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The basic idea is to find lots of different colored keys that will open lots of doors of the same color. But there are no extra keys! So which key for which door and in what order??? The action is slow, but the challenge in logic is among the greatest we've seen.
frustration of the experience can be overwhelming at times, as it’s
simply not fun to find out that you’ve wasted a key and then have
to replay the same rooms to try again. There are plenty of lives
available (50 at the start) to help you out, but it’s doubtful that you’ll
want to play through them all, lest you want to hear the same
overly cheerful 20 second song loop dozens of times.
I think I understand what Castlequest was trying to accomplish – construct an entire game within one large environment, with every room having a unique set of challenges to overcome – but there’s never any motivation to collect the keys because you know what’s behind any and all doors: more keys and many deaths. Castlequest, may your foundation rot swiftly into the earth.
There are bad games, and lord are there some real stinkers on the NES (look at Bokosuka Wars or Deadly Towers for some other great examples), but I have to say that Castlequest may be the worst of them all. It just plain sucks.
Castlequest is essentially a horrible puzzle game posing as a horrible adventure game. Players are expected to meticulously grab every key they come across, while never, ever wasting even one by doing something really stupid like unlocking a door only to realize you entered the dead end portion of the next room. Each room has multiple exits with most of them needing a key to access, meaning that to actually beat this game, I'd have to meticulously plot out my path through the castle through hours upon hours of trial, error and constant-death-related frustration. With all apologies to the poor, kidnapped princess, that's not going to happen.