Sunday 11 December 2022

Missed Classic: Castle Adventure - B.J. Blazkowicz Goes Looking for Loot in Several Wrong Places

By Michael

In today’s review, we are playing a game where we direct a character who is locked in a castle, looks for loot and secrets, and picks up weapons he finds along the way to kill horrible creatures, in hopes of escaping.
This reminds me of a screensaver...
When last we left our intrepid, unnamed hero, he was killed by an ugly ogre. So, perhaps it’s time to start again.I lace up my boots and prepare for another search of the castle. I make my way back to the entrance room, but this time, I won’t go to the left just yet, because I don’t have a weapon. So, finding a weapon is probably going to be crucial for my treasure hunt. I’ll go straight this time.
“Where do these stairs go?” “They go up!”
Here, we see a new mechanic, a staircase that goes up.If you follow them, there’s a matching DDDD staircase. As we go through the game, we’ll find other staircases that have both directions side-by-side. So far, everything seems intuitive.

If I hang a left from here, I find a goblet. To pick it up, as the game instructions state, I merely walk over it, and it is now in my inventory. I can check my inventory by typing INVENTORY, or even INV, as I have discovered. I can look at the item in my inventory as well.
I’m getting hungry. Hopefully we find a leg of lamb soon too.
Looking at it, I’m told, “It’s made of Gold!” That must mean it is one of the treasures. 1 down, 12 to go. And, so far, one could argue the inventory system is slightly better than that of Police Quest 2, because there’s actually a picture icon next to the item in the list!

So, I continue north into the kitchen. There’s a slab stone table in the middle, but examining it just tells me that it is made of stone. So I check a room to the east, the chef’s bedroom, and find a desk and bed there. I’m still an optimist, so I look at both, and, to my surprise, find that there’s a flask on the desk. GET FLASK and I have another item. I don’t think this is a treasure, but I also don’t see any way of checking my status during the game. It shows a screen of what you have done when you perish, but not before.
A note about the parser so far, the instructions tell me to use two word commands, and so far, I haven’t been stumped. So, even though the game calls this a wine flask, typing GET FLASK works, while GET WINE FLASK does not.

I look at the flask, and I’m told that it is empty. Does that mean I need to find wine, or fill it with something else? Can items be used? So much to discover.
Wait, so the looters took the paintings and vases, and left the sharp, dangerous, useful sword? Huh.
A bit more exploring, and I happen upon a sword. I haven’t left this floor yet, I’m trying to explore everything on this floor before I go up or down. Again, 83 rooms. Even though many of them seem similar, I’m a little impressed, because many of our favorite graphic adventures of the glory years don’t have 83 rooms.

East of this room is the northern part of the garden. As I approach the archway, a friend flies over, stops me, and gives me a friendly warning...
Well, in a perfect world, that would have happened. But instead, I simply encountered a snake, and the screen also tells me an item is in the room as well.
Oh, Nagini, we knew you so well.
Walking into the snake repeatedly attacks it with the sword. I simply held down the right arrow key and watched as I placed many blows, and the snake got a few in on me as well. In the end, I persevered. I don’t know if there are any stats, if I took damage, or if I recover instantly. I look at the snake, to be sure, and the game tells me “The SNAKE looks dead!” Time to grab the lamp. I look at the lamp, and I’m told that “It’s lit Magically”. How about if I RUB LAMP? “There’s no Genii in this Lamp!” Well, that’s a curious spelling of the word, but I’m impressed that there was a reaction programmed in.
I’m somewhat impressed with the level of detail as well. If I leave the screen and re-enter it, the list of on-screen items now shows a “Dead SNAKE”.
The screen below it is the south end of the gardens. There’s a fountain here, looking at it tells me that it is filled with water, but I can’t see in it. Maybe if I remove some water? I type FILL FLASK, and now I have a flask of water. I tried looking at the fountain again, but no change. I wonder if the flask of water has a purpose. I’ll try the obvious first (after saving my game). DRINK FLASK. Well, the parser didn’t like that. (I don’t have any FLASK?) Fine, fine. Let’s try DRINK WATER. “That was good! I feel much better now!” I refill the flask and drink again, but it simply tells me that it was good. So I guess it restored some health to me.

I went back, and attacked the ogre I lost to in the last post. I was victorious, and then drank from the flask of glory to recuperate. I then refilled the flask. Just in case. You never know.

