Archive for the ‘castlequest’ Tag

Castlequest (1979-1980)   5 comments

In ye olden times, known as the 1980s through the 1990s, there were a number of online services that someone could direct one’s modem towards (if you were splurging in the mid-80s, at an awesomely powerful 1200 bits per second) including GEnie (General Electric Network for Information Exchange).

From a 1991 ad.

GEnie was particularly famous for multiplayer text-based games like GemStone III, but also had single player ones including (according to this letter sent to Jason Scott):

Black Dragon… descend through the dungeon and slay the black dragon
Castle Quest… dungeon adventure
Original Adventure… classic text adventure game
Adventure 550… advanced version of adventure
Dor Sageth… dungeon adventure

Black Dragon, Castle Quest and Dor Sageth have been lost ever since GEnie closed in 1999.

Of course, I’m making this post, and that’s because as of 2021 Castlequest has been found, due to the efforts of Arthur O’Dwyer and the two authors: Mike Holtzman and Mark Kershenblatt. You can read Arthur’s full narrative here as to what happened, but the short version is that back in 1981 Mike had the foresight to send the entire FORTRAN source code of the game to the US Copyright Office. After a lengthy back-and-forth, Mark Kershenblatt managed to get the document in its entirety, which Arthur then typed in by hand. (This is the first I know of a game being rescued by simply getting source code from the USCO. Incidentally, another lost game, The Pits, has a USCO entry.)

The actual writing of the game took place on a mainframe, and Mark estimated the work happened “between September 1979 and May 1980” although the source code is dated February 1980. Using my first-available-to-someone-outside-of-the-authors convention I might be able to shelve this with 1979, but I’m going to stick with 1980 (as also given on the IFDB entry for this game).

Enough noodling about, let’s try the game! (The IFDB link I gave has a link to a version compiled for Windows if you want to try it yourself, or if you’re on a different platform you can follow Arthur O’Dwyer’s instructions here.) For ease of reading I have boldfaced my commands and changed the spacing (the original screen width seems to be 60, but I merged the text into paragraphs).

Welcome to CASTLEQUEST!! Would you like instructions?

You are in a remote castle somewhere in Eastern Europe. I will be your eyes and hands. Direct me with words such as “LOOK”, “TAKE”, or “DROP”. To move, enter compass points (N,NE,E,SE,S,SW,W,NW), UP, or DOWN. To get a list of what you are carrying, say “INVENTORY”. To save the current game so it can be finished later say “SAVE”. Say “RESTORE” as your first command to finish a game that had been saved.

The object of the game is to find the master of the castle and kill him, while accumulating as many treasures as possible. You get maximum points for depositing the treasures in the vault. Notice that the descriptions of treasures have an exclamation point. Be wary, as many dangers await you in in the castle.

Would you like more detailed instructions?

To supress the long room descriptions, type “BRIEF”. To return to the long room descriptions, use the command “LONG”. “SCORE” will give you your present score in the game. “HELP” will give you a hint about an object in the room, but it will cost you some points. To end your explorations, say “QUIT”. Good luck. (you’ll need it).

Would you like more detailed instructions?

To aid you in your travels, you may ask for a hint by saying “HINT object”, where “object” is the item that you need help with (e.g. “HELP CROSS”). Saying “HELP ROOM” will give you some help concerning the room you’re in.

You are in a large, tarnished brass bed in an old, musty bedroom. cobwebs hang from the ceiling. A few rays of light filter through the shutters. There is a nightstand nearby with a single wooden drawer. The door west creaks in the breeze. A macabre portrait hangs to the left of an empty fireplace.

The shutters are closed.

There is a silver bullet here.

Before I make some observations, I should mention Arthur O’Dwyer has a “bug bounty” for any typos ($5 each), but he’s trying to preserve any spelling mistakes as in the original. So “supress” is indeed spelled that way in the original PDF, and “cobwebs” starts a sentence but is lowercase. I’m not going to hunt for any more typos past this point myself (I’m trying to play the game without spoilers) but it’s faintly possible one of you reading this might spot a money-making bug just by reading my play transcript.

