Tuesday 14 July 2015

Castle Assault (Atari 8-bit review)

Developer: C. Blakeway
Publisher: Blue Ribbon Software
Released: 1986

Castle Assault is a single screen platformer that was also released on the Amstrad CPC and BBC Micro.

The manual does an awful job of explaining the plot but basically you must climb up the castle walls to retrieve some gold. You can't just advance straight up and instead you need to progress in rows, similar to the first stage of Donkey Kong (1981, Arcades). As you'd expect there's enemies to jump over and moving platforms to travel on but along the way you can also collect different fruits for bonus points. It's your standard early arcade platformer but weirdly you're not up against a time limit so there's none of the frantic action that these type of games are known for. The controls are beyond awful; many times your character will completely ignore your command to jump and instead decide it's better to fall straight down to his death! On other occasions he won't react to your button presses until 1-2 seconds afterwards. Considering this is a twitch style game it's a fundamental flaw that makes it difficult to advance without some serious luck. The collision detection is spotty and you'll frequently die even though you clearly landed on a platform. If by some stroke of luck you do manage to reach the top the action repeats with more enemies and faster attack patterns. At this point it just becomes laughable as things fly at you from all angles and it's impossible to manoeuvre due to the dodgy controls. What annoys me the most though is that every time you want to begin a new game you must first hit the Space Bar and then the Start button, except the latter requires repeated presses due to poor coding! For all of its faults the game's graphics are actually quite good with lots of colour and detail around the level.

Castle Assault had potential but it's a broken game that shouldn't have been released in this state. When the controls for your character simply don't work you know you're in for a rough ride and as a result the nice graphics and intriguing premise end up counting for nothing.

Random trivia: Developer C. Blakeway also worked on the Atari 8-bit versions of Diamond Mine (1985), Screwball (1985) and Nightmare Maze (1986).

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