Whooo, Castle Eternity is a bit of a dark and spooky place: not exactly a top tourist spot because some pretty nasty things have happened here (so maybe it's just as well). Built by the Normans on top of the burial mound of evil wizard Magister, Castle Eternity has a bad reputation because all who enter its dank walls never return. And as the game starts your twin has been kidnapped and taken to the highest tower of the castle. You choose to play either the Prince or Princess who sets out to free the captured twin.
As with all Freescape games you view the scene through your character's eyes. Castle Master begins with you standing amidst the sound of thunder facing a raised drawbridge. You have a supply of rocks, so throw one at the trigger point to the left of the drawbridge. This drops it, and you're free to enter and explore. The status panel at screen bottom shows the amount of keys collected (these are used to open locked doors), strength, a 'spirit level' (if this gets too high it's end game) and a verbal description of the world around you.
Of course you aren't armed just for the fun of it: spooks abound, and they must be stoned before they sap all your strength, but watch out: for the various traps and pitfalls that lie in your path as well. I won't tell you how -to complete Castle Master but rest assured it'll take hours to do so. It's a long while since we heard from Incentive (Total Eclipse, in fact), and it's nice to see them back on form. My only slight niggle is that the Freescape technique has been used too often to be really impressive now, specially the rather blank look of it all, but arcade/strategy fans who want a tough challenge should look no further.
MARK ... 90%
'Oh. whoopee, it's Freescape again, everyone's favourite 3-D game style. Yes, Incentive have given us yet another masterpiece of gaming in this brand new adventure. The thing is that Freescape stopped impressing me after Dark Side: no longer do I gasp when I look up, down and all around an object or titter when I end up not knowing where the hell I am. But this is a pretty good game, even if it has all been seen before. The best thing about all the Freescape games is the storyline. Castle Master, as you would expect, is set in a medieval castle with lots of ramparts, drawbridges and evil spirits to play about with. As anyone who has ever played a Freescape game before will know, you can roam about the game for hours trying to work out what to do this is part of the fun! Castle Master is definitely one for all you mappers out there to get to work on. Hurry up and send them in to me, then I can have a go at completing it! It's excellent and glorious. If you haven't got led up of 3-d shaded graphics yet, give it a go.'
NICK ... 80%
Aaargh! I've just been dropped in the catacombs again (a vast underground warren with oodles of ways in and, as far as I can tell, hardly any ways out)! I seem to be ending up down here with monotonous regularity. Fall down the well and you end up in the catacombs. Nose around the dark space at the back of the pulpit - straight to the catacombs! Drain the water at the bottom of the pool, investigate the entrance there and would you know it - cata-bloody-combs, here I come! Aaargh! (Do you get the feeling I'm getting a little frustrated here, readers?)
I'm playing Castle Master, you see. Sort of against my better judgement actually. (I was going to get someone with a bit of patience like Jonathan Davies or Davey Wilson to have a go at it but would you believe it comes in on disk? And how many YS reviewers have +3s? Not many, which is why muggins here is having a crack at it!) I suppose you want to know why I was so reluctant to have a go. Well, basically (and whisper it so no-one can hear) I was the teensiest little bit intimidated by it. Yep, I know every Incentive Freescape outing has been true Megagame material and everything, but when it comes down to it I've never actually played any of them. Not properly, anyway. (Oh, sure, I've marvelled at the graphics and spent a bit of time wandering around looking at things, but actually get involved in the gameplay? Nah, not me, mate. I don't understand it.)
Which is why I got myself a couple of little helpers for this review. Over my right shoulder we have Rich Pelley, who's visiting ("...but not long enough to write the review, oh no!"") and who's had a go at all the Freescape games at one time or another. Then over my left shoulder it's my good friend Trenton from Anstrad Action (one of our new sister mags) who's reviewing the CPC version at a desk just around the corner even as I speak. He keeps shouting "Have you got to the third floor yet?" or whatever all the time (No, I blooming well haven't! Just because you're better than me...)
Anyway, I'll bring my two little chums in towards the end when we get to summing up time (though the way Rich keeps whispering the word 'Megagame' in my ear I fear it's a bit of a foregone conclusion). Ah well, on with the plot.
Like the other Freescape games it s a search-around-collecting-things, working-out-the-use-for-other-things, finding-secret-routes sort of game. Touchingly non-sexist, it features you as a prince (or princess - the first choice you have to make in the game) nosing around a spooky, seemingly deserted castle in search of your kidnapped twin. He (or she) is trapped in one of the towers by Magister, the Castle Master (hence the name), and guarded by a series of Guardian Spirits. Its your job to get him (or her) out!
It's a game strong on puzzles and high in atmosphere - if you should find yourself alone in house, try turning the lights down low and then playing it. You'd scare yourself silly. I felt a few shivers pass up my spine, I can tell you, and I was in a packed office with my two little Spec-chums peering over my shoulder!
