Developer: Kevin Bales
One of the first graphical adventures I played, Castle Adventure was literally written by a 14 year-old in his mother’s basement using nothing but BASIC for the game and ASCII characters for the graphics. Given the tools used and the year it was made, it was quite an impressive achievement.
See that clover like thing up there? That’s you, and you move around using the arrow keys. At its heart this is a treasure hunting game, with the goal naturally to pilfer as much as you can from the castle without getting yourself killed and finding the key to unlock the gate that for some reason locked behind you.
I’m still impressed at not only the amount but also the variety of puzzles implemented using ASCII graphics. They’re not complex puzzles by any means; it never gets more difficult than bringing item A to point B, or making sure you have item A before you go into room B. But it’s refreshing to know you can’t just rampage your way through the castle. There’s even plenty of tension, as demons, bats, and other creatures guard treasures and you either must run away from them or attack them using limited available weaponry. There is at least one walking dead situation, though the game is short enough that it’s not terribly annoying. And while the original version had plenty of bugs (and some glaring spelling errors), and playing this on a new PC is impossible (even with DosBox you have to fine tune the game’s speed perfectly to avoid battles from being an exercise in learning the “restart” function) you can find ports and remakes that will do just fine. Here’s one that was completely rebuilt from scratch, with working save/restore functions! And here’s another remake that includes the ability to point’n’click your way through and has color! If you do want to play the buggy original, you can play it straight from your browser as well.
Ultimately, Castle Adventure is not a great game and other than the sweet nectar of nostalgia there’s not much worth recommending. Though much like a Millennial in awe playing around with a rotary phone, this could be briefly entertaining for someone who’s never played a game programmed in BASIC. But man, major props to Kevin Bales. Keypunch Software even stole–literally stole–his game and sold it under the name Golden Wombat for a while.
On a more sentimental note, this game is the reason I have one of my better friends, Dean Tersigni. Back in the early aughts I was trying to find information about this game and came across the shrine he dedicated to Castle Adventure on his website, TheAlmightyGuru (he’s not near as pretentious now as he was when he titled his site). I chatted him up and a few years later we met on a vacation in Chicago. We’ve been friends for fifteen years now. For years we confided about failed girlfriends and failed video games and failed websites. And now we have great marriages and great children and great websites! So, again, thank you Kevin Bales!