Archive for the ‘gargoyle-castle’ Tag

Gargoyle Castle (1980)   8 comments

I am constantly surprised by what keeps coming up in these games. From a distance, the adventures of this era blur together, and might as well be one mass of guess-the-verb puzzles and questionable spelling. Up close, especially after playing enough of them, it starts to be easier to pick up on unique ideas and clever finesses. Every one of the creators was human and wanted to make something that included their own vision, even if there was a lot of copying going on.

I was hoping for a quick knockdown from 1980 with an obscure TRS-80 game by an author (Kit Domenico) who only has two games to his credit (this one and Ice World War from 1981). I figured Gargoyle Castle would be simple and wouldn’t have much to say about it. This was reinforced by the game being another treasure hunt (find the 10 treasures and win, attain glory, etc.)

The very start also seemed straightforward:

TAKE BIRD is a fail — the bird flies away. Ok, that’s at least predictable. I then tried to go WEST and got trolled hard, and then things started to get very unusual.

After recovering from ignominious death via the very first room exit, I noticed the “points for sloppiness”. What’s that about?

It turns out not only do you get positive points for storing treasures in a designated area, as usual (10 points each) you get deducted points for non-treasures that just happen to be lying around. After some experimentation, any “non-treasure” item causes a 1 point deduction while lying on the ground, unless it’s in the “Pit of Garbage” room.

In other words, to get a full score you need to properly discard of trash. The only game I can think of off the top of my head with a comparable idea is Sub Rosa, 35 years later in 2015.

The general effect has been for me to keep caring about every object in the game, even after it’s been used to solve a puzzle. Nice bit of continuity, that.

I marked the “opening area” in purple.

Structurally, Gargoyle Castle starts with a small area that opens up fairly soon after to the entire map. The opening segment gave enough structure I didn’t feel weirdly aimless like in Ghost Town.

The puzzles seem to be more along the lines of “converting ordinary items into treasures” than “beat obstacles and scoop up the shiny things in the rooms that follow”. For example, you find an “OLD BOOK” and an “EMPTY BOOKCOVER”. If you then “COVER BOOK” the book is now a GUTENBERG BIBLE and officially becomes a treasure. (I’m pretty sure none of the real Gutenberg Bibles have covers so this was slightly silly, but the puzzle still gives a good idea of the sort of conversion going on.)

I switched from a TRS-80 emulator to a TRS-80 MC-10 one once I realized I needed to save my game (the emulator linked here, I find it more stable for saving games to tape than any of the black-and-white emulators).

This structure is leading me not to necessarily wonder “what puzzle would this thing solve” but “which two things could be combined?” or “which thing could be converted after some act into a treasure?” For example, there’s a “mound of trash” in one room — is there some nugget of treasure hidden within, and if so, how do I find it? Even though an “antique shovel” isn’t considered a treasure is there a way to make it one (it is, after all, an antique). Does a tulip bulb combine with anything?

One other curious aspect: you can dig a hole anywhere outside. Not only that, but in each case, it makes a new room that you can go down in. There are not that many outdoor spaces, so this wasn’t a giant leap, but this is literally the first text adventure I’ve played where you can dig essentially anywhere that would be reasonable.

Of course, one of the holes led to another ignominious death.

I’ve found 6 out of the 10 treasures, and I’ve been having fun so far, so hopefully the fun holds out for the last 4? The “exploration of object interactions” emphasized over “exploration of space” really does make the game feel like something different.

Posted February 20, 2019 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

Tagged with

Gargoyle Castle: Stuck   7 comments

I haven’t written a “stuck” post in a while. This is because a lot of my latest points-of-stuckness were accompanied by reasons to think the game was playing unfair, so I resorted to hints / walkthroughs / poking at source code / etc.

Even though Gargoyle Castle hardly has an expansive or intelligent parser, and even though I’m still missing 4 of the needed 10 treasures, I’m not quite giving up yet. Part of this is because I was able to leverage the trash-on-the-floor-deducts points trick (I mentioned it in my last post about this game) to my advantage.

Specifically, if I dump every item I can find into one room (with a few in my inventory), I have a deduction of 9 points, and there are 9 items in the room. So it appears I have found every object in the game, and all that remains is to transform them into treasures somehow.

This isn’t absolutely the case — maybe a treasure object gets “created” somewhere — but that doesn’t happen anywhere else in the game. Also, the ability to reference “non-objects” in room descriptions is very limited; in the “throne room” there is a plaque that’s readable

>READ PLAQUE
GLOWING LETTERS SAY DROP TREASURES HERE AND SAY SCORE.

but otherwise, I haven’t found any instance like this in the game.

