Sunday, September 17, 2023

Game 384: Castle Adventure

Our next and final whale of 1984 is Steve Davis Snooker, a ZX Spectrum billiards sim published by British software house CDS Software. As their sole whale credit, this is the only time I expect to be covering anything out of their label, so in my usual fashion I've opted to begin with a small selection of early games leading up to it.

I'm going to have to emulate a ZX81 again, aren't I?

Game 384: Castle Adventure


As I have no indication of CDS's precise chronology beyond copyright years, I've chosen to start with 1982's Castle Adventure for no reason except that it looks the most interesting. Their other products of the year, all ZX81 games, consist of an unauthorized Breakout port, a Head-On clone, Connect 4, Othello, and an Avalanche-like paddle game.

The manual tells us that the goal is to find the castle's hidden exit and leave with as much energy as possible, and that enemies including a dragon, cobra, dwarves, goblins, and spiders will try to stop us. I've dealt with worse; let's go.


We're off to a bad start already, as Castle Adventure seems to mix up east and west! But let's go south.

Great, let's get the sword!

Boo hiss. I restart and go east this time.

Uh-oh. How do I leave? I try going west.

Nice, I crashed it!

Going north,


Too bad I don't have a sword. I flee and go west.


I bet I know what to do with this!





Four more unexplored rooms. I check them out one by one. North first:

Then east.

Two swings of my sword and all I have to show for it are 40 lost energy points. I flee and go west.

Not good! I run again and go south.


Going back to the dark room,

Sword time!


Back downstairs, I enter the code.

Alas, I died here. But it took me little time to reach this point again, with more hit points, and I cut through the web with my sword.

Finally, a puzzle! You must move across the chessboard, using knight movement patterns, while avoiding the dwarves who move one space in any direction.

This took me a few tries, but the key is to plan your route, working backwards from the exit so that it gets the zig-zagging out of the way sooner rather than later, when you're close to the exit and in the corner where you have little room to maneuver.

One solution

This puzzle is infuriatingly luck-based, as the dwarves move randomly, and catch you if they are even adjacent to your position, diagonals included. You'll probably have to make a risky move at some point and just pray that they move away from you.


Next you get a sliding tile puzzle, and there's a 50% chance that the randomly generated setup is unsolvable. But tries are unlimited.

Next, a maze.


There's a bit of perspective weirdness as the view is overhead but also rotates 90° when you go left or right, but the old wall-following technique gets you out eventually.


Hmmm, ten directions, you say? Start with "1."

Ah, this is Hunt the Wumpus, isn't it? But I don't have my crossbow.

After some wandering around, I determine the maze layout is nonsensical but deterministic, though its purpose is unclear. "Left" increments the location by 2, "right" decrements by 3. Exceptions: going right from rooms 1-3 takes you back to the entrance, going right from rooms 39-40 also takes you back to the entrance, and going left from rooms 39-40 takes you to room 5.

Room 32 is marked the "end of the maze" but otherwise behaves the same as any other room.


Returning to the entrance, going direction '2' informs me that I need a gold key. '3' takes me to another chasm.

Well, I know better than to try to jump it. I go back.

Direction '4' takes me to a black door with no indication that it can be opened. '5' prompts me to enter a "blue code." '6' takes me into another maze, but this one has a plasma gun in room 32.

'7' takes me to an encounter.


Good news - I have a plasma gun of my own. Bad news, I have no idea how you use it, and after several wrong guesses and much lost health, I retreat and try direction '8'.

Maaaybe I should come back a bit later. I go back and try '9'.

I'm still not sure how to use the plasma gun, but wrong guesses don't cost me energy this time. 

I try '10.' It's a locked door and I need an emerald to open it.

I go back and enter '8'. Seven steps forward and I see a code.

Heading back to the start, my energy is getting critical. But I go to '5', and the code is accepted, giving me a black key. This unlocks the black door, granting me a torch. This scares away the goblin, giving me the gold key, which opens another door where I find a crossbow!

I get it now. I didn't find a plasma gun. I found a plasma bolt! But my energy is so low now that when I go to the dwarf, he kills me before I can fire back.

So I have to restart the whole game and work my way back.

[20 minute later...]

I struggled a bit with the chess game, but eventually made it back. And I let the dwarf here have it!

The wand lets me get the emerald.

And the emerald lets me leave.

GAB rating: Below average. What I find most interesting here is how quickly I thought I had this amateurish game figured out. Within a few minutes, it looked for sure like the game consisted of eight rooms, each with a simple lock-and-key puzzle in one form or another, and once I entered each in the right order I'd win and could just drop a bad rating and move on. The whole experience reminded me think of BASIC adventures that I'd code in an afternoon and never touch again.

But after entering the final room with the explosive lock, the game kept going. It didn't go on long - the whole experience lasted about an hour and a half, including the restarts, and much of it was spent cropping screenshots and writing notes. But there's just barely enough substance here for me to not hate it.

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