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 54 ratings with 4 reviews)
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
Where do I begin? How about with it being the first computer game to feature sampled speech? It may be a bit scratchy, but you can still hear the German words that are spoken. Second, you can hold guys up with your gun and search 'em! This is useful with SS guards because you can bump 'em with your gun and take their bulletproof vests. Then BAM! Dead. Also, the game senses how your expertise in controlling and playing increases and bumps up the difficulty for you. This is cool because you can also reset it to the easiest whenever you want to. There's all sorts of items you can pick up, like SCHNAPPS (>HIC<), UNIFORMs, which make the escape easier, and the most coveted of all the items, the WAR PLANS. I've gotten this before, but I've only escaped with them once or twice. This shows that even in 1981 they knew how to make a challenging game.
The controls take quite a bit of getting used to if you use the keyboard, and if you accidentally run into a wall, the screen goes all wacko and you are annoyed by a loud screeching noise (electrified walls?). That is only on the Apple // though.
The Bottom Line
Besides the bad, this is a great game. If you can get your hands on a copy, and you have the computer or emulator to go with, pick it up! A revolutionary classic that (let's not forget) gave us Wolfenstein 3-D. Woo!
Apple II · by bowser724 (27) · 2004
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
|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.