So, observations: the instructions clearly have some cribbing from the text of Crowther/Woods Adventure although apparently the authors didn’t refer at all to Adventure’s original source code. We see the technique that happened in Hezarin of having one foot in a treasure hunt and one foot in a kill-the-nemesis plot, and of course, it’s probably Dracula again.

Also, it’s clear we have a mainframe game, as the environmental painting in text includes details most home computer games of 1980 excise for space (the door creaking in the breeze, rays of light filtering through shutters).


Do WHAT with the BULLET ??



Surely those in 1980 would know GET would be the iconic word here, as in GET LAMP, right? Whenever I hit a game that only recognizes TAKE rather than GET it takes me about halfway through the game before I finally stop getting error messages.


The shutter is open, but there are bars over the window.

Something on the ground outside is glistening brightly.

Incidentally, how did we get here? We’re starting inside the spooky castle. Is there some plot we missed where the details are important (like The Count) or should we just roll with it?

Going back to the room description, it mentions a “drawer”:


There is a silver cross in the drawer!

My first treasure! Also, my first indication this is the sort of game where you can refer to “scenery objects”, that is, objects given inside the paragraph description — by contrast, every item you could use in Crowther/Woods Adventure was separated out. This can be both good and bad; it adds a little richness to the world where it feels like the player is directly interacting with the environment, but it also means being thorough requires combing through every “object” that gets mentioned, including ones that don’t really exist in code, just in the prose of the room description. Consider the “macabre portrait” that also gets mentioned:


Do WHAT with the PORTRAIT ??


Do WHAT with the PORTRAIT ??


TAKE what???


Do WHAT with the PORTRAIT ??

The “TAKE what???” is a good signal — it means that object doesn’t exist at all to be referred to, even as hidden scenery. That doesn’t mean the portrait is completely a red herring; it may just be it slides via secret button or the like but the parser just never lets you refer to it directly.

I realized from here it would be wise to get a verb list early, so I went through my standard set, applying it to the cross:


That would be a neat trick.


Do WHAT with the CROSS ??


You can’t be serious.

The “Do WHAT with the” message seems to indicate “no verb found”.

Noteworthy: no moving, pushing, turning, etc. Not going to fiddle with secret things much, I suppose. STAB mentions you don’t have a sword, and CROSS and SHOW are both verbs I might have had trouble coming up with on the spot. (I bet we SHOW CROSS at some point. Just a feeling.)

Moving on, here’s the map as far as I can access it:

You are in the parlor, an old fashioned sitting room. A display case of dueling pistols hangs over the mantle. Stairs lead up to a dimly lit corridor. Open double doors lead west. Two wide hallways lead north and south.

There is some “HORROR HOTEL” writing paper here.

There is an old gun here.

The gun can be loaded with the silver bullet. I’ve run across a werewolf but it hasn’t stayed around long enough for me to take a shot.

A nasty werewolf lunges at you, takes a swipe at your neck, misses and runs away.

A sampling of some other locations:

You are in the foyer. An umbrella near the door is dripping on the thick pile carpet. A black cape is draped neatly over the banister of a grand staircase leading up. A magnificentl archway leads north. Corridors lead south and southeast, a small hallway heads west, and a narrow stairway goes down.

The butler is sound asleep.

(You can’t refer to the umbrella or the cape.)

You are in the workshop. A myriad of tools clutter the workbench and surrounding tables. A thick layer of sawdust covers the floor. Footprints in the sawdust indicate that you are not alone.

There is a heavy steel grappling hook here.

You are at the side of a dirt road that runs north and south. Fresh tracks in the road seem to indicate that a horse-drawn carriage has passed here recently. A narrow path leads east.


You are at the bank of a wide moat which surrounds the castle. A small town can be seen far in the distance. The road goes south.

Off to the side is an old rowboat.




You are on the far side of the moat. You can see a full view of the castle here in all its deadly splendor. A small town can be glimpsed far off in the distance. An old sign nailed to a tree reads:

(I’m not sure what else to do here; the rowboat is too big to take into the castle.)

