Return to Castle Wolfenstein

There is something inherently violent about humans, there really is no way to ignore it. Archaeological evidence of mass graves where the occupants show signs of sharp and blunt force trauma, and historical records of battles throughout history attest to this. This may be why gamers are drawn towards to violent games. Although, it is not so much the killing but the hero fantasy that we seek. We are never going to take on an entire castle of baddies using only our guile, sharpshooting and hand to hand combat skills in real life (thankfully). So we immerse ourselves in artifical worlds. Some may think there is something wrong with that. I say, what’s wrong with a little hero fantasy every now and them?

Titlescreen (Screenshot taken by the author)

Return to Castle Wolfenstein is a first-person shooter, and a reboot of Wolfenstein 3D (1992). It was developed by Gray Matter Interactive (Nerve Software developed the multiplayer) and published by Activision. It was released for the Microsoft Windows in 2001, Linux and Macintosh in 2002, Xbox and PlayStation 2 in 2003, and Steam in 2007. I reviewed the Microsoft Windows version.

It’s 1943 and World War II has been raging for four years. The Nazis have uncovered an ancient demon named Henrich who has been trapped deep underground in magical prison for 1000 years. They’re also developing a super soldier capable of destroying the allies and winning the war. You play as US Army Ranger William Blazkowitz who is charged with investigating the Nazis’ SS Paranormal Division and stopping their evil plans.

Even after 80 years, games about World War II are still popular (Screenshot taken by the author)

The missions consist of assassinations, data retrieval and sabotage. Some of the missions rely on stealth and your mission is over if you are spotted, which adds an extra layer of difficulty and breaks up the action nicely. It’s quite a long game, with some of the missions being quite lengthy for the time. There are plenty of authentic World War II weapons to choose from as well as fictional weapons such as the Tesla gun. Along the way, you will find ammo, armour and health packs to restore you weapons and health.

Sometimes, discretion is the better part of valour (Screenshot taken by the author)

The story, although fantastical, is engaging. The graphics and sound effects are good for the time, but the AI, as with lots of gmes of this era, still needs work. Enemies vary in strength and difficulty, these include standard German soldiers, experimental soldiers and the undead.

There is not much replay value here but the multiplayer addition was critically acclaimed.

Did I complete the game?

I am adamant that I completed this game when I first played it after its release. However, this time around, I couldn’t get defeat the final boss.

What the critics said:

Computer Gaming World: “If all you want to do is blast your way through countless Nazis and zombies, then this game is probably for you. But if you want a deep, engaging storyline with surprising twists and turns, this probably isn’t for your cup o’ tea. Overall 3.5/5.[1]

Eurogamer: “Return to Castle Wolfenstein is a worthy addition to the stable of id Software affiliated shoot ’em ups. The single player game is average to good and takes quite a while to finish, but the game really earns its salt by shipping with a first class multiplayer element. Overall 8/10. [2]

Game Revolution: “But in all, Return to Castle Wolfenstein is not what it could have been. As a story it’s utterly bizarre, as a sequel it’s sub-par, but as a stand-alone game it’s very good. The simple truth is that regardless of the detractions, killing Nazis will always be fun…always. There are few times that you can play a game and feel you made the world a better place. Wolfenstein 3D was one of those times. If the world isn’t any better after playing Return to Castle Wolfenstein, at least it might brighten your day. Overall 3.5/5.[3]

Gamespot: “In a weird inversion of the typical shooter model, Return to Castle Wolfenstein features an amazing multiplayer component coupled with a good if somewhat underwhelming single-player game. Then again, fans of id Software’s previous 3D shooters should be familiar with this model. But honestly, Return to Castle Wolfenstein is well worth buying for the multiplayer game alone, so the fact that you get a solid single-player game in the box can only be considered a bonus. Overall 9.2/10.[4]

IGN: “The single player campaign is certainly decent and will hold people’s interest long enough to get them accustomed to the various weapons in time to jump into multiplayer. It’s not quite the revolutionary trip back to Castle Wolfenstein that people may have been hoping for, but that’s no reason to discount it, as it is nothing less than a solid and satisfying experience. But it’s no doubt that the real value in the title falls on the multiplayer which is definitely one of the most enjoyable experiences I’ve had in quite a while. It all adds up to a really fun game that fans of the genre will love to get a piece of. Overall 9/10.[5]

My verdict:

Defeating the Nazi’s always feels fun and for the most part so is this game. I like the story, I like the graphics and I like the variety of missions. Unless you play multiplayer, there isn’t much replay value, but the game is long enough to certainly justify the purchase.