From the main entranceway, I go north a handful of screens. I approach the throne room, with an angry demon and a crown.
It says ANGRY DEMON, but he looks all smiles to me.
My sword is successful against the demon as well. I’m afraid to meet a creature that it couldn’t defeat. I collect my reward, the crown. Looking it over: “It’s made of Gold!” That seems familiar to me. I check out the throne, which is made of stone, but sadly, I cannot sit upon it.

After checking the empty rooms to the left and right, I’ve finished this floor. Do I choose one of the staircases up or down to continue my journey?
Stairway to Heaven
I choose to take the main stairway up, and I will try to methodically examine the rooms. Starting from the south, I encountered a statue. Again, making sure to look at everything, I find it is wearing a necklace. Well, no statue can be better dressed than myself, so I take it. It has an inscription, when I look at it.
Will it be effective for this trap?
WEAR NECKLACE works, and now I’m dressed to the nines. Off to the west, and more treasure. But I’ve hit a snag...
Standing next to it, I’m assured I have an hourglass figure
An inventory limit... of 6? I wonder why that number. So, the instructions don’t tell me what to do in this circumstance, but since I’m seeking to leave out the front gate, I think I’ll just drop some items there for now, and continue my trek around the second floor.
The wand chooses the wizard, the wizard does not get to choose his wand.
After claiming the hourglass, I go north. Another angry demon awaits me, again apparently a big user of Smilex. I dispose of him handily, and then claim my prize.
What, not gold ones?
Continuing north, some more treasure, but I’ll ignore the staircases for now again. Again, there’s a method to my madness, or so I hope. I’ll continue exploring. To the east of the staircase, I find myself a helmet. Let’s WEAR that as well, although this is going to get annoying, with the arbitrary inventory limit.

Nearby, I find an ogre. I slaughter him faster than it takes to tell him to stop fighting like a dairy farmer.

Off to the East, is a balcony. Again, examining everything carefully, I have an inspiration.

It’s Huge. I mean, it’s YUGE. So Yuge.
So I go back upstairs, and this time I explore north of the big stairwell. I find myself in a “cooridor” and, look, it’s a vampire. I try to attack the vampire, even though he wasn’t moving, and I’m told that he is blocking my way and can’t be hurt. So, hopefully, I find some garlic or holy water around.
Aren’t vampires supposed to be all sparkly?
The passage to the left leads to a guest room, and I try something I haven’t thought of to do before. I wonder if this game has any secrets. So, I LOOK WALLS and LOOK FLOOR.
Looks CGA off-white to me.
Well, maybe this will bear fruit in another room, but it was worth a try.

North from the vampire is another intersection, paths to the left and right, and a staircase going up. I’ll skip the stairs for now, because I want to finish this floor if I can. Let’s try the left.
Nothing here but a stairway. Checking to the right is the queen’s bedroom, also barren.
So, at this point, I’ve explored everything I can on the ground floor and the second floor, except for whatever is behind the vampire. It seems a good time to pause and reflect, and next time, we shall see where some of those stairs go.

Session Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 35 minutes
Note Regarding Spoilers and Companion Assist Points: There’s a set of rules regarding spoilers and companion assist points. Please read it here before making any comments that could be considered a spoiler in any way. The short of it is that no points will be given for hints or spoilers given in advance of me requiring one. Please...try not to spoil any part of the game for me...unless I really obviously need the help...or I specifically request assistance. In this instance, I've not made any requests for assistance. Thanks!


  1. Fun fact: if you first enter the throne room from the east, you can lure the demon to the side. You can then enter the room from the west and take the crown without being in danger. This works with the snake too.

  2. Given the year and being programmed by a teenager, my expectation level was never very high. But I was actually very impressed that all the rooms saved the state of where the items and NPCs were, dead or alive. I found the sword right away, so I didn't have to use that trick. I didn't think of it, but definitely useful. I could have avoided at least one of the other creatures as well, just ducking behind things and having him walk into objects.

    (Not spoiling for others. I've finished the game, and I'm editing the rest of the posts still, but they'll be queued along with the other games in the pipeline. )

    1. The fact he was a teenager wasn't that amazing - most bedroom coders were in their late teens... it was the fact that he was *barely* a teenager at 14 which blows my mind! And agree, maintaining the state of each room with the limitations of technology at the time was quite a feat, but to have that extend to the save system?!?! There were commercial titles well into the 90s that didn't think that was important... kudos to the (then) young man.

