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Release Date

Return to Dark Castle
December 6, 2000 | Tom Bridge

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The original Dark Castle games, from Silicon Beach software, back in the ancient history of the Macintosh, defined gaming for me when I was much younger. Prince Duncan's quest to topple the Black Knight from his throne dominated my life for some time. I remember being addicted to this insanely simple, but gorgeously illustrated, level-based wonder. When, in 1996, Delta Tao software (makers of Spaceward Ho! And Eric's Ultimate Solitaire) bought the license to produce these games in their full color glory, I was ecstatic. I remember being at MacWorld in San Francisco salivating over their color illustrations of Shield 4 and Trouble 2 at the Delta Tao booth. When I heard recently that Z Sculpt's Zachary Black and company were working on a third chapter to the game, I was very excited and a bit curious as to where they might draw the story line.

The Story
As you may remember from days of old, when knights were bold, at the end of the Advanced level of Beyond Dark Castle, Prince Duncan was lured to sit atop the Dark Knight's throne and in doing so, became his successor. Return to Dark Castle is set some years after the sequel, when the land has once again turned Dark. Return to Dark Castle sets another young hero, in fact Prince Duncan's nephew Bryant, into the castle to topple the Black Knight.

The Changes
First, let's examine this game from the point of view of the original. Return to Dark Castle is a similar game when it comes to gameplay, but with most of the code being rewritten to reflect the major changes in gaming in the past fifteen years. Alpha-transparencies are now supported, so the light-sprites look far more up to date than simple animations, not to mention additional effects like the green-glowing translucent shield effect. The engine for the game was completely revamped to reflect some differences in the code structures, since the original game was written back in the mid-80s for the original 512k Macintosh, you could say that there have been a few changes since then, and this new game reflects it. While the level structure is strikingly similar to the original, there's no question that added features are present now, not to mention an all-new set of levels, including a training area and the Witch's Woods. Fireball and Shield are two major carry-over items from the original, however their effects are just a bit different. Instead of allowing objects to pass through you, the objects are now reflected back, making for a real nifty effect if a barrel from the brewery henchman hits you. Fireballs are now an option, not just a way-of-life. By just the slightest hold on the mouse button, you can turn an ordinary rock into a guard-incinerating fireball, complete with animations and subtle pixel sprites to boot. Or if you so desire, when a simple rock could suffice, you have that option as well.


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