Rating:

What are your memories of Return to Castle Wolfenstein? I would love to hear your thoughts, and don’t for get to follow and subscribe so that you don’t miss my latest reviews! You can also find me on Instagram: @nicklovestogame.


[1] Price, T., ‘Reviews – Return to Castle Wolfenstein’. Computer Gaming World. (March 2002). Issue 212:74-5. (https://archive.org/stream/Computer_Gaming_World_Issue_212#page/n75/mode/2up Accessed 3rd August 2020).

[2] Bramwell, T., (25th July 2001). ‘Return to Castle Wolfenstein’, Eurogamer.net. (https://www.eurogamer.net/articles/r_rtcw Accessed 4th August 2020).

[3] Radakovic, N., (1st July 2001) ‘Return to Castle Wolfenstein Review’. GameRevolution.com.  (https://www.gamerevolution.com/review/32806-return-to-castle-wolfenstein-review Accessed 4th August 2020).

[4] Wolpaw, E., (27th Nov 2001). ‘Return to Castle Wolfenstein Review’. Gamespot.com. (https://www.gamespot.com/reviews/return-to-castle-wolfenstein-review/1900-2827475/ Accessed 4th August 2020).

[5] Adams, D., (1st December 2001). ‘Return to Castle Wolfenstein’. IGN.com (https://www.ign.com/articles/2001/12/01/return-to-castle-wolfenstein Accessed 4th August 2020).

Alex Kidd and the Enchanted Castle

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Alex Kidd proved to be a hit on the Sega Master System throughout the eighties, and was arguably the console’s mascot. The question was, could he continue to be their main draw for Sega’s latest console, the Mega Drive? Clearly not, as this was his only outing on the 16-bit console.

Title screen (Screenshot taken by the author)

Alex Kidd and the Enchanted Castle is a single-player platform game developed and published by Sega. It was released for the Mega Drive in Japan in 1989, Europe in 1990, and the US in 1991. It was later released on the Wii Virtual Console, Mega Drive Handheld, Cloud Online, and Steam. The version I reviewed was the original Mega Drive version.

Rookie Town (Screenshot taken by the author)

On the planet Aries, Alex Kidd’s father, King Thor, has been kidnapped by Ashra, the ruler of planet Paperrock. Alex travels to Paperrock in a bid to rescue his father. He must navigate through 11 stages: Rookie Town, The Prairie, The Splashy Sea, Scorpion Desert, The Pyramid, The Hiho Forest, Tropics Town, Rocky Mountain #1, Rocky Mountain #2, In the Sky, and Sky Castle, where his father is being held. The Sky Castle is where you must fight Ashra at Janken.

The gameplay is simple: Run, jump, punch, kick, crawl and swim. Alex will slide around a bit when quickly changing direction, and is a bit floaty when jumping, which takes getting used to, so be careful near enemies. When breaking into red treasure chests, coins will spill out for Alex to collect. Grey treasure chests contain lives and power-ups. Beware, however, as some chests, some contain bombs that explode and will kill Alex.

Jan-Ken-Pon (Screenshot taken by the author)

Along the way, Alex can pay to compete in Janken fights (paper, scissor and rock) with shopkeepers to win equipment and power-ups. These include motorcycles, helicopters, a pogo stick, a wizard’s cane, a cape, and a necklace that helps Alex to see the thoughts of his opponent. This item gives you a better chance at winning Janken. At the end of every level, Alex must collect the piece of cake to progress.

Alex can swim and, thankfully, seems to be able to breathe underwater (Screenshot taken by the author)

The power bracelet is very useful and allows alex to shoot a crescent-shaped band of light that kills the baddies. Spoiler alert!!! You need to have this equipped after beating Ashra at Janken so that you can fire at him from a distance. This is the only way to defeat him.  

There are three difficulty settings: easy, medium and hard. With increased difficulty, you are given less lives to start with and the Janken opponents are harder to defeat, adding to the game’s replay value.  