    2. He isn't maintaining the state of each room :) he's maintaining the X,Y,room coordinates of a couple dozen items and monsters. That's straightforward if you know what an array is. It also means you can reduce save game size to 3 bytes for each item and monster and the player.

    3. Hey, whatever the mechanism, it worked to achieve the effect of world state persistence. Given many games at the time didn't have multi-save capability, nor state persistence of any kind (either during gameplay OR through a game save facility), I think it's a mighty achievement by the young man.

    4. Exactly. @Radiant, like PsOmA said, the tech behind the choices isn't very impressive, it's the fact that the choices were made at all. I used the example of Kroz as a later game in this vein, where you could save in one spot, or many other games where you couldn't save at all. This game allows you conceivably (26^8 + 26^7 + 26^6 + 26^5 + 26^4 + 26^3 + 26^2 + 26) save slots, assuming any random combination of letters in a 1 to 8 letter long saved game name.

    5. (Obviously, I'm not accounting for the limitations of FAT or your floppy/hard disk storage space with that number. Before someone calls me out on it.)

  3. As someone who generally don't care much about the story in video games (I believe they're usually overrated b-list movie material, even in cases like Metal Gear Solid), I find the blog entries about this game ironically more enthrilling than the ones about Bloodnet.

    This is especially weird considering this game has no plot whatsoever. But that's the magic of video games: you don't really need a story, your actions "create" the story as you go.

    Games are (or at least should be IMHO) closer to practicing sports or exploring an abandoned building than watching a movie.

    I don't think I will ever play this game because I hate combat in adventures, but I love the simple, but intriguing graphics, the environment and the inventory. I guess we will soon find some kind of design flaw in some odd puzzle, as usual in these cases. Or maybe puzzles will be too easy. With adventures it's always difficult to find puzzles that are not either too easy or too difficult.

    1. I guess there's some truth in that. The main character doesn't necessarily need a name in this game, but I wouldn't have minded some backstory or some plotlines that would have changed the nature of a puzzle or two. But I had fun with it regardless.

      The combat in this game is a joke, if you haven't already noticed. As long as you have the sword, and don't just stand there and take the hits, you'll be victorious most likely every time. Don't let that be a deterrent. Back in the day of this game, computers weren't capable of hardcore battle sequences, so thankfully, puzzle and logic solving were the top design choices. It's why we love this genre so much, and probably why neither of us really care for games like BloodNet as much.

      I will say thank you for saying I've made this game seem at least a little enthralling, so far. I was originally worried that I wouldn't be able to find enough to write about to keep it interesting.

    2. You write that combat is a joke; I suggest trying this at different speed settings. You've set Dosbox to emulate a 3 MHz processor, and common processors in 1984 are in the 6 - 8 MHz range. In other words, the game is intended to run 2 to 3 times as fast as what you're playing at.

      I wonder if combat is still a joke if it's twice as fast?

    3. I intended to emulate a 4.77mHz XT, as that was the computer I first played it on. So I might have miscalculated a little, but I've tried it at the higher speed, and used a benchmark program to calibrate my settings.

      I stand by my statement, however. If you have the sword (and, later, the helmet) and hold down the arrow key in the direction if the creature you are battling, you will be victorious practically every time. And, as you pointed out in a previous post, combat is not always necessary, and exiting a room is always an option, and since you know exactly where the creature will be upon your return, you can plan accordingly.

      Now, the blitz levels in Kroz, played on anything faster than an XT? That was cruel.

    4. I'd disagree with (but can't categorically refute) the assertion that this was written for faster processors. Castle Adventure was finished in May 1984 according to the earliest file timestamps - at this point, whilst there *were* faster clones available, the majority simply matched the 5150/5160s 4.77Mhz (which still very much dominated the market). It wasn't until mid-84 when the Phoenix BIOS was released that a glut of clones hit the market with faster processors. Even then, most games were written for the lowest common denominator until the 286 and faster clones became the norm circa. 1986. Whilst it's feasible Kevin Bales wrote this on a faster machine, for faster machines, I'd say it's statistically unlikely.