Dark Castle (kas29) Review | Crash Annual - Everygamegoing


Dark Castle
By kas29
Spectrum 48K/128K/+2/+3

Published in Crash Annual 2018

Dark Castle

In Dark Castle (not related to the 1986 release on the Macintosh of the same name) Bob is a farmhand who has become bored with his job and wandered off to a nearby castle, not realising that it is swathed in perpetual darkness and home to more than a few spooky spectres. Now he must try to escape the shadowy stronghold in less than an hour or else he too will become a permanent resident.

The game commences in the dark, with only a few candles for illumination to guide you on your way. Fortunately, there is a torch which lights up a whole room, but don't take too long taking it in because the torch lasts only a short time before going out and plunging you back into the dark. And that means having to guess in which direction lies the exit.


The story may sound exciting, but the gameplay is lacking. To finish, you must navigate through 25 screens of darkness, using a torch to illuminate each one just for a few seconds - hopefully long enough to memorise the path for Bob to take to reach the next room.

Most screens feature platforms invisible in the dark, so jumping between them is frustrating. After repeatedly missing the same platform the game soon starts to feel more like a chore than a leisure activity. There is an option to reset a screen, which allows the room to light up for a few seconds, though it places Bob back at the start of that screen and adds a five-minute penalty to the timer when this happens - and when the timer reaches an hour it's game over. An hour sounds like an ample amount of time but it quickly depletes on contact with ghosts.

Dark Castle has a few positives, the first being its nice, vibrant graphics. Unfortunately, as most of the game is spent in darkness, there isn't much of a chance to appreciate them. The other notable point is the music (which plays throughout on 128K models). It's both eerie yet melodic - in fact, so good I think it's wasted on a game like Dark Castle.


A neat idea - a platformer you play in the dark. Graphics and sound are good, and it's a real challenge. Especially handy are some instruction pages as you play the first few levels.

But why let me pick joystick control and then tell me I have to use key presses to activate features in the game? You can use a match once per play to view the full layout of the room, but it's never enough. It starts to become routine to deliberately fail and restart, so you can re-use this feature at a later point in the level.

You can try and remember platform positions relative to the always-visible candles, but they're not placed in a way that makes that easy. And most annoying of all, if you try to move around while your 'match' is making the level visible, when it does go out there's disconcerting flicker of the screen where even your character vanishes, often making you fail a jump. If a tricky test of dexterity and memory drives you... great. But for me it needed more variety to make me want to keep coming back for more.


Control Keys: Keyboard, Kempston, Sinclair
Keyboard Play: Responsive but Bob never seems able to jump far enough!
Use of Colour: Limited, though appealing when the screen is illuminated
Graphics: Nice details but again limited by the darkness
Sound: The atmospheric music is the game's best part
Skill levels: Fixed
Screens: 25
General Rating: This game feels like an annoying part of a game you can't quite place from years ago - sadly not just one annoying level, it's an entire game!

Jason Railton

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