Description official descriptions
In this game, the player takes control of a lone prisoner who has been taking captive in a large castle occupied by the Nazis. Getting out of the cell and picking up a weapon is just the beginning; the ultimate goal is to acquire the war plans of the Nazis, and escape from Castle Wolfenstein alive.
Castle Wolfenstein is notable for being one of the earliest games that incorporated stealth-based gameplay mechanics. The player navigates the hero through the top-down corridors and rooms of the castle. The main gameplay challenge lies in dealing with the guards who patrol the castle and will be alerted to any noise made by the player. It is possible to shoot the guards, but the ammunition in the game is scarce, and some guards are very hard to kill, so the preferred course of action is moving without being noticed. If the player surprises a guard with a gun drawn, the guard will surrender, and the player will be able to frisk him for valuable items.
The player should also search the treasure chests scattered across the castle. Some of them contain war plans, which are essential for winning the game; others have useful items, such as bullets, grenades, bulletproof vests, and guard uniforms. The uniforms can be worn for disguise; however, higher-ranked SS guards will be able to recognize the intruder. Chests might also contain food and beverage; imbibing alcohol will result in a temporary loss of aim and balance for the player character.
The game's sound effects include some of the earliest examples of digital voice samples. The guards would sometimes shout out short phrases in German in an attempt to stop the protagonist.
Credits (Apple II version)
Average score: 71% (based on 4 ratings)
Average score: 3.6 out of 5 (based on 52 ratings with 4 reviews)
Castle Wolfenstein was the first action game on the Apple II that really immersed you in its world. With only a gun and ten bullets and your wits, you had to escape from your prison, Castle Wolfenstein. The real genius of the game was that you couldn't just mow everyone down in your path, because sooner or later, a guard would notice the dead bodies you left and the dreaded yell of "SS!" would alert you that you were about to get creamed unless you had grenades to spare. You could even hold up guards instead of killing them so you could steal their uniforms in order to get through heavily guarded rooms without a fight. The sound effects were great, especially the grainy digitized voices of the german guards and the SS.
The only problem with the game was the controls. Even with a joystick it was easy to accidentally run into the walls, which caused the screen to fill with garbage (simulating you being injured I guess) obscuring your view of the enemies that you were running away from. It also could be difficult to aim your gun or grenades properly.
The Bottom Line
Castle Wolfenstein was one of the most innovative early games for the Apple II. You mission was to escape from the Castle where you were imprisoned by the Nazis. You start with only the gun and 10 bullets you stole from your captor, and the odds are not in your favor, even without the dreaded SS stormtroopers chasing you down. The game showed you the castle from a top-down perspective with well-drawn and animated characters.
It was the first game to feature speech sound effects and use them effectively. Once you've played the game, you'll never forget the blood-chilling cry of "SS! SS!" as the stormtroopers chased you.
It was also one of the first early games (along with Choplifter) to emphasize stealth and trickery over killing. This made the game much more involving and difficult than it would have been as a straight shooter.
Finally, the graphics were well-drawn and looked great, even though they were mostly black and white.
Apple II · by Droog (460) · 2003
I would say that none of the follow-ups to this classic PC dungeon crawl can live up to the original, at least not in compelling game play. While the graphics were pretty sparse, even for the time, this game typifies the belief that to overcome visual limitations back then game designers had to rely on clever design and atmosphere. And there's plenty of that here as players sneak past Nazi guards and SS jackboots in their bid for escape from the bowels of Wolfenstein. Every sneaker shooter from Thief to Deus Ex owes a debt of gratitude to this one. And they still haven't sorted out some of the play mechanics on display here, such as the ability to interrogate soldiers at gunpoint (before mercilessly executing them), as well as swiping the uniform of a dispatched guard and moving around unmolested...until too many dead guards got the dreaded SS thugs on your trail. Sound was also a standout here, with the shouted German curses (Voss es loose? Shwinehundt!) making one's jaw drop (or making you jump out of your seat when the SS guy comes barging into a room).
There was a really annoying lag in the control scheme, often causing players to bump into walls and causing a disturbing fanfare with loud beeping and flashing screens. As well, the game gets mind-numbingly repetitive after a bit. And, especially in the C-64 version, there were some horrific load times to be had, sometimes making you think you're being subjected to some terrible new Nazi psychological experiment in patience.
The Bottom Line
No one who was into computer games in the early days would have missed this gem. It also had to be one of the most widely bootlegged programs of the era. It's a thrilling actioner that keeps one on their toes and coming back to give those Krauts your own version of the "Final Solution".
