Castle Master, An Eternity of Atmospheric Adventure. Amiga

This is one of the most iconic and nostalgically heavy-hitting 8 and 16-bit game covers for me - and games! CASTLE MASTER was published by Domark in 1990, and developed by Teque. There's a fair bit of backstory (written by Mel Croucher) but in summary, it casts you in the role of either a prince or a princess - your choice! And when you make your choice, your sibling is immediately whisked away by a dragon and carried over to the forbidding Castle Eternity. 

Your Quest? Rescue them!

Now, you're hit by one of my favourite things about Castle Master - the title and in-game tuneage by Matt Furniss. On the C64 version, you get a chiptune rendition whereas on Amiga, it's a sampled one. Both are great and so atmospheric. And even though it was the C64 version I first played, it's the Amiga rendition that sticks in my head the most. It's also the version of the game I recommend you play unless you have a LOT of patience.

Castle Master is a Freescape engine game, the same one that games such as Driller and Total Eclipse run on. You're presented with a first-person perspective of the world and move around with the keyboard or the joystick. You can crawl, run, walk, and all will be needed to successfully traverse the environment.

The world through your adventurous eyes is rendered in dithered polygons. On C64, the frame rate is, well, it's about 1 FP every three S. It's SLOOOW. But it does lend the game a methodical pace that some might actually prefer. On the Amiga version pictured above, it actually runs too fast on anything above an A500/600. Playing Castle Master on an A1200 or above will see you zoom across the world at high speed and hazards and enemies move way too fast. And even the Whdload version with speed options set to their slowest is still too fast. If you're emulating, run Castle Master on OCS/ECS config for the best and intended experience. 

Castle Master is a first-person explore 'em up with some combat elements. As you explore the polygonal world of Castle Eternity, you'll encounter spirits in some rooms. The screen will flash and your health (represented by dumbells) will begin to drain. Hit space and you'll switch to a crosshair and combat mode. Throw stones at the spirits enough times and viola, the room is clear. Sometimes it's a game of hide and seek to find out where the stationary spirits are hidden, other times they'll be flying about and it's a reflex thing to take them down.

There's no in-game map, but the layout of the castle is fairly intuitive and rooms are named, so building up a mental one isn't too tricky and you'll backtrack to areas as you pick up keys that open up new ones that you couldn't previously access. Along the way, you'll find health-restoring wedges of cheese and riddles on frames on the wall that add a Knightmareesque feel to the game. In some ways, Castle Mastle feels more like a Knightmare game than the actual ones we got!

Castle Master was one of the first games I ever played on C64 and has remained lodged in my heart ever since. I was deep into Knightmare at the time and into HeroQuest, so it really vibed with me and it felt like I really was exploring a spooky old castle. I'm happy to report that it still holds up well and provides an experience that's still pretty unique at the time. It's not a dungeon-crawling RPG so doesn't blend in with the crowd.  If released today (and with some additional QoL refinements), I could see it doing well as a lo-fi indie haunted castle exploration experience. 

Castle Master received a sequel the same year, The Crypt, but it's more like an expansion pack and some later editions of Castle Master came with it bundled. I've not nearly played it as much and have never finished it, but if you want more of Castle Master, then there it is. 

And more of a good thing is never a bad thing... Happy Exploring!

Download: ADF WHDLoad
YouTube: Sharka's RetroBytes

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