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Castlequest (NES) artwork

Castlequest (NES) review

"My hero began the game with a whopping 50 lives and there are TONS of vials scattered through the castle worth one bonus life each. However, each life is naught but a fleeting moment in Castlequest's.....uhhh...castle. I found that out in the very first room. I grabbed the blue key right next to me, used it to open the nearby blue door (keys only open doors of their color) and jumped to a ledge right above me. There was an enemy here, so I prepared to stab him with my really tiny sword. Before I could get close enough to complete this task, he fired an arrow at me and I died."

CREED OF A HERO: To persevere against all odds; to meet adversity head on and somehow find a way to succeed; to never shy away from a challenge, no matter how daunting.

DISCLAIMER 1-C: The above creed does not apply to saving the princess in the NES' Castlequest. Throwing your arms up in frustration and stalking out of this game's castle sans distressed damsel shall NOT negatively effect your status as a hero.

Whew! Before reading the fine print, I was worried this game would have gotten me kicked out of the Guild of Heroic Dudes, as after a few hours of frustration untempered by even one momentary positive vibe, I surrendered. If the evil Mad Mizer wanted his own pet princess so badly he created the insane labyrinth that is his castle to store her, what right did I have to show him the error of his ways?

I never really wanted to play Castlequest to begin with, but I'd been requested to a number of months ago and I "delight" in making peoples' dreams come true. On my first couple of attempts, I don't think I even made it past the first screen before profanely declaring I wasn't going any further and that's that! Unfortunately, I'm either a really masochistic person or a misguided one, as in order to live up to the CREED OF A HERO, I vowed I WOULD rescue the princess from the diabolical grip of her captor.

Let the comedy of errors commence.

I was confident of success in the beginning, as I started with a whopping 50 lives and there are TONS of vials scattered through the castle worth one bonus life each. However, each life is naught but a fleeting moment in Castlequest's.....uhhh...castle. I found that out in the very first room. I grabbed the blue key right next to me, used it to open the nearby blue door (keys only open doors of their color) and jumped to a ledge right above me. There was an enemy here, so I prepared to stab him with my really tiny sword. Before I could get close enough to complete this task, he fired an arrow at me and I died. TAKE 2: This is when I found out I could only use my sword while moving in the direction I wanted to stab in. Standing still and hitting the attack button does nothing. I died again. We'll skip the next couple of unsuccessful takes and move to TAKE 6, where I finally succeeded in killing the first enemy I met on the game's first screen. This allowed me to snare another key and open the corresponding door to move to another screen.

Here, a hostile chap was sprinting back-and-forth across the lowest level of this room, so I prepared to give him a good stabbing. About five lives later, I did a bit of research and discovered this particular foe is immune to the tiny, ineffectual sword. Whoops! Fortunately, he wasn't able to resist the mighty force of a crate dropping on his head from the next level up, so I was able to resolve that issue. Sadly, many more problems awaited, as I died in many more ways, each more hilarious than the last.

-- I stayed on an elevator a bit too long, causing me to get crushed against a ceiling.

-- I repeatedly was bested by the most powerful and deadly adversary this game could provide: a barrel being moved by a conveyer belt. It took a number of tries for me to perfectly time my jump over that thing as I found out the slightest contact with a moving barrel is lethal....even if Donkey Kong's not present.

-- I learned the hard way that making precise jumps around spikes is easier said than done. The prince's jumping ability is just fricking bizarre. He can't really jump that high into the air, but can bound a long distance to the right or left WHILE being able to change directions in mid-air. To collect items located in precarious locations (such as over spikes), I had to jump up and to the right to get the goodie and then squeeze the directional pad back to the left, so I would fall back that direction and avoid the hazard. Amazingly, my success rate at performing these advanced acrobatics was abysmal, leading to an entire blooper reel of deaths.

