Castles of Darkness: The Sun is Shining   2 comments

There were a few struggles remaining, but light has returned to the world.

Plus, I got to experience some Apple II voice synthesis.

From the Gallery of Undiscovered Entities.

I had left last time on a bridge. I had an umbrella with M. Poppins on it, and the bridge was the right point to go flying. After OPEN UMBRELLA:

The new area has gloves which contain a boulder-removal cream, remarkably pertinent to the bridge dilemma. Using OPEN UMBRELLA again flew me over outside the castle, and I was able to walk back and apply the cream, getting rid of the boulder.

I then got a bit stuck until I realized that in addition to feeling for secret doors in the cardinal directions, I could FEEL UP and FEEL DOWN. sigh Thus began checking every single room in the game.

One room led down to some treasure and a “tarnished lamp”. Rubbing the lamp led to the voice synthesis: “THE MAZE, THE MAZE, THE MAZE”.

I tried to record the sound but was having trouble; I’ll update this post if I can get a video to work later.

This bit is optional — it’s supposed to be a hint as to where to go next.

The maze being referenced I found past another hidden staircase:

Some descriptions of various rooms:

I’M IN A EERIE, WINDING MAZE OF ROCKY, DARK PASSAGES ALL ALIKE

I’M IN A EERIE, ROCKY MAZE OF DARK, WINDING PASSAGES ALL ALIKE

I’M IN A WINDING, EERIE MAZE OF ROCKY, DARK PASSAGES ALL ALIKE

The four adjectives can be recombined in 24 different ways, so yes, there seem to be 24 different rooms. I started to map hoping things would hold sanity, but quickly realized that wasn’t going to be the case.

From The Book of Adventure Games by Kim Schuette.

I figured I’ve proven myself enough in other games that I know how to map a maze, so I just looked up the route. The only thing to find in the maze was a STRING. Once you have the string, the flexible yew pole from earlier can combine to MAKE BOW. I also found some ARROWS on looking at the dartboard I mentioned last time.

(Incidentally, the genie’s hint changes after you’ve gotten the string to “BREAK BALL”, which refers to an event at the end of the game.)

I knew when I had my bow and arrows where to go next: a dragon I found off another secret door.

This is animated; you walk in, he breaths fire, you run away.

Here I was horribly stuck, because the pattern was to enter the room and get chased off without being able to type anything. I poked at the hint sheet again and found the clue LEAVE THE CIRCLE.

Huh? The only thing I could think of was a ring I hadn’t used yet.

A RING WITH STRANGE SHAPES ON IT

I went ahead and dropped it off before entering the dragon room, and found I was able to react to the dragon rather than just run away. I was able to SHOOT, run away, SHOOT, run away, and SHOOT for a third time to slay the dragon. The accumulative damage being needed to slay the dragon was quite satisfying, but I had no idea what the ring was doing.

I found from commenter Odkin that my lack of sound earlier caused me to miss a clue: the game says BEWARE when you pick up the ring. That still makes the moment it happens kind of random, but it does impressively make for a second sound-based puzzle.

Past the dragon was a room of fire; I had a big roll of asbestos that I laid out in a way that reminded me of Kaves of Karkhan.

This was followed by one last locked door and me banging my head some more. I went ahead and spoiled: I missed the fact there was a bird earlier I could WHISTLE to and it would drop a MEDAL.

The medal has the description

ONE SIDE READS “A IS 26, B IS 25, Y IS 2, Z IS 1”
THE OTHER SIDE READS “AT LAST! IT OPENS!”

I already applied the code, but that last part of the text indicates the medal is also useful on locked doors. USE MEDAL opened up to the last room.

The wizard fries you unless you take the pill-of-lightning-resistance first, but TAKE PILL is easily followed by KILL WIZARD. You can then SMASH BALL (matching with the genie’s hint) to win the game.

Before signing out, I’d like to quote Kim Schuette, whose map I showed off earlier, writing in the early 80s:

The game offers a degree of animation and occasional spoken words, but some of the graphics leave a lot to be desired, particularly small and difficult to differentiate objects. Travel from location to location is on the slow side. Also, the limited vocabulary often makes progress frustratingly slow.

I can’t disagree with most of this? I think on some original screens the objects would look like a blurry mass (which really are tiny, check out those gloves on the first screenshot) and the trudging animation did start to get tiring when I had to keep looping back and forth (emulator turbo speed for the win, though). I find the comment on the parser most interesting, in that Mr. Schuette has tolerated quite similar (he called Savage Island Part 1’s parser “limited but adequate”, for instance) but I’m also guessing he didn’t use my “ram through a big verb list before getting too far in the game” method and just happened into run into issues by happenchance; I think USE MEDAL at the very end was quite a serious case in point (I’m still unsure what is being done with the medal, there).

In an analytical sense, the game had some pretty bad moments — needing to search every wall, floor, and ceiling, the tedious maze, the need to refer to clothing — but I still found the experience relatively fulfilling, I think just due to sheer originality. The 3D aspects of Deathmaze and other Med Systems works gave them an adventure-from-another-universe feel, and the same is true here. The intense focus on searching and occasional random combat (I left out some in my narrative where you just types KILL ORC or KILL WRAITH a bunch of times) yet utter refusal to incorporate “classic” CRPG elements like stats made the game feel quite different, and that’s not even including the unusual 3rd person animation aspect. I unfortunately can’t recommend the game for general play (it leaped off the cliff with the maze) but it’s still worth a peek from those fascinated by adventure game history. There’s an online version at the Internet Archive; at the very least it’s interesting to walk around the environment a little and see what protozoic 3rd person adventuring is like.

Posted November 19, 2020 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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2 responses to “Castles of Darkness: The Sun is Shining

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  1. Great write up Jason I always enjoy your thoughts and writing

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