A Look Back At Dark Castle
Hello and welcome to The Gaming Historian!
The Angry Video Game Nerd did an episode on Dark Castle for the Sega Genesis and Philips CD-I, and I couldn’t have been more excited. This game takes me way back, even before my Nintendo days.
Now, you might be asking why I might get excited over a terrible game. Not so fast! Dark Castle is a great game. But the ports on Genesis and CD-I are really bad. The main culprit? The controls are terrible! This game was meant to be played with a keyboard and mouse, and it just doesn’t work on these systems. The Nerd did a good job explaining how the controls work, so I would recommend checking out his video when you get a chance. It is also a good laugh. But for now, lets take a look at Dark Castle on the console it was made for: Macintosh!
During the 80’s, video games were not only popular on consoles like Atari, but also computers. Growing up, my family had a Macintosh.
This thing was a workhorse. I did school work, drew pictures, and played a ton of games. There were a few I played regularly, including Leisure Suit Larry and Winter Games. But my favorite was the platformer, Dark Castle.
Dark Castle had an interesting development period. Mark Pierce (animator) and Jonathan Gay (programming) collaborated on the project, but lived in different cities. To work on the game, Pierce would mail his illustrations on floppy disks to Gay, who would then implement them into the code. The game was developed and published by Silicon Beach Software (who Gay worked for) in 1986 for the Mac.
On a “small world” note: Silicon Beach Software was purchased by Aldus in 1990, which was then purchased by Adobe (sound familiar?). Coincidently, Mark Pierce did his illustrations for Dark Castle on a program known as VideoWorks… which would later turn into Adobe Director. Everyone is connected! Now, let’s get back to Dark Castle.
In the game you play Duncan, a prince who is trying to defeat the Black Knight in Dark Castle. You must make your way through the rooms of Dark Castle while also defeating several enemies. There were 14 levels in all, and each room was a challenge. In the AVGN episode, he notes that Duncan might be the clumsiest video game character of all time, and he might be right. But that is where the charm comes in. Duncan is no hero and doesn’t claim to be. He is a prince trying to save his village. His weapon of choice is rocks for goodness sake!
In each room you will have to maneuver your way to the exit as well as defeating a variety of enemies. Bats, mice, Frankenstein monsters, and even a large man with a whip. The little monsters that wave their hands and yell “Nyaaa!!” are the highlight. The man whipping the guys chained up to the wall freaked me out as a kid and I always got nervous when I had to fight him. It was a necessity though, as he guarded some keys you had to collect.
Along with the challenging platforming, another highlight of the game is the sound effects. You can hear the bats shrieking, the whips, the footsteps, doors opening, etc. It makes the whole game experience that much more enjoyable.
This game is pretty challenging, but it is a blast to play. I was never able to get to the Black Knight as a kid. My siblings and I would always try to get the highest score (you could put your name in the high score section of the menu screen), thus bragging rights. Two sequels were released, Beyond Dark Castle (1987) and Return to Dark Castle (2008). For a better idea of how this game plays, check out the video below.
And on that note, I would like to announce the end of my series at 1 More Castle. I have taken on more responsibilities with Retroware TV and my video series, so I can no longer commit to writing for 1 More Castle. I would like to thank the team for the opportunity, and I cannot wait to see what becomes of this site.
For the final time here at 1 More Castle… take care!