10/13 – Dark Castle

Hello and welcome! My name is Katosepe and I’ll be your host for today’s Video Game of the Day.

Gamers often laugh at the number of times a game is ported to different consoles today. Skyrim has almost become a meme for the number of special editions made. And yet, today’s gaming climate is nothing compared to the late 80’s and early 90’s. Ports would often be made for a dozen different consoles and would vary drastically in quality. One such game became well known for its bad console ports and is often derided today even though the original release was praised at the time. Today’s game is Dark Castle, originally released for the Apple 2 in 1986.

Dark Castle sees players take the role of Prince Duncan who must enter the Dark Castle and defeat the evil Dark Knight who sits on the throne and terrorizes the townsfolk. Why is the knight on the throne and why is the Prince having to topple him? We may never know but it must be done. Prince Duncan comes to battle armed with his platforming abilities and a small bag of rocks to throw at enemies such as rats and bats. Along the way, Duncan can receive a magic shield and the ability to throw fireballs at enemies.

Dark Castle has 14 levels along four different paths. Duncan can proceed in any order through the castle to pick up the power-ups but ultimately, he must face down the Black Knight to win. Dark Castle is one of, if not THE first game to use WASD in combination with a mouse to control the main character. WASD is used to move and the mouse is used to aim rocks or fireballs. While this was revolutionary and exciting on computer platforms that received the game, including the Amiga, Atari ST, Commodore 64 and MS-DOS, it didn’t work quite as well when the console ports would be made.

For the computer platforms, though, Dark Castle was highly praised, receiving awards for years to come. In 1996, Computer Gaming World listed it in the top 150 computer games ever made. Despite the praise, many gamers today remember it for the console ports for the Sega Genesis and the Philips CD-i. Because of the D-Pad controls, the consoles weren’t able to simulate using the mouse to aim and instead, forced the character to stand still and aim throws. This system was the source of great frustration for console players and after YouTubers such as the Angry Video Game Nerd and Caddicarus rediscovered these versions, the game’s reputation took a serious hit. For those interested in seeing gaming history and how systems can be lost in translation, Dark Castle may be a game to seek out.

Thank you so much for listening! If you want more Video Game of the Day, our complete archives are available on videogameoftheday.com. Also, feel free to reach out to me on Twitter @vg_oftheday. Don’t forget to check back here tomorrow for another Video Game of the Day.

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