Graphically, the Mega Drive is capable of so much more. The sprites are nicely drawn, if a little cutsie, suggesting this game was meant for a younger audience. Sadly, the levels and backgrounds are rather basic. The music, however, is very catchy and will get stuck in your head. When revisiting this game after 20 odd years, I still remembered the tunes instantly and began to hum along.

Did I complete the game?

Yes, but I have only played through on easy mode.

What the critics said:

Mean Machines Sega: “The graphics and sound are almost Master System Standard, and while it’s fun to play, with plenty of secret rooms and things to work out, it lacks that really addictive spark that makes the 8-bit Sega Alex Kidd games so much fun to play. For ardent Alex Kidd fans only. Overall 68%[1]

Sega Pro: Alex’s only appearance on the Mega Drive is not a bad attempt…although it can get repetitive. Overall 77%.[2]

The Games Machine: “It goes without saying that Alex Kidd highly playable and incredibly addictive. Overall 82%”.[3]

Sega Power: “Alex goes 16-bit in this colourful platform exploration romp. As with previous Alex Kidd games, the jolly atmosphere belies the testing gameplay. Fun and very polished.  Overall 3/5.[4]

My verdict:

“Definitely one for the younger gamer. It can be completed very easily without too much hassle, but there is little to keep you coming back for more. Catchy music, nice sprites and bright colours, but the level design and backgrounds are a bit basic and could be more visually pleasing. However, I do have a softspot for this game and feel it’s been harshly judged by critics. I certainly keep it in my collection and revisit it every year or so. It’s also handy to keep around for my niblings.”

Rating:

What are your memories of Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle? I would love to hear your thoughts, and don’t for get to follow and subscribe so that you don’t miss my latest reviews! You can also find me on Facebook.


[1] ‘Game Index: Mega Drive – Alex Kidd and the Enchanted Castle’. Mean Machines Sega. (October 1992). Issue 1:137. (https://archive.org/details/mean-machines-sega-magazine-01/page/n135/mode/2up Accessed 16th February 2020).

[2] ‘Sega Showdown – Alex Kidd and the Enchanted Castle.’ Sega Pro. (November 1991). Issue 1:18. (https://retrocdn.net/images/7/75/SegaPro_UK_01.pdf Accessed 14th June 2020).

[3] ‘Alex Kidd and the Enchanted Castle’. The Games Machine. (June 1989). Issue 19:18-9. (https://archive.org/details/the-games-machine-19/page/n17/mode/2up Accessed 28th July 2020).

[4] Jarrett, S., ‘The Hard Line – Alex Kidd and the Enchanted Castle’. Sega Power. (April 1991). Issue 23:52. (https://retrocdn.net/images/8/89/SegaPower_UK_23.pdf Accessed 29th July 2020).

Star Wars: Dark Forces

In the early 90s, I was at the height of my Sci-fi geekdom. I watched and re-watched Star Trek and Star Wars movies with unhealthy regularity. The video games that the franchises were producing in the early 90s were also filling my daily quota of science fiction. Resisting the entreaties of my parents to go out into the summer sun, I preferred to stay in a darkened room and lose myself in these cherished universes. Some would say it was an unhealthy hobby for a teenager, and they could be right…if it wasn’t for the fact that I played competitive football at least twice and week, and worked part-time jobs that is. However, the memories I have playing these games with a childhood chum (who I shall refer to as MC), are not to be discarded lightly.

Title screen (Screenshot taken by the author)

Star Wars: Dark Forces is a first-person shooter developed and published by Lucasart in 1995 for MS-DOS and Macintosh. A year later it was released for PlayStation. In 2009 it was re-released on Steam. The version I played was for the PC.

A map can be used whilst still moving around the levels which is very helpful (Screenshot taken by the author)

You play as Kyle Katarn, who is studying agricultural mechanics with the intention of working in the family business. Whilst at the academy, he is told that his parents were killed by the Rebels, causing him to enlist in the Imperial Army. Whilst working for the Imperial Army he meets Jan Ors, a double agent working for the Rebels. She informs Katarn that it was an Empire raid killed his parents. With the truth known, he helps Ors escape. He then becomes mercenary and begins to take on jobs for the Rebel Alliance.

The first mission is set during Rogue One, and sees Katarn charged with stealing the Death Star plans (naturally this storyline is not considered official canon). It then skips to after A New Hope. Once the Death Star is destroyed, the Rebels ask Kyle to investigate an assault on a Rebel base by a new type of Imperial soldier.