You are now in the kitchen. Twelve Swanson’s frozen entrees rest on the counter, below a microwave oven. “THE BEGINNER’S GUIDE TO COOKING” lies on a small table. A swinging door exits south. Other doors lead east and north.

Somebody left some tasty food here.

So far my full inventory is: Silver bullet, Bloody hatchet, Wooden stake, Writing paper, Rowboat, Grappling Hook, Empty bottle, Silver cross, Old gun, Tasty food. Other than the odd bit with the moat above, I’ve run across a locked door and a boarded door (the hatchet doesn’t work to chop it) and the window at the start can be broken but there are bars that I can’t (yet) remove. I’d say the obstacles are fairly ordinary so far? There does seem to be a time limit, although I haven’t tested yet if sunset is game over, the endgame with a vampire, or something else:

You’d better hurry. The sun is setting.

I only have 25 points so far, out of ????. I’m not worried yet; I only have just got the feel of the surroundings, and there’s the built-in “HINT object” or “HELP room” feature I have yet to try if I get stuck.

Posted March 25, 2021 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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Castlequest: Dracula’s Brother   Leave a comment

I made it past a significant chunk; the game isn’t necessarily hard (which is a relief, considering other mainframe games we’ve seen) and my delay between posts has more to do with work/life distraction than the game itself.

(Also, I needed to finish AI: The Somnium Files. Long game, that. Three-quarters visual novel, rather unique adventure sections.)

Very close to after I hit “send” on my last post I realized at the boarded door that I couldn’t chop with a hatchet, I could still THROW HATCHET.

The door opens to a brick wall. —DEAD END—

A note on the wall reads “L 8 R 31 L 59”.

So, progress, but not much! I then made my usual gaffe of missing room exits, and on a room I even clipped an excerpt from last time. Since it’s been a week, here’s the room in question:

You are in the foyer. An umbrella near the door is dripping on the thick pile carpet. A black cape is draped neatly over the banister of a grand staircase leading up. A magnificentl archway leads north. Corridors lead south and southeast, a small hallway heads west, and a narrow stairway goes down.

The butler is sound asleep.

You can go down and you can go up. Novel, that. (To be fair, the ordering of exits is a little odd — they’re mentioned in the order up, north, south, southeast, west, down. Usually up and down get clumped together.)

This shows the second and third floor, although some puzzle solving is required to wander around the attic as “A huge vampire bat hangs from the doorframe and blocks your way.”.

The parts I could reach fairly easily yielded a quill pen and a skeleton key. The quill pen and paper from last time applied to the butler, which I need to explain —

I was stumped for a little while not for puzzle reasons, but for narrative reasons. I assumed the butler was an obstacle, insofar I was sneaking into a vampire’s castle, quite naturally the butler would stop me, and there would be some later puzzle that involved making sure the butler wouldn’t wake up.

I was wrong about this. The butler is helpful, something I was clued in on while experimenting with the gun:

You killed a deaf-mute butler (Not very sporting of you).

Oops! The right action here is WAKE BUTLER who then motions for some paper. Dropping the quill pen I just mentioned and the paper from last time, he writes on the note and shows it:

“Look behind the mirror.”

The skeleton key from the second floor will eventually take care of that locked door from last time. I say “eventually” because if you try to go back to the starting room with the key (which is near where the locked door is), you get dumped in a trap door:

You have fallen through a trap door and find…

You are in a dark stone E/W passage.

This isn’t a bad thing, as it leads to another new section, and another “what appears to be foe is in fact friend” area.

You are at the proverbial fork in the road. Paths lead east, northwest, and southwest.


This is the torture chamber. A matched set of thumb-screws hangs on the far wall. A large rack occupies the center of the room. A skeleton hangs from its thumbs above you, swaying gently. An arch leads NE.

A nasty hunchback eyes you from a corner of the room.


The hunchback gobbles down the food and smiles at you.




You’re at the fork.

A smiling hunchback is following you.

Unfortunately, the hunchback didn’t survive long.

