The game that defined the Macintosh computer in 1986. You, as a squire type lad, have the task of defeating the Black Knight. Armed only with a bag of rocks and your ability to throw, you set out to search the castle for the two magical abilities you will need to complete your quest.

Laced with humor and packed with great graphics and sound (for its time), it is probably one of the best games of all time.

Originally developed by Silicon Beach Software, the game is now owned by Delta Tao. They have rewritten the game and added color. Unfortunately, its still only available for the Macintosh. You can find more information at http://www.deltatao.com

Dark Castle was produced by Silicon Beach Software, makers of the program SuperPaint, a precursor to Photoshop (albeit not in terms of power or versatility). SBS was promptly eaten by Aldus, who produced their own version of SuperPaint, before giving up on that particular sector of the market. Ironically, Adobe absorbed them anyway.

Structure

The original Dark Castle began in the hallway of the castle, which contained four doors: three small and one large. The first large door led to "Trouble", a three-level dungeon; it was required of the hero to travel all the way down it and all the way back up. At the base was a "Whip Henchman", a masked executioner who would whip you neatly to death. unless you could defeat him with a morning star. The level has one major trap, which will get newbies exactly half of the time.

The second door is "Fireball". The hero's bag of rocks is replaced by a bag of fireballs upon beating this level, which is about ten times as hard as Trouble. Fireballs fly faster and strike harder (the latter is rarely relevant).

Behind the third door is "Shield". A trap on the first step of this level dumps the user into the "Trouble" dungeon unless they are quite careful. At the top of the level is a spectacularly difficult encounter involving gargoyles that shoot lightning bolts at you. This is probably a hundred times harder than "Trouble". If you make it out, you recieve the Shield, which renders you invincible for 2.5 seconds at a time. Judiciously used, it makes the game a great deal easier. Of course, only one door remains:

Behind the Great Door is the Black Knight (not immediately, of course), who can be defeated by toppling his throne. It's pretty damn hard in of itself.

Items

A few major items are to be found: extra lives, rocks, and elixir. Elixir protects you from the disease-ridden rodents that inhabit much of the dungeon. Rocks are for throwing, and your only defense besides good jumping skills. The throwing angle is controlled by the vertical position of the mouse, a tricky skill to master.

Enemies

Any enemy in Dark Castle would kill you with a touch, except rats, who mostly just poision you. The main evil forces are bats, rats, and the Knight's direct minions. Bats lie dormant on the ceiling before flying down to ambush you. They're a tough target to hit with a rock, since they're in motion three-quarters of the time. The Knight's minions are tougher, and need to be defeated using special tools such as maces and whips.

Beyond Dark Castle

Beyond Dark Castle is a ridiculously comprehensive update to the game, featuring about thirty levels and zillions of new features. It's about as old as the original, but contains cool stuff: helicopter backpacks, evil wizards, ropes, labyrinths, outdoor environments, a practice mode which single-handedly robbed me of the ability to play video games properly, tough quests, the "Black Knight's Brewery", where a "Barrel Henchman" hurls filled barrels over a series of conveyor belts, and other ridiculous difficulties. Levels take place inside a clock tower, a massive castle, and the Black Knight's deeper-than-ever inner sanctum.

System Requirements

Heh, heh, heh. Dark Castle and Beyond Dark Castle were both designed for the Macintosh 512K and up; they'll run easily on it. However, the games won't run on any operating system after System 5.4, a hopeless relic. Most copies of the game include a minimal 5.4 bootdisk with Dark Castle instead of the Finder. The downside: Every computer from the Macintosh II onward (basically, everything after the SE) will not run 5.4. The Delta Tao update of the game features color and will run at least as far as System 7.5. I've never tried it.

amib proposes an excellent idea, which is to run an emulator for old Macs. Good idea! I'll have to try to find one.

I confess, I never actually beat either Dark Castle or its sequel; now my Macintosh SE is broken and I can't play the game anymore. It might be worth buying another one (at the current retail of about $25) just for these two games. Play 'em.

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