But anyway, less of this messing about, lets start the game. A neat portcullis device pulls up from the front of the screen and - tarra! - a casetle is revealed! A Freescape castle, to be exact, so let's walk around it and see what we can see. Dum de dum de dum. Right, appears to be surrounded by a black moat (I thought it was the shadow cast by the walls until I fell into it and 'Glug glug glug!'' appeared in the message panel. Very droll.) At the back of it at one corner there's a shed (can't get in it though - no key) and what looks like a rock at another corner, but otherwise the plain is featureless. Time to go in the castle then, and do that - across the drawbridge. Hmm. The drawbridge is up.
A quick bit of faffing around (and reading the instruction notes) gave me a clue. Switch the centre screen cursor from Movement mode (where pushing forward moves you in the direction you've placed the cursor) to Throw mode, place it over the suspicious-looking nobble high up on the castle wall and press fire. Bingo! Your character lobs a stone at the building, and the drawbridge drops down. Time to go exploring!
Right, now we're in a courtyard. There are four towers at the four corners, some of which have doors. As well as this though, there are a couple of extra entrances to various lean-to buildings actually built inside the courtyard. Let's have a scout around. Hmmm. There's a well. Let's take a look (but not too close a look - we don't want to end up in the catacombs, do we?). Lean over it use the Action key (which allows you to eat, drink, read, push, move, collect, examine, open, unlock or use as appropriate) and hurrah! I've collected a key, which must have been hidden somewhere in the well, though I never saw it. (Later keys, and other collectible objects like potions, are usually perfectly visible, however).
That little success under my belt, I think it's time to actually venture inside the castle. Which doorway shall we choose? I know, this one! It seems to lead into a sort of spooky chapel. Hmm. Wonder what we can find in here? What about behind this pulpit? (Don't do it! Reader's Voice) Too late! I've tumbled into the catacombs! AGAIN!
Now this may not necessarily be a bad thing. The catacombs are basically long stretches of empty, featureless corridors, with plenty of turn-offs into other long featureless corridors and occasional doorways into... ah, but you guessed it. I've not found anything of interest down here, but that's not to say there aren't things lurking away in the corners, and I've only come across one way out so far, which I'm damned if I can find again. Basically I'm stuck down here, and very tempted to quit the game and start again. In fact, I think I will, (Quit.)
Right, here we are standing outside the castle again. Let's throw a rock at the button, open the doorbridge, walk into the courtyard, blah, blah, blah. Hmm? Wonder which entrance to take this time...
And so it goes.
The genius of these Incentive things seems to be to wind you up as much as possible, really get you hacked off with the whole business, then drop a little titbit your way - finding a key, unearthing a secret doorway, or running into another spooky spirit. These'll kill you if you let them, as well as make the room go a strange flashing red colour, but a well-aimed rock will normally settle their hash. If ever there was a fine balance between total addiction and total frustration this seems to be it.
The only problem with this review so far (What do you mean the only problem? Reader's voice) is that it could apply to any Freescape game at all, more or less. In what ways is this one different? Well, let's consult my two little Freescape experts and see what they have to say. (Excuse me for a second - talk amongst yourselves.)
Right, I'm back. Basically, we reckon the much-vaunted new Freescape+ system (seen here for the first time), which is meant to offer a 10% increase in game movement speed over normal Freescape (as well as draw things in smaller blocks, so they're more recognisable), is a significant improvement over the previous system. The game certainly runs taster than previous Freescape games. But it's also a lot slower. (Eh? Reader's voice)
Let me explain. Its not physically slower (like I said, it's quicker), but the game design seems tailored to a different pace of gameplay, something a bit more precise and thought-out. For instance, whereas in, say, Total Eclipse, any key would open any door, here you need a specific key for each one, or so it seems. There seems to be a lot more searching around involved here, looking for the correct pieces then figuring out how to use them, though of course these first impressions could be deceiving, and the games always did seem to lean in that direction anyway. It's certainly not your rushing-around-shooting-everything sort of game.
So we come to the conclusion. Those who are already familiar with the Freescape system are probably out queuing up to buy the thing even as we speak, so let's talk to those who are left (the unconverted) for a moment. Right, you lot. I really think you should consider buying this - unless you're a real die-hard action game freak. This is a game that stretches the capabilities of your Speccy to breaking point, is guaranteed to provide weeks of gameplay and has an incredibly professional, thought-out (and spooky) feel to it. Even the instructions and in-game puzzles devised by 'Europe's Funniest Man' (Mel Croucher) aren't too bad.
All in all then, Incentive seems to have another winner (and another Megagame) on its hands. Yep, just like Pelley kept telling me all along. (Smug git.)
Whoever said that adventures and strategy games are boriing? Not everybody is a brainless joystick junkie and Impressions have spent some length of time getting it all ready to unleash on a suspecting public. And although I've a fairly suspicious nature I think it's a great game.