You are in a low, dark chamber. A single mirror is set into the far wall. The exit goes south.

A smiling hunchback is following you.

There is a fearsome werewolf in the room with you!

The hunchback drives away the werewolf and dies in the struggle.

The werewolf is most definitely foe, and acts much like the dwarves in Crowther/Woods adventure do, showing up at random. The odd thing here is I have a gun and a silver bullet which work fine for taking the werewolf down (the body is dragged away by a “old gypsy woman”) and while the werewolf does keep re-appearing, the gun keeps still working. So I’m not sure if the sacrifice of the hunchback is really necessary here, and if I possibly did something wrong.

In the process of running around I came across a vial of acid (I haven’t used it yet) and some blood, which I used immediately after because I know where it went. Heading back to the attic with the vampire bat:


The bat gulps down the blood and flitters away.


You are in an old attic filled with old-fashioned clothes, a pile of newspapers and some antiques. An entrance to a cedar closet is to the east and there is a door to a crawlspace to the west.

The door to the west has a combination lock, which I already knew the combination of from the dead-end-hatchet room.






The lock is now open.


You are crawling along a low passage that leads east and west.

This eventually took me to an encounter with the long-awaited vampire:

You are in a huge anteroom to an even larger, mysterious chamber. A chilling wind seems to blow at you from all sides, and a deathlike, vapid black mist surrounds your feet. Hundreds of sinister looking bats cling to the ceiling and eye you with a spine-tingling anticipatory pleasure. Two dark, foreboding passages exit to the east and west, and a steep sloping corridor descends NW.


You are in the chamber of the master of the castle, Count Vladimir! Pictures depicting scenes of tranquil Transylvanian countrysides line the walls. A huge portrait of Vladimir’s brother, Count Dracula, hangs upon the near wall. In the center of the room is a large, ominous, mahogany coffin.

The coffin is closed.

I just wanted to experiment so I opened the coffin with no preparation … and instead of dying, found a sleeping vampire! I guess it would help if I had the wooden stake just lying around one of the rooms in the open, huh? I went to grab it, came back, and found the vampire awake. Fortunately, I was also toting around a silver cross, and my SHOW CROSS prophecy came true:

The Count sits up and prepares for breakfast-namely you!


The Count is frightened by the cross and cowers in the coffin.


The vampire clutches at the stake and dies, leaving only a pile of dust.

A note materializes on the wall which reads:

EMERGENCY EXIT–The mirror maze will lead you to the locked door. The exit lies within.

I’m not sure if that means if the cross is optional presuming you are wise enough to have the wooden stake the first time around? Does this puzzle have optional parts, maybe?

The mirror maze the note mentioned was one I had guessed was a “trick maze”.

This is the mirror maze. A myriad of mirrors reflect your image in a dazzling array of light. The reflections make it impossible to discren a direction.

Random wandering before just led me to some nearby rooms, nothing helpful. Random wandering *after* seeing the note led to that locked door that I was never able to get back to (due to the trap door).

You are in a dim corridor lit by gaslight. Doors exit to the east and west. A stairway leads down.






A cool wind blows up a stone stairway which descends down into a large stone room. A note written in blood reads “VERY CLEVER OF YOU TO MAKE IT THIS FAR”. The door leads east, back to the hall.

I’ve poked around a bit farther and it feels like the game changes to be more “standard adventure”. I’ve still only found two treasures (the silver cross, and a jade figurine past the locked door) so I don’t know how much game is left.

Assuming there are no more twists, the structure has been

1. start having already broken into the castle … or maybe we got kidnapped or something?

2. gather materials and get past obstacles to confront the vampire

3. kill the vampire

4. make it to the “escape” which holds an entirely new exploration section with treasures

It means killing the Big Foozle may only be the midway point, which is decidedly a bit odd in general, although Dracula Avontuur did something similar where finding a treasure came after the vampire-killing.

