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SCR Adventures
Adventure: Text
ZX Spectrum 48K

Other Links

Derek Brewster
Chris Bourne

Castle Blackstar was reviewed in the March issue of CRASH but appears here under the auspices of Adventure Trail because it has been revamped and relaunched. The program I have is dated July 84, but this is version 9.9 and the truth is, it has battled its way through the vagaries of the marketplace for almost a year to settle in the pastures of CDS; it appears now as a fine piece of software, not dated at all, and in keeping with the finest text only traditions, with intelligent prose and consistent plot. It is set in that classic adventuring time zone of Prehistory, that is, even before the wireless brought you the Goon Show.

Let's have a look at what the cassette cover has to say and you'll see what I mean. 'Imagine... as you awaken from your sleep troubled by strange dreams and visions you find yourself in a luxurious room furnished in silver and glass. The ceiling is high and arched with a huge relief map of the moon hanging overhead... woman speaking to you. She is tall and willowy with hair like spun silver. She carries easily an air of authority and wisdom.'

The relief map of the moon is explained by the fact that Artemis is the virgin goddess of the hunt and the moon, the twin sister of Apollo.

The objective of your quest is to return the power orb to Artemis but you can also score points through certain actions and by solving the many puzzles and finding the treasures to be taken back to be cleansed of their evil. Clearly, sophisticated scoring, as used here, is much fairer and more interesting than some recent games that have even stooped to an increased score with every new location visited.

Press any key on loading and you are in a valley surrounded on three sides by forest and you'd be well advised to take the easy route to begin with, west along the valley, unless you like to start off with a maze (equivalent to starting the day with cracking the ice on a lake for your early morning dip).

Sadly, being a reviewer, I thought it my lot to take the metaphorical plunge but when I grew tired of wandering, keying in QUIT resulted in a NEW program. Needless to say, I was not amused (the metaphorical cramps and almost drowning, arrgh!). Along the dusty road, reading the keystone reveals the author and contributors which I found handy as there is no mention of them on the cover. West takes you to the infamous castle itself. If you are reading this review for clues, then I'm sorry, but it would be unethical for me to tell you how to get the drawbridge down - but yes, you're quite right, it is your first major problem. Kindly, the program does not impose a major impasse here for the eventual solution lies in the adjacent locations.

The descriptions are most evocative and the locations are the result of much prethought and careful design. As more and more of the story becomes known, the structure and intelligence behind the plot becomes gradually apparent. The rooms and halls of the castle are consistently real; living quarters, kitchen and dining room, ramparts and drawbridge are all where you might expect, and function in an authentic way.

The text forms a good narrative, and it is easy to visualise the castle as you move about it. Here is the description of the dining room: 'You are in a grand dining room with glorious decor and a huge chandelier. Above you is an overhanging gallery which overlooks the archway forming the west entrance. A somewhat less than inviting exit leads east.'

Vocabulary is good with few surprises. Simple commands such as ENTER, IN, OUT, UP and DOWN are widely accepted to enter all manner of buildings, facilitating quick and easy movement. Input goes a little beyond verb/noun with TAKE LAMP AND LIGHT IT and DROP SWORD AND LOOK while WEAR is a refinement of GET. Apart from SCORE and the inadvisable QUIT, the game features GOES which gives the number of turns taken so far; VERBOSE which gives the Full location description and QUIET which only gives the full text for new locations. N.E., S.E. etc, and UP and DOWN make the castle and the mazes that surround it lengthy explorations.

Castle Blackstar is a super text adventure where the thought and careful planning behind its inception are most evident. The game is clever and consistent, well-designed, well-presented and with many ingenious and logical problems. If they don't make them like this any more, then it will be a shame.


Difficulty: Quite difficult
Graphics: None
Presentation: Good
Input Facility: Good
Response: Very fast
General Rating: Atmospheric and well-designed, good value.