A preview of the game CastleAbra flittered across my desk and into the review pile recently. CasleAbra is a ‘classic adventure of yesteryear.’ The trailer looked whimsical and I was intrigued to see it further, so I thought I’d give it a go.
The princess has been kidnapped by an evil wizard. It is up to you to rescue her, because someone has to. You’ll have to befriend the wizard and explore his grounds in an attempt to find and free the princess. Along the way you’ll meet a bunch of interesting characters. A harpy and a unicorn are locked up in the barn. A talking plant is in a nursery. The wizard’s brother-in-law only communicates through a mirror.
The game does not provide a lot of direction beyond “save the princess,” but that is a good thing. You’ll need to explore the castle rooms and interact with the characters as you make your way through. You’ll figure it out as you go. There are two types of puzzles in this game. The first is to figure out how to open the door. Sometimes this is just a matter of finding the key and using it. In the preview there was one door that was opened using a lever in another room. Since some of the doors you encounter have no keyholes, I must assume other levers or ways to open the doors exist in other places in the game.
The second type of game puzzle is to interact with the characters you meet along the way. Most likely the character will be standing in your way. You’ll have to deal with him/her/it before you can proceed. In the preview I met a lot of characters whom I couldn’t get past, so there is a lot to be fleshed out in the full game that is not in the preview. Inventory items help a lot with both types of puzzles, so be sure to pick up everything not nailed down.
When they say Old School they really mean Old School
When most people talk of old school adventure games, they are referring to King’s Quest or Monkey Island series which are loved by many. But, CastleAbra goes back even further into time. It reminds me of Transylvania. In Transylvania, you roam the countryside in order to rescue the Princess and defeat the monsters. On each screen you have some obstacle to outsmart. Transylvania was re-released a few years ago as an iOS game named Transylvania Adventure, if you’re interested in trying it out. The CastleAbra creators cite Shadowgate as a big influence, but I never played that so I can’t comment there.
CastleAbra presents simple yet colorful graphics. Things are fairly static, meaning there is little animation. The animation that does exist is simple tweens, but they won’t give you a headache like Reperfection. There are no voices added to the game. The sound effects and background track are a good mix of retro and modern. It never becomes overbearing; it just provides a boost to the gameplay as the type of thing you wouldn’t notice unless it wasn’t there.
I’m honestly not sure what to think of the game. The preview was not complete, and I get the feeling there is a lot more game to play. Although the game felt dated for a PC Adventure game of today, I bet it would work well on tablets. While the story revealed in the preview was nothing to write home about, the comic strip on the CastleAbra website about creating the game (CastleAbra Pre-Mortem Part 1) is very well-written—perhaps even more compelling than the game itself. However, there is a part of me that enjoyed exploring the wacky world of CastleAbra and I can’t wait to play the finished game.
Final Grade: B