But they don’t work! They crash after a third of the game or so!,” I shout in agony but it is futile – the knight has already left the palace of deceipt. To add insult to injury, he has locked the door behind me – however, he left behind a note saying “EHT TERCES DROW IS ‘ACOB’.” Ah, ah, I know this one. I need to read it backwards, right? The secret word is… boca? That’s Spanish for ‘mouth’, right? If I say the word out loud (si abro la boca), a trap door (otro tipo de boca) opens below me. Funnily, if I say the word out loud backwards (abriendo mi boca al revés), the message gets printed backwards, too: “A part rood snepo woleb uoy.” I really like that!

I descend into a tiny room, and the trap door slams shut above me. Have I just entered the great underground empire? Above me, the party of the undead statues is just getting started: “All of the knights must have come to life once there was no one in the room!” Now that’s a dance floor that really needs some serious ASCII illustration. The next door has a riddle on it which serves as the next puzzle: “What has no arms or legs,but can move, what has scales but is not a reptile, what has no lungs but can still breathe?” The answer is “fish,” and I move on into a clean, wide hallway leading to a brightly lit room. To one of its sides, there is a passage to a museum-like room displaying a glass case with a gorgeous crown inside. I can pull one of the wooden supports on the wall to make one of the pillars come crashing down on the glass case. This lets me take (and wear) the crown.

In the middle of the room, there is a large rock with a sword stuck in it. The game even remarks that the place looks like it was right out of King Arthur’s days. A wizard eyes me strangely, although (or because) I’m wearing King Arthur’s crown. Predictably, wearing the crown allows me to pull the sword from the stone – also, if I wear the crown, the wizard recognises me as King Arthur; if I don’t, he doesn’t. (Accordingly, when I try to pull the sword from the stone, I tug and tug, but nothing happens.) It seems that I have to put on the crown in the other room lest I be taken by the wizard for the dirty, lowdown thief that I am.

Whatever the case, the sword looks like the fabled “Excaliber” (sic) and it is encrusted with jewels and gold. This is too much for me to take and I pass out. When I awake, I find myself in a huge treasure room with an immense blue dragon standing above me. Be that as it may, of course he is no match for “Excaliber”! The sword slices through the dragon like a hot knife through butter. This concludes the second part of the game, as my trusted faerie Gwenivere (the name makes a tad more sense now) reappears and hands me another blue crystal. “To be honest, I didn't believe you had it in you to complete more than one challenge,” she tells me. Very funny, Gwenivere. You knew all along that the .exe file was bugged, didn’t you?

As there are two potential messages, in case you recover the first crystal second or the other way around, the game is clearly non-linear as I had suspected in my second post. That is a nice touch. Gwenivere tells me that the final challenge is still on, and this is supposedly where the non-linearity ends.

I black out yet again and wake up in a room that looks like a medieval lab – it’s wizard Garth’s lab, and my player character wonders how he should ever find Garth as he doesn’t even know what he looks like. There is a giant vat of green ooze in the middle of the room, and a starving prisoner looking for rat dung to feed himself in a cage in the corner. The vat works like a trap – when I look at it, I see my home and my family, everything I long for. I’m hypnotised by the impression, and someone shoves me from behind. I fall into the vat, and appear to suffocate in the green ooze. Not a nice way to go(o). However, when I take a breath, it turns out not to be deadly. I work my way out of the slimy stuff, and when I look up, Garth has appeared in front of me. He’s large and wearing a black robe. The prisoner is no longer there, so I assume that it must have been him. It’s kind of funny that the player character was so unsure what Garth would look like but since he’s wearing the stereotypical kind of clothing now, he recognises him right away. Garth is surprised that I’ve made it this far and gives me one chance to get out of there alive but only if I answer his question correctly. If I don’t… yada yada yada… he will kill me in a slow, painful death.

Now this is the end game, and because it’s so ambitious yet so weird, I’ve decided to quote – or rather transcribe – the first part in its entirety:
Garth: “If you could end all world hunger and suffering and pain just by torturing one innocent baby to death, would you? Yes (for whatever reason) or No (for whatever reason)?” […] “Looks like you've got some indecision, my young fool.” –
You: “I can't decide that, it can't be left up to one person.”
Garth (roaring): “FOOL! You could gain many with the loss of but one!”

You: “Yes, but wouldn't that death matter to that one baby and his family, to see him killed so cruelly? And everyone on this planet would gain something except them? You have to be able to see both sides of a situation, your evilness. You have to be able to see different points of view of ANY argument, not just what your heart tells you but what your common sense and mind say. This shows a truly worthy person.”

Garth (screaming): “You LIE! Indecision kills!”
Garth then lunges at me with flames rearing out of his eyes and his claws extended. I dive aside and he lands in the vat of ooze. This works out differently for him than it did for me, though: He is boiled alive and I run out of the castle just in time and see it explode in a huge mushroom cloud from the outside. Wow, that stuff must have been nucular! And then…
You appear outside the castle as it starts to crumble and collapse...within seconds it is a pile of rubble. You think you hear muffled screaming under the brick and mortar, maybe the evil one lives on, somehow...You turn around and wander off to the village to tell the news.. The End.…
Unsurprisingly, Mr. Bleszinski’s first work ends with a cliffhanger (sorry). By the way, if you actually answer Garth’s question, he simply kills you, making it even more ironic that he screams “Indecision kills!” just before dying himself. Now let’s proceed to the PISSED rating before we get the chance to revisit (it must have been rebuilt, I assume) castle Lockemoer in the sequel The Dragon’s Plight in which, if I’m not mistaken, we shall take on the role of that unfortunate blue dragon.