-- I died when I pushed a box with another box on top of it, causing the bottom crate to move and the top fall on my head. I died underwater when my oxygen tank apparently ran out of air.....without warning. I died emotionally due to having to endure the game's short, annoying, constantly looping attempt at music while controlling some little puke as he seemed determined to prove that 50 lives only equals 30 minutes of gameplay.

Hyperbole aside, it really wasn't the constant in-game deaths or even the music that killed my spirit. I was having a grand ol' time scampering from room to room and collecting all sorts of keys while dying with regularity and then, after getting through a particularly tricky room (deaths a'plenty here), I was confronted with a green door. I had no green keys, so I was stuck facing the realization that to advance, I'd have to backtrack indefinitely to find the proper color of key....somewhere. I chose to simply turn off my Nintendo.

Castlequest is essentially a horrible puzzle game posing as a horrible adventure game. Players are expected to meticulously grab every key they come across, while never wasting even one by doing something really stupid like unlocking a door leading to a dead end. Each room has multiple exits with most of them requiring a key to access, meaning that to actually beat this game, I'd have to meticulously plot out my path through the castle through hours upon hours of trial, error and constant death-related frustration. My apologies to the poor, kidnapped princess, but that's not going to happen.

overdrive's avatar
Staff review by Rob Hamilton (February 13, 2009)

Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.

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If you enjoyed this Castlequest review, you're encouraged to discuss it with the author and with other members of the site's community. If you don't already have an HonestGamers account, you can sign up for one in a snap. Thank you for reading!

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Felix_Arabia posted February 13, 2009:

I'm sorry Rob, but not that sorry.
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bloomer posted February 14, 2009:

Screenshots suggest this game is a pretty blatant ripoff of Montezuma's Revenge, but apparently not any good.
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sashanan posted February 14, 2009:

I concur. I recommend a round or two of Montezuma's Revenge to wash away the bad taste of this game.
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overdrive posted February 15, 2009:

I would probably agree with the Montezuma's Revenge comparison. They really took out the goodness of that game here. You can fall any distance without getting hurt. That makes the main "puzzle-solving" the trial and error of using keys in the right doors without wasting any of them. With there also occasionally being instances where you have to move blocks. The rest of the "puzzles" involve you using your horrible-controlling character to move really quick so barrels, boxes, etc. on conveyor belts don't block your path....knowing you'll die if you fail because of how anything on a conveyor belt automatically is fatal to the touch.

Really, the only good thing about this game is that once an enemy is disposed of, it stays dead, so if you find yourself backtracking, you at least don't have to worry about getting killed that way.
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aschultz posted May 29, 2009:

Very funny review. I enjoyed the disclaimer and description of bizarre, hilarious deaths.

But I believe that CastleQuest actually a decent game, if you like puzzlers. The maze is interesting to look through, if you like mazes, and there's more than one way through. But the controls are certainly horrendous, there are stupid delays with those dumb elevators and such, and just reading your review gave me a flashback to the sound effects.

I do think a big problem with the game was that it does rely on finding that first green key, but on the other hand, how many times have we played an RPG where there's a cool area we see right away but can't reach? Maybe you need the right mindset to have the patience to find a green key to open the green door. Though, ironically, opening that green door at the start is a horrendous move.

Once you get beyond the controls, you won't die nearly as frequently, though, and you can open up some legitimately interesting puzzles. I remember a discussion with Masters about how we each found the other's genre horridly impossible(me puzzlers, him shooters) and something along the same line happened here. For me, puzzlers with mediocre controls are okay if you don't mind optimizing your controls as part of the puzzle.

In Castlequest's case, I think you have to be interested in various things such as how to get the map just above where you start, which you can't jump to immediately. Figuring how to drop in on it was a nice first challenge.

So, I laughed at a lot of stuff that I'd put aside as stuff I can figure by trial and error, but I may rewrite my current review and post to GameFAQs in response to the 1/10, because I feel CQ is at least a 3 or 4. Maybe even a 5!

However, I don't blame anyone for being impatient enough to assign it a 1. As an original game in a cartridge, and without save states, it would be an exasperating abomination where controls got in the way of puzzles.

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