Gallery

Here are some of the screens you'll encounter in Dark Castle, I'm not going to show you the boss screens, you can get to those yourself. Use the arrows to browse through and click on a thumbnail for a better view

Overview

A true blast from the past: Dark Castle, by Delta Tao, is a true pioneer in Macintosh gaming. One of the first memorable Mac games for the 9-inch Mac systems, its black-and-white original stole many hours away from this IT engineer in the late 1980's. Was it the multi-level action? The animations? The embedded humor? Let's find out...

Hardware Demands:
Dark Castle is in black-and-white, covering a 9-inch area of the screen. It required you to boot up the application disk (which contained a "minifinder"...anyone remember these?) in order to run the game from your hard drive (if you had one). That was in 1986.

Background:
Dark Castle was written in 1986 by Mark Pierce and Jonathan Gay for Silicon Beach. It was a huge success, showing off how great the Mac was at sound and graphics. It won every award there was, and made lots of money. However, the Macintosh evolved, and Dark Castle didn't. The Mac II, color, and Multifinder all came out, and Dark Castle slowly stopped working. Its sequel, Beyond Dark Castle, came out, still in B/W but ran on most of the Macs of the day. It too, fell prey to the Macintosh evolution and has died away.

Aldus acquired Silicon Beach for its graphics, not its games. There were no more Dark Castle games following the acquisition.

Game Synopsis:
For those who were born after Dark Castle's original release (sigh) or who need a refresher on the game, the goal of Dark Castle is to defeat the Black Knight. In order to do that, you (Duncan) will need to explore the castle to find the tools you need to take on this bad boy or to avoid the nasties that try to stop you.

The Game:
Dark Castle is optimized for a 512K Mac in assembly language, and it doesn't lend itself to modifications for new system software, sound hardware, and color.

The game starts with a pipe organ solo with lightning bolts bouncing around a dimly lit castle. Clicking the mouse will take you to the Great Hall, where there are four doors you can enter. Clicking on one will send you on your way.

One thing you will notice if you are used toplaying games like Marathon, the Doom series, or Hexen is the lack of gore or horrible deaths. Dark Castle was created during the innocent days of action gaming, when dying just meant losing one of many lives, not watching your head roll down the sidewalk. Also, instead of a gun, you throw rocks or fireballs at rats, bats, armed robots, and other nasties. There are bottles of elixir to negate the effects of a bite from the plague-infected rats or bats. You also get a new life every 5,000 points. As you progress into the game, you will pick up additional tools needed to defend yourself against the Black Knight. However, you don't simply come across these tools, you must earn them by sometimes just getting to them!

Each level in DC is totally different, requiring different skills to complete them. Many of them lead right to the dungeon (most trap doors and drop-offs will send you there (meaning you'll have to get through 3 dungeon levels in order to get back to the Great Hall). This linkage allows for loads of game play, although it can get a bit repetitious (the nasties are always in the same place). As you increase the difficulty level, the number of nasties increase. Some levels require you to be fast while others require careful observation and meticulous steps.

To those who wish to compare Dark Castle to the current action arcade games like Marathon and Doom: "Do not attempt it." Comparing a 10-year-old game to a game with current technology just doesn't work. Dark Castle doesn't have stereo-panned sound or high-tech 3D animations. DC doesn't have 16-bit (thousands of) color or Quicktime video clips. But, for a 10-year-old game, DC is quite playable and still addictive. If I were to break my rule and compare it with a more recent game, I would say that Dark Castle is quite similar to the original Prince of Persia, less the 3D characters.

The Interface:
The interface of Dark Castle shows its age. It seems simple enough: you move Duncan with direction keys on the keyboard and move the mouse up and down to move his arms. Clicking the mouse throws a rock. This set-up does allow you to move and throw at the same time, but the absence of joystick compatibility does hurt some playability. If your mouse is dirty inside, it can greatly effect your aim and cause you to move the mouse up and down far more than reasonable. I found that moving you had to move the mouse a great deal to get Duncan's arm from the highest to lowest point. You can customize the keyboard keys to fit your preferences but you can't use the arrow keys for some unknown reason. The default keyboard/mouse set-up is most comfortable with right-handed people. You can only save one saved game at a time (boo-hiss). I wish that was one improvement that could have come to reality. There are many ways in Dark Castle to die, and unlimited saved games would help get you further.

Conclusion:
Tired of the new games that require too much RAM or processing power for your Mac? Want to play a game that can take years off your life? Try this 10-year-old, Mac-only game called Dark Castle. Although it lacks the flare of today's super-duper shootem-ups, it still provides wholesome game play with a spark of humor without the gore and realistic violence of today's arcade games.