What’s also odd is that it is 100% certain both games are entirely independent of each other. Something about the “kill a vampire” notion unlocked an experience more structured than the typical games of this time. Perhaps it is that the horror genre leads more naturally to classic-adventure-gameplay than the fantasy genre does. (See also The Count and Secret of Flagstone Manor, although the latter has a ghost rather than a vampire.) If monsters are killed in horror, they require particular artifacts or rituals — essentially, some sort of puzzle solving is required by convention. Whereas in fantasy one is expected, D&D style, to be able to just swing a sword — see how killing the troll in Zork isn’t even a “puzzle” really. Hence the puzzles of adventure games fit more naturally into the horror mold (consequently doing a better job integrating gameplay and story) and fantasy games have to work a little harder.

Posted April 2, 2021 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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Castlequest: Underground   2 comments

I’ve reached a point I’m fairly sure is near the end, so I’m in my finish-or-bust phase.

After killing the vampire from last time, I went into an underground section.

I should mention, first, that while underground the werewolf attacks drop off, and you get attacked by gnomes instead.

There is an ugly little gnome in the room with you!

The gnomes are functionally identical to the dwarves in Adventure, including throwing the hatchet to kill them — shooting with the gun doesn’t work.


You killed a dirty little gnome.

There is a blood stained hatchet here.

You are in a perfectly square room carved out of solid rock. Stone steps lead up. An arched passage exits south. Above the arch is carved the message:



You are in a long sloping N/S passage. The darkness seems to thicken around you as you walk.


You are in a narrow room which extends out of sight to the east. Sloping paths exit north and south. It is getting warmer here.


This is the fire room. The stone walls are gutted from centuries of evil fires. It is very hot here. A low trail leads west and a smaller one leads NE. A sloping trail goes north.

A wall of fire bars the way to the NE.

If you have a bottle of water you can EXTINGUISH FIRE to get through. This lets you find an empty room with the word “POOF” — it’s a magic word that teleports you back to the second floor, although unlike Adventure it doesn’t work until you’ve found it — and a vault.

This is the safe deposit vault, an immense room with polished steel walls. A closed circuit T.V. camera hums quietly above you as it pans back and forth across the room. To the east is an open elevator. Engraved on the far wall is the message:


I’ve found a bit more in the way of treasure but not a lot: a jade figurine, a champagne bottle, and a sapphire. I still suspect whatever treasure hunt remains is not that extensive.

This is the honeymoon suite. The entire room is finished in red. In the center of the room lies a heart shaped bed. To one side is a heart shaped bath. A large mirror is mounted on the ceiling above the bed. The only exit is back the way you came.

There is a bottle of vintage champagne here!

The sapphire was past a maze. Veterans of Adventure might notice the room descriptions vary:

You’re in a short and winding maze of passages.


You’re in a maze of long and winding passages.


You’re in a long and winding maze of passages.

That is, by all appearances, this is another clone of the maze of rooms, all different. But! The room descriptions change.

Yes, trying to utilize the facts room descriptions change will get you hopelessly lost. I’m not sure if the logic is extensive or minor, but using the standard “drop objects to form a trail” method works instead just fine. I’ve never seen a room description fake-out quite like this before.

Past the maze, in addition to there being a sapphire, is a glacier marked with an “X”. I can melt the glacier with a helpful torch to form a hole, but I don’t have any other command I can use on the hole (I’ve tried entering it, looking in it, and so forth). If I try melting it again the glacier melts all the way and kills me.

For the same place I can go up and meet up at that room past the moat — where I needed to use a rowboat before.

You are on the far side of the moat. You can see a full view of the castle here in all its deadly splendor. A small town can be glimpsed far off in the distance. An old sign nailed to a tree reads:

There is a large opening in the ground.

However, the boat is on the wrong side to then go over the moat. I’m not sure what to do here, but I found the re-use of geography — on what seemed previously like a dead-end — to be fascinating. I think it’s possible what I need to do is open this area, walk all the way back around (maybe using the POOF teleport if I want to), then take the boat back across the moat so I can take it down? Remember, if I try to take the boat in the castle through the other way it doesn’t fit, but assuming I can get it to fit going down, there’s a candidate place for using it.

