Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Castle Wolfenstein (Commodore 64) Review

The very first gaming system I ever played was my dad's Commodore 64 and out of all the games I played on it my favorite was Castle Wolfenstein. If you've never heard of this game I'm sure you heard of the game it inspired, Wolfenstein 3D from 1992, which was one of the earliest and most popular first-person shooters.

Castle Wolfenstein was created by Silas Warner for the Apple 2 in 1981 and was ported to the Commodore 64, DOS and Atari 400/800. The game is a stealth-based adventure game that takes place during World War 2. You have been captured by the Nazis and your cellmate before he dies gives you a gun to help you escape. Your mission is to find the Nazis war plans in the castle and escape with your life.

Scattered throughout the castle are chests that can hold things to help you like ammo, grenades, bulletproof vests and uniforms. The chests are also where you find the war plans so you need to check them all until you find them. They can also contain things that don't do anything like medals, bratwurst, and cannonballs. Some of the chests can take up to 250 seconds to open so you can shoot at them to cut the time down. You can also find Schnapps and if you drink it your aim with bullets and grenades will be off until the alcohol leaves your system. If the chest contains ammo, grenades or cannonballs the place will explode killing you so you need to think it through before shooting. After 10 or so chests taking over 3 minutes each to open you'll want to use every bullet, you can find to open them.

There are two kinds of guards you will come across. The first type, the yellow guards, are regular Nazi soldiers. The guys in blue are the SS guards equipped with bulletproof vests. The yellow guards are generally easy to kill and will not leave the screen they are on but the SS guards are tough to kill, usually requiring a grenade, and they will chase you from screen to screen until one of you die. I remember them chasing me as a kid and they scared the crap out of me, and they still kind of do with them yelling at you. The game contains digitized voices and they aren't too bad for their time, compare it to Ghostbusters on the NES to hear some terrible digitized voice. There are a bunch of things the guards will say, all in German, which helps to set the mood of the game.

You use the keyboard to move around with the 8 keys around the F key, D moves you left, F stops you, G moves you right, E moves you up and to the left and so on. The same setup is used to point your gun in any direction with K points your gun left, L puts it away and: points your gun right. The button that looks like an arrow pointing left at the top left of the keyboard shoots your gun, grenades are thrown with the Q key, space bar searches soldiers and chests and Return opens your inventory.

The stealth comes into play when you find a uniform to wear. Once you put one on the regular guards will leave you alone as long as you don't have your gun out. The SS will see right through your disguise though so I usually not risk it and kill everyone. It's much more fun that way, I'm more of a guns-blazing gamer than a stealth guy.

The game has 60 different screens split up over 5 different floors. Each time you load a new game the map is changed so you never play the same game twice. You can destroy anything in the game with grenades except the outer walls and the staircases. When you walk into the walls you bounce off and lose control for a few seconds which can make the difference between making it out and getting killed. The controls are a bit of a handful especially when you walk into a room with an SS or two and you start to fumble to aim your gun at them and kill them before they get you, that's when you'll bump into the walls and they get you. That's the biggest problem I have with the game and I tried playing with both a joystick and a Sega Genesis controller and it didn't help. There are just too many keys you need to use and when you need them you only have seconds before they can get you.

The other issues I have with the game today are the load times. The game takes 1 minute and 27 seconds to get to the title screen and 3 minutes and 8 seconds to load a new game. It just takes so long! While the new game is loading it has 4 different text screens that could be compared to today's games cut screens, letting you know the story and what you need to do. I always liked the last one with your cellmate screaming as they drag him away.

You can save your game which is nice and if you pull the disk out after you're killed but before the game saves your death you can reload the game from before you died but I'm too afraid to try it. I don't want to break anything, I've gone through a handful of Commodore 64s already and some of my disks, which granted are over 30 years old, don't work anymore so I'd rather not risk it.

I put the game in to play so I could take a few pictures. I have never beaten the game so while I'm going through to get all the pictures I want I find uniforms, bulletproof vests, ammo and then the war plans. I'm thinking I actually have a chance to win the game so I push on.

So I continue on by going from level to level and I know I'm getting close to the end. Then I walk into a room with two SS guards so I point my gun at them and start lobbing grenades as they come at me.

Oh Well
Castle Wolfenstein on the Commodore 64, 10 out of 10!!

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