Castle Master puts you in the leggings (or stockings if you're really pervey) of a prince or princess who must search the Castle to rescue your twin brother (or indeed spaccy old sister). There are no specific locations and you move freely around the landscape, at either a walk, run or even a crawl depending on your stamina. You begin outside the castle and must gain entrance by getting the drawbridge lowered. It a a little tricky to get it open but it's better than throwing bricks at a blank wall. Also there are cryptic hints littered around that may help you in your quest.
Movement is by joystick and keyboard or just keyboard (for those of you who want to build up your finger muscles) and you move forward and backward with left and right spinning the view around. There is a small sight in the centre of the screen which shows where (or what) you're heading towards.
If you like your adventures short on use of the keyboard then Castle Master is as easy as most with only the A key used for actions like eating, drinking, opening, collecting and so on and R, W and C used for Run, Walk and Crawl. The space bar toggles the pointer mode on and off and is used when throwing rocks via the fire button or actioning something.
The keyboard controls also allow you to change the angle of your perspective. "Coo, that's just what I've always wanted a new perspective" and that's just what the P and L keys do, P looking up (useful when there are girls walking upstairs) and L drops your head down (useful when you're caught looking up girls skirts).
The graphics are just a little on the slow side, no doubt the product of having to move the screen with each player movement, but then if you want a fast arcade game then Castle Master isn't for you. You need brains and reasonable reactions - the brains to work out the various puzzles that are contained in the game and reactions when you enter a room occupied by a spook. The screen will flash and your stamina will begin to drop. You must find the spook, hit the space bar and then move the crosshair sight onto it an press fire to despatch the spectre with a few well-aimed rocks.
There is a definite movement in software to include a little bit of adventure or strategy into arcade games at the moment with selectable weapons and/or shops as in Super Wonderboy. The flip side of this is adventure games that work graphically and Castle Master is one of this genre and a good example of such. The game has depth, action sequences and is littered with puzzles and should be enough to hardened adventurers going for some time. The only real criticisms would be that the screen update is slow and the graphics are sometimes not immediately clear but all the whingin' and whinin' in the world should not serve to deter the average Spectrum gameplayer from what is an excellent adventure.
Reviewer: Garth Sumpter
Castle Master was and is one of the best 3D adventures to ever ooze out of a Spectrum. It's been released, re-released and re-re-released countless times in different guises, the last being a Domark compilation alongside some other classics. However on its own it stands out as a genuine triumph of coding against memory limitations.
Your task is to walk, run or even crawl, depending on the situation you find yourself in, around a medieval castle in search of your lost brother. The quest commences with you having to gain access to the fortress by figuring out a way to lower the drawbridge from outside. This is quickly solved and then it's heads down for the hard slog. The graphics are pretty spectacular, all things considered and the 3D aspect does give way to some great detail at times.
Whilst exploring the hundreds of locations and fiddling with the many puzzles and traps it's easy to get immersed in the world of Castle Master if it wasn't for a lack of speed when moving you could be glued to your task for hours without noticing how long you've been playing at all. Get bored with one perspective and you can even change the camera's angle to a more lively one.
The only quibble I'd have with the game is that its grainy visuals sometimes make it a little hard to see what's in a room and you can miss some clues unless your eyesight is A-one. Don't be put off though, if you're a bit fed up of run of the mill games and always thought of venturing into a graphical adventure, you can't get a better starting place than this. Not to everyone's taste, but definitely to mine.
Label: Hit Squad
Price: £3.99 Tape
Reviewer: Steve Keen
GARTH: Cor, some of them darkened rooms put the willys up me. As lifelike as you're imagination will allow. Now where'd I leave my robe and staff?
Spectrum 48/128 Cassette: £9.99, Diskette: £14.99
Amstrad CPC Cassette: £9.99, Diskette: £14.99
Commodore 64/128 Cassette: £9.99, Diskette: £14.99
LUDLOW CASTLE IN GAME SHOCK!
Built on the burial ground of Magister, the master of dark magic and dirty deeds, over the years Castle Eternity has become a place feared and reviled by the locals. But now you must enter its dank walls, for it is where your twin has been grabbed and taken to a high tower. The first task in Castle Master is to decide your sex, dependent on your choice the other character will be carried up to the tower to await rescue.
You start at the foot of the drawbridge, armed only with a supply of rocks and courage. The first task is to enter the castle. This is achieved by lobbing a rock at the trigger point just to the left of the drawbridge. Once inside you are faced with the courtyard and the four towers that must be explored (along with the caverns beneath the castle) to find your kin. As with all the other Freescape titles your surroundings are viewed through the character's eyes, with the borders of the screen holding relevant displays.
The bottom of the screen shows your character's strength (this is kept up by eating food) and a rack upon which keys are hung (these are needed to get through locked doors). A spirit level shows how many spooks are around (the higher the level the lower your chances of survival) and a message window keeps you in touch with your surroundings. There are three modes of movement: crawl, walk and run. These are accessed by clicking the pointer on the relevant window to the left of the screen. As you move around, exploring the castle, objects may present themselves for collection, Food (in the guise of cheese), keys, gems, etc can either help or hinder you. Let's face it, though, you'll need all the help you can get.
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