This first-person shooter sees Katarn navigate his way through several locations including a Star Destroyer, Jabba the Hutt’s Palace, and the planet Coruscant. The levels are well designed and challenging, and really give the illusion that you are in the Star Wars universe.  Throughout the levels, there are lots of secret doors which contain power-ups and goodies to help you on your way.

“There he is, blast him!” (Screenshot taken by the author)

You can choose between a number of different weapons with which to fight the Imperial soldiers including blasters, thermal detonators, land mines, and some more explosive weapons. All weapons have a secondary mode which offers a different effect when fired. All weapons need ammunition so use the more powerful weapons sparingly.

The map unfolds as you progress for the level, adding to the feeling of isolation and the unknown. You can toggle this map to be overlaid whilst you are walking around the level too which is a useful tool to have. There are times in the game when you need to use night-vision goggles and breathing apparatus which are nice touches. Just remember that you’ll need to pick up batteries for the night vision goggles as they only have limited power.

The in-game music is atmospheric, but very basic. Don’t expect John William’s well-constructed musical themes blasting through your speakers in high fidelity. The in-game graphics are generally good. Although the levels are 3D, the baddies are 2D. However, they are well illustrated and use familiar exclamations such as “You’re not authorised in this area!”, and “There he is, blast him!”. Sadly, they do become a little pixelated as you get closer to them. The cutscenes are beautifully illustrated but sadly, it’s not the real Darth Vader’s voice.

Even animated, Darth Vader is an imposing figure (Screenshot taken by the author)

The controls let this game down a little. Whilst you are able to run, jump, duck, swim and look around, the mouse only allows you to look horizontally turning left and right. You need to use the keyboard to look up and down. This makes it unnecessarily difficult when shooting at enemies on high ledges. The jumping is frustrating too as the player doesn’t stop instantly when landing which, although realistic, means plummeting to your death alot as it’s difficult to gauge when you are near to falling off the edges.

The three difficulty settings, and the fact this is a Star Wars game, give this game some replay value, but I don’t think this is a game that will have you returning time and time again.

Did I complete the game?

Yes!

What the critics said:

Gamespot:Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the game is set in the Star Wars universe. It’s much more fun to blast Imperial lackeys than faceless monsters. The familiar setting is enhanced by your enemies’ taunts, like “Stop, Rebel Scum!” Dark Forces’ only real flaws are its tragically short length – less than a dozen levels – and its lack of multiplayer options or add-ons, which severely limits the replay value. Overall 7.6/10”.[1]

Next Generation: “Ultimately, Dark Forces offers nothing that Doom didn’t provide a year ago apart from some pretty Star Wars cut-scenes. And Technically, it’s on par with the most accomplished 3D games, but it seems that LucasArts’ reputation as a software pioneer has made it wary of producing an instantly playable title. Dark Forces will be judged by Doom Standards, and in most areas, it falls just short. Overall 3.5/5.[2]

PC Zone: “The best Doom-inspired game to date, based on Star Wars. Overall 95%.”[3]

My verdict:

“Overall the game has a good storyline and is fun, even for non-Star Wars gamers. Some of the controls need a little fine tuning but the number of weapons you can use, the level designs and familiar phrases such as “There he is, blast him!” make this game worth playing. However, single player limits the replay value a bit.”

Rating:

What are your memories of Dark Forces? I would love to hear your thoughts, and don’t for get to follow and subscribe so that you don’t miss my latest reviews! You can also find me on Facebook.


[1] Dulon, R., (1st May 1996). ‘Star Wars Dark Forces Review’. Gamespost.com https://www.gamespot.com/reviews/dark-forces-review/1900-2538507/ Accessed 17th March 2020.

[2] ‘Finals: PC – Dark Forces’. Next Generation. (May 1995). Volume 1 Issue 5:94. https://archive.org/details/nextgen-issue-005/page/n95/mode/2up Accessed 17th March 2020.

[3] ‘CD Rom Review – Dark Forces’. PC Zone. (March 1995). Issue 24:52-56. https://archive.org/stream/PC_Zone_24_March_1995#page/n55/mode/2up Accessed 17th March 2020.

