Monday, March 17, 2008

Jon God's Return to Dark Castle Review *Minor Spoilers*

I am not sure that I am completely satisfied with it, but here you go:

Return to Dark Castle, that name means a lot of things to a lot of people. It is often known for it's famously long development time, spanning somewhere near 12 years. It also also talked about due to the fact that it is the sequel to the 1987 mac classic, 'Beyond Dark Castle'. A lot of people gave up on Return to Dark Castle ever coming out, but in the end, it has finally been released, so, how is it?

In general, Return to Dark Castle follows down the path started by it's predecessor, Beyond Dark Castle, rather then the original Dark Castle, it contains much more open ended gameplay, with no bonus counting down, or any points at all, going for more of an adventure game feel, like Beyond Dark Castle, but a few steps farther then that.

The story of this game, though light, it much heavier the then original two games, as when you open the game, you are treated to the back story. It also takes place after the legendary ending of Beyond Dark Castle, which means somethings wont be as interesting unless you have seen it, though you will still get everything, as it is explained well. This game contains something it's predecessors don't, and that is brief cut scenes. In general, the story is better then say, Mario, but don't expect a really deep story. As a negative, the ending on the easier difficulties is extremely disappointing, go for the hardest difficulty for the best ending.

When booting up the game, right away you will notice that this game has great music, with mellow tunes, to exciting, and even epic songs, none of which are annoying, or even average. All the tunes in this game manage to sound right, and fit perfectly with the dark castle setting, and the levels they are assigned to. In addition to music, this game contains the same sounds from the original games, and, despite aging 20 years, they still are just as funny, and great to listen to. They sounds have also gotten the stereo treatment, so you can hear where things are just from the sound, and it really sounds good.

When you first lay your eyes upon the graphics you will not be impressed, it runs at an emulated low resolution, and looks blurry, and around the edges of the models you will see jagged lines. Though the graphics are no wonderful at first glance, they do have their own style which reminds a lot of the original games, and works very well for what it is. There are a lot of new effects on the graphics, such as sparks, fire, lighting and such, which will overall make you forget about how the graphics look slightly blurry, you will often find yourself admiring the enemies as they burn from the new fireball effects.

So, how does it play? A lot like the originals. And that's not a bad thing, this is one of the best sequels to a classic I have ever seen, they didn't change nothing, and have it be a 'Tomb Raider Style' sequel, nor did they completely change it. Instead they added onto the amazing gameplay of the originals, but kept the same feel. In addition to all the gameplay elements you found in the originals, there are now a bunch of new things, while, not drastically changing the gameplay, helps you feel more in control of the character, such as the ability to crawl anywhere, carry around warp potions, and such. There are also new weapons, abilities, which gives you more of an ability to play the game the way you want to play it. Sadly, the gameplay as good as it is, is not without problem, as the controls are often unresponsive at times, which can get you killed, and is often extremely annoying. After playing for a while, you get used to this, though, it would be nice to not have to deal with it at all.

This game is huge. When making a sequel to the originals, which only contained 15 levels each, one would think that it would contain maybe a few more levels, but surely not much. Well, one would be wrong, as this game breaks away from the size of the originals, becoming a large open ended game, with tons of treasures, mini games, extra orbs, and secrets to find, there are only 10 orbs required to beat the game, but an additional 15 can be found, and any combination of orbs from all throughout the game can be used to open the final gate and beat the game. Simply beating the game will not unlock 100% completion though, instead there are tons of secrets hidden throughout the castle, which can be found by the help of hint notes which contain riddles which when solved tell you were to find secrets.

There are four difficulties in the game, and for getting 100% on each one you unlock secrets, and just to get to 100% is a objective all to it's self. Once you have done that though, there is also the ability to save films, which are small files, which can be shared with friends, and are easy to set up and view. Sadly, they seem to be glitchy and often come out differentially then recorded. When they do work however, it can be very fun to see who can beat levels faster, or with less rocks. At the time of this review, the level editor is not out yet, but soon there will also be a level editor to use.

Final Words:

It's been a long time, but Return to Dark Castle is finally here. In general, this game reminds me of Super Mario World, or The Legend of Zelda, with it's large game area, and non-linarity, it also contains some killer level designs, and really well hidden secrets. Although not as challenging as the originals in some respects, and can be gltichy, it completely lives up to the Dark Castle title, and is worth the $30. Hopefully soon enough, the patch will be released, along with the level editor.

If you were considering buying this, Buy it. You wont regret it, it'll keep you playing for a while, and years from now, you will want to com back and play it.

Presentation - 9.7:
The game sports a huge playing area, with tons to do. It also manages to keep the feel from the originals.

Graphics - 8.2:
The graphics look blurry, but there are a ton of effects to admire, such as roasting mutants with fireballs.

Sound - 10:
Amazing music, wonderful and classic sound effects won me over, this game has just about perfect sound design.

Gameplay - 8.9:
The game plays almost exactly how you remember, though the unresponsiveness is extremely annoying.

Lasting Appeal - 10:
Normal quest, check. Side quests, check. Secrets, check. Unlockables, check. Saved Films, check, Level editor, check, need I say more?

Overall - 9.6


Anonymous said...

As a longtime fan (played DC on Mac Plus), I think it's great. I've been playing for week now, and it's harder than I remember, but every bit as interesting and entertaining -- if not more -- than the original. Do you know if SHFF plans to submit this to the Apple downloads site? It's one of the all-time classics and should definitely be there.

Jon God said...

Look no farther:

It's available for download there, but I think what should happen, is have Apple games feature it. That would be awesome. :)