You are at the base of a magnificent underground waterfall. A cool mist rising off the surface of the water almost obscures a small island. A tunnel goes west and stone steps lead up.

You can’t swim, but maybe you can cross to the island with the boat.

The other bit of oddity is even though I have a grappling hook and a place to use it (the window at the very start of the game, you can melt the bars with the acid and clearly it is meant to then let you climb a rope) I still have yet to find a rope! I might be just missing an obvious exit with the rope in the open, or it might be a late-game item.

Either way, by next time I’m going to hang this one up for now or cruise to victory.

Posted April 9, 2021 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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A Master at Castlequest   14 comments

(If you’ve arrived here from elsewhere, you should read the series in order, as this post discusses gathering the last treasures of the game.)

I’m ready to check out of this one. There’s some sort of endgame section, like Crowther/Woods Adventure, and just like various Adventure variants, I have only partial confidence that it even is triggerable. A scan of the source code indicates I have otherwise found all the treasures. So, let’s do my final delve–

I was, rather satisfyingly, correct about the long sequence with the boat — since you open a hole past the moat, you can take the boat that way all the way to a spot where you can cross over to a small island.

You are at the base of a magnificent underground waterfall. A cool mist rising off the surface of the water almost obscures a small island. A tunnel goes west and stone steps lead up.


You are on a small island near a large waterfall. The sound of crashing surf can be clearly heard, although you cannot quite make out the form of the waterfall through the thick mist. A message traced out in the sand reads “GILLIGAN WAS HERE”. There are pieces of a wreck (the S.S. MINNOW?) scattered about.

There is a very large ruby here!

Rather less glamorously, my rope issue was resolved by finding an exit I had missed on my map. I used what I’ve termed the walkthrough method where I wrote a partial walkthrough just to be careful re-tracing my initial steps (and to feel like doing so wasn’t a waste of time, important psychological bit, that). My first thirteen steps (the game understands T for take):


In the process, in the underground section with a hunchback I found I simply had missed testing a particular exit. I also found, as a side effect, the hunchback is not doomed to die early: he simply acts as defense against the werewolf if it does a sudden attack no matter when it happens. I’ve noticed the rare occasion where the werewolf would cause instant death upon appearance, so this seems to be there simply to guard against that.

With the rope, I managed to go back to the room at the start of the game and retrieve a gold statue outside the starting window. Again, nothing too glamorous there, and even more unglamorously, I figured out my problem with the glacier: I needed to type IN as a direction and I could retrieve a crystal swan.

I still was fairly short on points and knew I was missing a section. Importantly, my use of the rope did *not* apply a grappling hook I had — I simply tied it to a bed. So I tied the to the grappling hook instead and went jaunting around looking for a place to use it.

I came across a cliff past the maze, and a final section:

You are at the edge of a sheer vertical drop overlooking an immense N/S cavern. Narrow paths head away to the east and west.

A rope is hooked to the top of the precipice.

There’s two places probably for atmosphere…

This is the disco room. Multicolored lasers pulsate wildly to the beat of badly mixed music. A stairway down is barely visible through the glare. A large passage exits south, and a smaller one leads west.


You have entered the land of the living dead, a large, desolate room. Although it is apparently uninhabited, you can hear the awful sounds of thousands of lost souls weeping and moaning. In the east corner are stacked the remains of dozens of previous adventurers who were less fortunate than yourself. To the north is a foreboding passage. A path goes west.

… but the remainder of the map was there to serve up a cyclops, and a wizard. I was short on items, and tried my cuban cigar on the cyclops.

You are in a tall tunnel leading east and west. A small trail goes SE. An immense wooden door heads south.

There is a fairly large cyclops staring at you.


The cyclops turns to you and says:
“Hey buddy!. Got a light??”


The light is burning dimly.


The torch is burning noisily.


The cyclops chokes from the rancid tobacco, and crashes through the door in search of water.

There is a cyclops-shaped hole in the door.