Here is the complete object list:

an unrolled scroll
a lighter
a faintly lettered cloth
a bottle full of polish
a coiled rope
a mound of trash
a garden trowel
some greenish ice
some glowing coals
an antique shovel
a tulip bulb
a lit flashlight
an open funerary urn
some very, very heavy armour

You can turn the “greenish ice” into “thawed water” using the coals. I’m not quite unthawing it yet because the hot coals can be carted around with the funerary urn, suggesting that maybe it’s important to the thaw the water somewhere specific. (After the water thaws, the coals become cold and can be carried around without any help.)

I can try to PLANT BULB but anywhere I’ve attempted it gives me the message “I DON’T HAVE EVERYTHING I NEED.” This is while holding the trowel, shovel, and thawed ice.

Also, here are the treasures I’ve found, in case any come into play:

a huge ruby
a complete Gutenberg bible
a shimmering ring
a crystal bird locked in a cage
a Tiffany lamp
a platinum smoking pipe

Here are the verbs that seem to work, although this may not be a complete list. (Note that ATTACK and HIT and similar words are unrecognized.)

GET, DROP, PUT, BURN, OPEN, CLIMB, READ, EAT, REMOVE, LIGHT, RUB, SCREW, COVER, TIE, PLANT, DIG, POLISH, MELT, UNROLL

Finally, I should note I seem to be able to visit the VICIOUS GREEN AND PURPLE GARGOYLE that killed me last session, as long as I’m wearing the heavy armour. I am able to pick it up and walk around with it. I haven’t been able to get any reaction out of it yet.

You’re welcome to post theories or even spoilers, but mark which is which, and use rot13 to encode spoilers; I’m going to try struggling a bit longer.

Posted February 22, 2019 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

Tagged with

Gargoyle Castle: Finished!   2 comments

I managed to get the last four treasures and victory; three were all related to the same issue.

Here’s a public domain picture of a gargoyle at Windsor Castle for some spoiler space.

First, the gargoyle: last time I had found a green and purple gargoyle that let me pick it up and carry it around as long as I had heavy armor. I found that if I was holding the rope and did TIE GARGOYLE the gargoyle became “much more friendly” and now counted as a treasure (!?). (I guess a “ROPE BOUND GARGOYLE” that would otherwise want to kill you makes a good rich person decoration?)

After that I continued being stuck for a while, until Voltgloss mentioned in the comments:

Question: you mentioned in your post before this one that you were able to dig everywhere outside – I think you said everywhere that was “reasonable.” Can you dig anywhere inside? Or otherwise UNreasonable?

Well, it was worth a try! So I did the lawnmower thing and tried >DIG in every location, to hit paydirt (so to speak) in a tomb:

I suppose it sort of make sense that the tomb might have some bits of floor that are diggable, although it’d have been nice to put in the description. In any case, I added some TRIANGULAR GOLD COINS to my haul and kept looking. I found another dig-spot in a more logical place:

Ok, that’s fair. Not only did I find a “DISCARDED, BLACKENED CROWN” that was easy to polish into a “GLISTENING SILVER CROWN”, the act of digging created compost. I was then able to use the compost to plant the tulip bulb from my last post. Fortunately, it was some kind of fast-grow formula, because I only needed to leave once and come back to find:

I stored all the treasures away, and put the remaining junk in the trash pit.

I was hoping for some last lingering clever object interaction, but I suppose I already had everything sussed out; winning was just a matter of digging to the two secret locations.

This game is sort of a proto-proto-proto-version of Emily Short’s Metamorphoses from 20 years later. There’s a little bit of exploring and opening up of the map, but almost nothing in the way of characters; the focus is really on objects and their transformations into other objects.

There’s even a little bit of unnecessary detail packed in just for object fidelity. The “hot coals” can be moved around as long as the player is holding an “urn” and the urn is open. There are two items (a trowel and an antique shovel) that both work equally well for digging. There’s a lighter and a flashlight that can be used as a light source; there’s also a “Tiffany lamp” treasure that is an appropriate light source as well once a light bulb is put in. While the death in water while wearing heavy armor was comedic and possibly bad game design, it at least reinforced that the heavy property of the armor was unique. And even though the “dig anywhere” theme led to some secret places it really felt like an extension of object actions rather than a set of location puzzles.

While I can point out lots of objective flaws, I still enjoyed Gargoyle Castle; it knew what it wanted to be and stuck to its themes. Kit Domenico’s only other game has been called “one of the finer examples of Basic adventuring from the early 80s” with the note that “Kit Domenico is surely one of the greats of the early 8-bit Basic game phenomenon” so I’m looking forward to it … but I’ll need to get to 1981 first. (For the curious, I’ve got somewhere around 45 games to go.)

Posted February 25, 2019 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

Tagged with