DOS · by Ummagumma (74) · 2002
Castle Wolfenstein is one of those games that never achieved great commercial success and yet had a very influential legacy down through the years. It's most famous as the predecessor to the seminal FPS game Wolfenstein 3D, but in reality its influence extends far beyond just one game. This is the original stealth game, and is groundbreaking in almost all it attempts. The entire stealth/action genre, from Thief to S.T.A.L.K.E.R, can trace its roots back to Castle Wolfenstein.
Other than the gotta-escape-the-Nazis theme, Castle Wolfenstein bears almost no resemblance to its FPS descendant. It is an agonizingly slow-paced stealth game where you have to steal secret war plans from a German castle and get out in one piece. The challenge comes from numerous enemy guards who patrol hallways looking for intruders. Your character is no BJ Blazkowicz and it only takes one bullet to put him in the ground, so sneaking is a far better option than fighting. You have a gun, but you'll only ever want to use it as a last resort.
Castle Wolfenstein introduced a novel concept to gaming. It isn't enough to make sure the guards can't see you, you also must be sure they can't hear you. The sound of a gun firing will bring guards flocking to your location. A grenade explosion will be heard throughout the building. Guards can also discover your presence through things like an open door or a dead body, so you have to cover your tracks. As you can see, Castle Wolfenstein is the basic prototype of games like Thief, and any stealth game worthy of the title owes it a debt.
You're up against two basic foes. Jackbooted guards are weak and easy to fool. There are tricks you can pull on them like stealing the uniform from a dead body and impersonating them. You can also point a gun at them and steal their items, even if the gun is empty. However, the Waffen-SS are not nearly so stupid, and since they're equipped with bullet-proof vests you'll have a struggle on your hands if more than one are present. There's a third type of enemy, the Super SS, who you see only occasionally. He's almost impossible to beat, and since you never know when he'll show up next the game has a tense, Terminator feeling.
The game is like chess. You have to plan out your actions many moves in advance and anticipate all the variables. Throwing a grenade can kill a tough enemy but you might need it later to destroy a door. Many times you'll go into an agony of indecision, frantically weighing one option against another while the clock is ticking. The game is punishing even by the standards of the early 80s, and you can't afford to put a foot wrong.
The graphics are quite acceptable for the time, with detailed sprites and smooth game play. I thought it was a nice touch how bumping into a wall causes the screen to flash a short while, as if your character has been concussed. Castle Wolfenstein also deserves credit for being one of the first (although not the first) game to feature digitised audio. Your enemies yell German phrases and your character emits a piercing death scream when killed.
A product of the slightly odd mind of Silas Warner, Castle Wolfenstein has many humorous touches. You can make your character eat food (which has no affect on game play) and he'll comment on the taste, and you can get him drunk on schnapps if you want. Among the items you can collect is the personal diary of Eva Braun.
And with theoretically unlimited replay value (thanks to a random castle generator) it all adds up to a game many years ahead of its time.
It's hard to say if Castle Wolfenstein is actually good. It's so unprecedented and groundbreaking there's absolutely nothing you can compare it with. By today's standards it's freakishly hard and frustrating, heavily dependent on chance and guesswork, and pretty damned repetitive into the bargain. But that would be ignoring the time and context in which it was made. It's only a small exaggeration to say that early 80s PC games were brain-melting endurance tests. And of course you couldn't run to GameFaqs.com if you got stuck.
I have a feeling the average Castle Wolfenstein player was a 40-year old UNIX operator who kicked back by playing some games after a 14-hour day. Next to his job, Castle Wolfenstein must have seemed like a walk in the park.
The Bottom Line
Whether or not it's fun to play is a totally separate issue. Castle Wolfenstein has its tentacles through most modern stealth games, and it's worth a play because of pure historical value. (A small point of interest is that Castle Wolfenstein also belongs in the record books for the first video game mod, Castle Smurfenstein. I'm not kidding, look it up.)
DOS · by Maw (833) · 2007
|Impossible with keyboard controls||Donatello (453)||Jul 30th, 2013|
This is the game that was the inspiration for id Software's Wolfenstein 3D. id even got a deal so they could use the name, since they couldn't think of anything better themselves.
- Computer Gaming World
- November 1996 (15th anniversary issue) – #116 in the “150 Best Games of All Time” list
- March 2001 (200th anniversary issue) - #3 Best Game of All Time (Readers' Choice)
- Electronic Games' Arcade Awards
- 1983 - Winner (Apple II & Commodore 64 versions, certificate of merit for outstanding achievement)
Related Sites +
The persistence of hyperbole
A artsy Shockwave hommage to to Castle Wolfenstein tracing the various version since it's beginnings in 1982 up to 2002.
- MobyGames ID: 3115
- Wikipedia (en)
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Contributors to this Entry
Game added by Brolin Empey.
Game added January 21st, 2001. Last modified August 30th, 2023.