This really strikes me as Zork-reference territory — I don’t think if it was ever cleared up with the authors if either one had seen Zork, but both the Land of the Dead and the cyclops in close proximity seem like direct references. As you’ll see in a moment, the Zork references get even more direct:

The broken door leads to a cyclops lair with a sword. Taking the sword further on, it starts to glow:

You are in a tremendous cavern divided by a white line through its center. The north side of the cavern is green and fresh, a startling change from the callous terrain of the cave. A sign at the border proclaims this to be the edge of the wizard’s realm. A rocky and forlorn trail leads east, and a plush green path wanders north.

Your sword is glowing dimly.


You are in an immense forest of tall trees. Melodic chanting can be heard in the distance. The trees seem to be guiding you along a N/S path.

Your sword is glowing very brightly.

Just a bit farther in:

This is the wizard’s throne room. Scattered about the room are various magical items. A long message in ancient runes is carved into the southern wall. It translates roughly as “Beware the power of the Wizard, for he is master of this place”. Two green paths go south and east, and a marble walk leads west.

A powerful wizard blocks your way with his staff.

The wizard just vaporizes you if you try to attack him. This is where my previous work in generating a verb list for the game paid off. I looked at any I might not have used, and the only one that came up was WAVE. So instead of swinging for the jugular, I tried WAVE SWORD:

The walls of the cavern tremble as you unleash the terrible power contained in the sword.

The wizard, sensing a stronger power than his own, flees in a blinding flash and a cloud of smoke.

Glorious! Past the wizard I found a cache of money, which represented the last missing treasure.

This is the safe deposit vault, an immense room with polished steel walls. A closed circuit T.V. camera hums quietly above you as it pans back and forth across the room. To the east is an open elevator. Engraved on the far wall is the message:

There is an ornate skeleton key here!

There is a bottle of vintage champagne here!

There is an ivory-handled sword here!

A gold statue is glistening in the light!

There is a silver cross nearby!

There is a very large ruby here!

Perched on the ground is a valuable jade figure!

A sapphire sparkles on the ground nearby!

There is lots of money here!

A delicate crystal swan lies off to one side!

Now, the reason I’m suspicious the ending might be broken is that the score acts oddly here; I checked at one point and had 275 points. I did a slight bit of object rearranging, and then afterwards, had 271 points even though the same treasures were in the vault. Some hidden timed element, perhaps? Either way, I got no messages indicating something signficant had happened, nor secret areas open up. I did find a real “ending text” scanning the source code but I’d rather only give it if I ever manage a true ending.

The game claims upon exit that I am a MASTER of Castlequest, which is honestly good enough for me.

ADD: Arthur figured out in the comments there’s a hidden time limit, and if you don’t get the treasures fast enough you don’t get the endgame. He made his own posts playing through the game here and here, if you want to see what the end is like. I also recommend his outstanding code comparison between Adventure and Castlequest (for example, Castlequest forces verb-noun order, while in Adventure word order doesn’t matter so you can GET LAMP or LAMP GET equally well).

Castlequest managed to avoid a lot of the pitfalls of 1979/1980 games; except for the maze with the bizarre changing names, the puzzles are essentially straightforward, and it was a longer game simply due to content as opposed to trying to get the player stuck on the same puzzle for hours. Most of the issues (ahem missing exits) I admit were essentially mine.

The framing around a nemesis to fight gave a slight bit more motivation than “just go find treasure”, and the castle structure also made the underground part seem less random (even when it started resorting to putting a jungle a few steps away from a glacier, and a disco room adjacent to the screams of the dead). It would be nice, still, to have a slightly more modernized port; there’s a save game feature, for instance, but it quits the game, and RESTORE only works at the very start of the game. The game also only understands ALL CAPS commands which turned out to be a source of 50% of the errors for me (especially when I kept switching back and forth to a map!) But in the end I am very, very, grateful both the authors (Michael Holtzman and Mark Kershenblatt) and Arthur O’Dwyer who helped rescue this game from oblivion.

As I stated on my first post about this game, The Pits (another lost 1980 game, this time on an online system called The Source) is also buried somewhere in the US Copyright Office. Anyone want to make a go at nabbing the treasure?

Posted April 12, 2021 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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