Puzzles & Solvability:

Ahem. The game is not solvable. Should I punish it for that, or not? I’ll do it after all is said and done, this category rates badly enough as it is. The puzzles are extremely easy but mangled by the obnoxious parser (which shall be addressed in the next category, of course).

1 point.

Interface & Inventory:

The parser spoiled most of the fun for me. Even a seasoned adventure gamer such as I was hard pressed to come up with “look at girl with glasses” or “use matches and oil on torch”. Also, it’s very repetitive that the parser usually doesn’t give any feedback at all – it’s just “I don’t understand!!!” all around. The second worst aspect of the game was the complete lack of an inventory. You have to remember everything you’ve picked up at some point in the game, and the game doesn’t even tell you when you leave something behind (e.g. the knife).

1 point.

Story & Setting:

Your below average haunted house. What was the backstory again? Something about a wizard who “terrorized his people without mercy” and who had to be stopped. Why he lived in a castle that contained a blue dragon and the sword “Excaliber”? Nobody knows. Who was the faerie Gwinevere and what was my business to her? Nobody knows. It’s a high-school game, and many of the NPCs feel like in-jokes other people won’t be able to get. The setting is inconsistent but sometimes interesting – I liked the hot/cold maze as well as the whole mushroom forest part. Also it’s slightly non-linear which is always good.

2 points.

Sound & Graphics:

The sound is horrible. It is very fortunate that it just consists of a small number of PC speaker doodles in the very beginning. The graphics, however, are very nice. Bleszinski was a whole number of years too early for the ASCII aesthetics to count as positively retro but the effort was very successful. It’s a shame that we weren’t able to see about half of the pictures due to the game-breaking bug. I must say that I really enjoyed their individual style. That sort of presents a conundrum – are we supposed to rate the graphics in terms of whether they are state of the art for 1991? Of course they aren’t but that’s completely beside the point, isn’t it? I’m not sure but graphics are really not that important to me in video games, and it’s my review, so I’ll go a bit higher than might seem right.

4 points.

Environment & Atmosphere:

A weird mixture of popcultural elements and high-school in-jokes; the game is rarely spooky but sometimes outright strange. Also, the changes in tone are sometimes completely out of the blue, like when the crying damsel in distress first tells you her horrible life story but then turns into a savage monster. Or when Garth suddenly challenges you to some sort of ethics contest in the endgame. Some highlights but in general a very mixed bag.

3 points.

Dialogue & Acting:

Some parts are irredeemably juvenile but that’s to be expected. Other parts are quite witty but none of them are particularly well-written. I enjoyed the experience but I’ve got a soft spot for unpretentious games. It’s probably not to everyone’s taste, and it’s certainly more of a teenager’s fantasy than an adventure game milestone.

2 points.

1+ 1+ 2+ 4+ 3+ 2 = 13 / 0.6 = 22 points. That seems quite accurate. I’ll remove two points because the game can’t be finished, though, so 20 it is. Vetinari came closest to both scores by guessing 25. If it turns out that it was my fault for not registering the game or just being too stupid to play it on the proper platform, I’ll give them back.

Up next there’s another short detour to castle Lockemoer before I will finally start with my first main game: The Dragon’s Plight (1992), and then Dare to Dream (1993). I’m psyched already!


  1. Ilmari,

    thank you for posting part 3 of my playthrough - however, the pissed rating should be 20 as I meant to subtract two points from the game. (I admit that the phrasing may be a bit confusing, apologies for that.) Could you change the picture accordingly, please?


    1. Sorry, I read that bit carelessly. Now the picture should be corrected!

  2. I'd say that even for ASCII art, this game looks really crude and ugly; just google up "retro ASCII art" and you'll see lots of better examples. I really don't get how this warrants four points, regardless of year.

    1. Thank you for your feedback! I actually think that the author(s) of the game did some nice things here, and although there were much more technically impressive examples of ASCII art already in the '80s (if my memory serves me well), I found the pictures in this game to be atmospheric, decipherable and interesting. I knew that four points may be controversial but that's just how I saw it (HA!).

      That said, I'm easy to please when it comes to graphics, so I'm possibly not the best judge here. My problem was a bit along the lines of comparability: For me, those are 4-point-ASCII graphics but they can hardly be compared to those of "Wing Commander" because they follow very different aesthetics, right? Should ASCII graphics be relegated to 1 to 4 points (with 4 points covering REALLY GOOD ASCII graphics) in general, or should I regard them as ASCII graphics worth 4 points (as oppose to REALLY GOOD ASCII graphics being worth 10 points)? I really don't know. However, I probably should have punished the game for the absence of sound (the two or three tunes during the introduction are abysmal), so 3 points would probably be in order. I feel a bit harsh for subtracting 2 points in the end, however, so 20 seems like a good compromise overall. (sorry for the extra-long reply.)

  3. Typo in the post title in first word. Also, rating is 22 or 20 ? Unclear

    1. Thank you, Alex!

      Could one of the admins correct this as soon as you find the time? Thanks!

      The rating should be 20 (see my comment above). It will be fixed soon, I think.

    2. Not my best day, obviously... The title's fixed!

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