Myst

Adventure game creators have always sought to immerse gamers into their imaginary worlds but have sometimes been limited by technology. For example, I remember some early Spectrum games that were simply text based. Although they were fun, I never felt immersed in the game. Myst was the first game I’d played where I felt that the immersion experience was successful on me. Others may differ but I can only tell you how I felt about it. I should also warn you that there is a spoiler near the end of the review.

A plain and mysterious title screen, giving little away. Much like the game itself. (Screenshot taken by the author)

Developed by Cyan Inc. and published by Brøderbund Software, Myst was released for the Macintosh in 1993, Windows in 1994, 3DO in 1995, and PlayStation in 1996. A remake was released for Windows in 2000 and Macintosh in 2002, and the realMyst: Masterpiece Edition was released on Steam in 2014. The game was ported to many other platforms including Sega Saturn, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Portable, Android, iPhone, Nintendo 3DS, Jaguar CD, Amiga OS, CD-I, For this review I replayed the original Windows version.

Your view as you explore this mysterious world

Viewed in first person mode, Myst is a graphics adventure puzzle game which sees an unnamed protagonist (that’s you) falling into a fissure and appearing on a mysterious island. You are able to move and turn by using a cursor to click the route you wish to take or the direction you wish to turn. You can also interact with objects by clicking and dragging them.

One of several notes found on the island to assist you in working out what you are supposed to do. (Screenshot taken by the author)

As you explore the island you learn more about its history and the worlds you will soon visit. Some notes also offer hints to help you progress through the game. You soon learn that you need to gather blue and red pages and restore them to two books found in the observatory.  Two brothers, Sirrus and Achenar, have been trapped inside these books. As each one speaks to you through garbled transmissions, they explain that the other brother is mad and has imprisoned them in the books. They both try to convince you to free them instead of the other brother, both claiming that the other brother murdered their father. To find the pages you must explore several other worlds and solve various puzzles.

Both brothers are trapped in separate books…but which on whould you free? (Screenshot taken by the author)

One of the more interesting aspects of this game is that you are simply thrust into this game with virtually no back story and no idea what you have to do, and oddly, you cannot die! At first you are simply wandering around, searching for buildings to enter and objects to interact with. This can be quite off putting to some as it can take a while to understand what the hell is going on. Some of the puzzles are fun and challenging. Others are less obvious to solve. One annoying aspect of the game is having to return to the same worlds to collect the other page you didn’t collect on your first visit, as you can only pick up one at a time.

One of the other worlds you visit to find the blue and red pages is Channelwood. (Screenshot taken by the author)

I remember when this game was released, and I played it with a school friend. However, we never got that far as it was a bit too difficult for our teenage brains. When I came to it years later, I fared better having gained much experience with these sorts of games. I thought the graphics were out of this world. The background music and minimalistic SFX bring an eerie air to the game adding to the feeling of being truly alone. Having revisited the game over 25 years since its release, I think the game has held up pretty well. Sure the animations are basic and not as smooth as modern games, and the 3D design of the worlds look dated, but the gameplay is straightforward, once you realise what you need to do, and I found myself being immersed in the game once more.

SPOILER ALERT!!!

There are four possible endings, with one of them being the true ending. However, the true ending is frustratingly and unsatisfyingly none existent and I found myself wandering Myst for some time before searching online to see if I had missed something. Nope, sure enough there is no ending. I guess I will have to play the sequel Myst: Riven, to see what happens next.

Did I complete the game?

Yes, but definitely needed help from the walkthrough on this on!

What the critics Said:

Gamespot.com: “Myst is an immersive experience that draws you in and won’t let you go. Overall 8.9/10[1]

My verdict: “This is a tough game and seems to be aimed towards more experience adventure gamers. However, I loved the concept of the game, and the ambient music and SFX immerses you into the game. I just feel it could have been so much better if more story was included. I also felt the way you can only carry one coloured page at a time, meaning you have to go through each world twice, was a cheap way to prolong the game. I mean, who can’t carry two pages!”

Rating:

What are your memories of Myst? I would love to hear your thoughts, and don’t for get to follow and subscribe so that you don’t miss my latest reviews! You can also find me on Facebook.


[1] Sengstack, J., (May 1, 1996). ‘Myst Review’. www.gamespot.com. (https://www.gamespot.com/reviews/myst-review/1900-2542724/ Accessed on 17th February 2020).