When Manic Miner started off the platform game craze, almost anything involving jumping, platforms and patrolling nasties was instantly successful. I remember a time when I just couldn't get enough of them, but times may have changed, and other game-styles have taken over. Mirrorsoft have just released Dark Castle, a platform game that owes a lot to Donkey Kong, Barbarian (Psygnosis) and a good few others, but is none the worse for that.
The setting is a fantasy world of castles, ogres and sorcery. You have been given the job of getting rid of the Black Knight, who is no doubt a baddie through and through. He hangs out in Dark Castle, situated atop a large hill. This is no ordinary castle, but is riddled with platforms suspended in mid-air and trap doors to capture unwary visitors. You might guess from its name that a multitude of spooky creatures haunt the chambers. Bats, rats, tin men, whip-cracking slave drivers and more, all pose a threat to outsiders.
You have control of a spritely chap with a large handful of rocks for ammo. With him you can run, jump, duck, climb and lob rocks. If you're lucky you could find a more powerful weapon to use against the enemies. Because of the amount of actions you can perform, the mouse is used as well as the joystick or keyboard. This leads to a bit of confusion when monsters are closing in from all sides, but can be mastered with practice.
An excellently atmospheric picture of the castle in a storm accompanied by a snatch of pipe organ music, starts the game well. Unfortunately, the rest of the graphics are not quite up to this standard, but there's not as much scope considering their size. The bats and rats (or instance, are very basic, but the main character has some amusing animation.
"The grunts and screeches liven the game up terrifically"
You cant help noticing the excellent sound effects during the game, which are easily the best part of it. The grunts and screeches liven the game up terrifically, and for once they are sound effects that don't get boring.
Platform games can be great fun, partly due to the fact that most have a load of different screens to get to. To a degree, this is the case with Dark Castle, but it's slightly let down by the fiddly controls. It can be very annoying when you fall over for no apparent reason, or when our hero refuses to go down some stairs. Another niggle is that it's too easy to climb up some stairs or a ladder and jump off the platform when he gets to the top.
If you can bear these problems, you could be in for a tremendous amount of fun. It can be frustrating partly because of the long disk accesses between games and levels. For anyone with a single drive system, the disk swapping could be a pain. All in all though, Dark Castle's good points far outweight its bad ones.
I have to warn you that Dark Castle is really difficult but most players will find it a furious challenge that will draw you back again and again to defeat the bats, the rats, the man with the whip and all the other nasties who Just keep on coming at you.
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