Saturday, April 17, 2021

Game 58: Castle Wolfenstein

Name:Castle Wolfenstein
Publisher:Muse Software
Developer:Muse Software
Genre:Top-Down Shooter
Time: 2 hours

As gaming grows ever more older, and the near past of the 1970s slowly lose the near part, its funny to think we'll lose sight of a game directly responsible for the biggest game genre...that isn't sports or games that pad their cost via a subscription or endless micro-transactions. Yes, Castle Wolfenstein is arguably responsible for the first person shooter genre as we know it. Which is ironic considering that story started with stealth and ended in ultra-violence. Or its not, because that's partially a lie.
The player is the guy with the smiley face, he's just so happy!
For 1981, Castle Wolfenstein is amazing, even though I'm playing the '84 DOS release. A large, multi-tiered castle, free aim, and hordes of baddies to kill. Something with a semi-coherent plot and not just endlessly walking around for no reason. Shoot anywhere, walk anywhere. What is this arcane madness? At the start, this game put a big smile on my face. Its not complex, no, but it does succeed at being fun for a time. Oh, I can search enemies, cool. Oh, I can search chests...hang on, 300 seconds? It goes faster than real time, but still. You get disguises and bullet-proof vests in chests, which are helpful with enemies. Sometimes they contain bullets or grenades.
It gets tedious. Enemies are fun to kill, even if they end up in annoying places some times. You question when the game is going to end, because its been a long time already. Then you start meeting SS, in random areas first. If you try to run away they chase you across rooms, but sometimes they randomly appear. They can't be killed with bullets, you need hold them up and hope you can remove their bullet-proof vest. Otherwise, that's what the grenades are for. Don't get too close though, then you'll lose your armor and disguise. Chests contain useless crap you don't need, or stuff you already have. SS start appearing from whatever room you were previously in. And if you end up getting shot or captured, you return to the start, and the SS always appear a set distance after the opening room. This turns into a weird situation where you're constantly dying to the same SS because you can't get the vest off, and you never start with hand grenades.
Its for this reason why I ended up giving up winning this game. In order to kill a SS without a grenade, I need to hold them up, which means I need to be on the left or right with a gun in my hand. If I hit a wall or them while walking, I put my gun away. Because hitting a movement key moves you until you hit stop or a different direction, and if you aren't aiming at them, they rush you...well, its not hard to see my problem with the game.

A gun and a grenade. Both are satisfying to use, but very much basic. 2/10

Its cool that the SS constantly track you, being more than just enemies that require a different attack. Unfortunately, that doesn't always make their presence fun. 2/10


Its randomly generated, and more to the point, not very memorable. 1/10

Player Agency:
Full movement and full aiming is cool in 1981, but you rarely use those diagonal abilities thanks to the difficulties this game has with those angles. Not to mention the general funkiness of them. 4/10

Searching an area for 300 seconds isn't my idea of fun. 0/10

None, really.

Charming, but still typical CGA garbage. 1/10

None of the story matters whenever you get inside the game. 0/10

Gunshots and bitcrushed screams of German are amusing for a little while, but eventually get old. 1/10

That is 11. Which places it as the best 1981 game yet. Its actually fun and feels like something more than a simple arcade game. Befitting the game that inspired Wolfenstein 3D. I think I've found the best of the year, but we'll see how the few games that look pretty impressive are going to come across. This is the first game chronologically that feels like a necessary step.

Other reviews are mixed. Which is to be expected, but curiously, reviews a decade after are the ungenerous ones, while more recent ones are glowing. Nostalgia? You decide.

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