Castle Adventure
for Interpreter (Z-Code)

Mr Creosote:
Company: Ben Chenoweth
Year: 2012
Genre: Adventure
Theme: Misc. Fantasy / Humour / Text-based
Language: English
Licence: Freeware
Views: 11573
Review by Mr Creosote (2012-11-11)

Alert: Princess trapped in a dungeon below a castle; hero needed to rescue her! Castle Adventure delivers exactly what it promises: An old-school treasure hunt set first in a forest (where else?), then after a brief interlude in a cave going into a castle and its dungeon where you will encounter a mildly amusing, because completely politically incorrectly portrayed princess. Along the way, you will encounter predominantly undescribed or at least underdescribed locations which you have to map, nice and logical puzzles, mazes and lots of dead ends. To put it another way: It was a delight to play, because it did everything right – if you like this sort of thing which was heavily in style in the 80s.

This review could end here, but there is a slightly meta discussion buried in there somewhere. According to its splash page, this game was converted to Inform in 2012 from an earlier version. Technically, this conversion seems to have gone well. However, converting a game from a simpler (presumably, the original development system is not mentioned) system to a more complex one yields one danger which this game crashes into head on: The author has not considered the features of his new engine and parser!

The game expects simple actions and simple ways of wording these actions. The Inform parser, however, allows for many different ways of wording similar things and by default, it introduces states which the original design never considered. To explain just one example: On the way out of the castle, the princess is spooked by a ghost and she runs away. To get her past this point, the player has to lead the ghost somewhere else and keep it distracted there so the princess will not run across it anymore. The key here is that the ghost is interested in the princess' tiara. If the player carries it, the ghost will follow the player. However, if the player wears the tiara, the ghost will not follow anymore which really makes no sense. Worse even, showing or giving the tiara to the ghost tells the player that the ghost is not interested! As long as the verbs WEAR, GIVE or SHOW are not present in the game engine, there is no problem. But in Inform, they are.

Which shows, in its extreme, the problem of modelling a game only according to a positive specification and without a specific engine in mind. This is the reason why almost all games which implement a sun on the horizon reply with “You feel nothing unexpected” to the command TOUCH SUN. Complaints like this might be a bit picky talking about a game whose starting location called “Forest” is described only as “You are in a forest”. Yet, it is a textbook example of this phenomenon: Either model your world or remove the unneeded features. The latter having been appropriate for this game.

Castle Adventure does not suffer much from this. Well, technically, it does suffer from this to the extreme. However, since this is not a game which much of an immersion to start with, the effects can hardly be felt. This game is very honest about what it is and what it isn't – between the many pseudo-intellectual snooze-fests released as “IF” every year, this is very refreshing!

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