And lo, we were deceived.
PUBLISHER: Bunch Games
DEVELOPER: Bunch Games
RELEASE DATE: 1990
After looking at the cover for Castle of Deceit, you’d be forgiven in thinking that you’re either going to play as a vampire that shoots light rays out of it’s hands or a vampire hunter who kills said vampires that shoot light rays out of their hands. DON’T BE “DECEIVED!” You actually play as a magician whose apparel of choice happens to be a pink robe, garnished with cut-out yellow stars (according to the game’s developers, moons would have taken too much time to draw and glitter, well, don’t get them started on how expensive glitter is!). For those who will never play this game – and that better be every single person reading this – yes, your character sprite looks like a six-year-old with his dad’s robe on. You shoot stuff out of your wand, get the key, open the door, get the other key, open the other door, get frustrated constantly with terrible controls and cheap enemies, fight surprisingly decent boss battles, and… that’s it!
For those of you getting a game design degree who want to write their masters’ theses on why unlicensed games are bad for the industry, look no further than Castle of Deceit. Unless Frank Cifaldi can discover why this game wasn’t licensed, the only reason I can find is that the game is just awful… or the developers didn’t have enough money to pay the licensing fees. But, for argument’s sake, I’m running with awful. Jump is programmed to the “B” button, not the “A” button. It’s not a huge pain, but you do feel like you’re playing backwards sometimes. The magician’s movements are slippery, too, as if the terrain was just slathered with Crisco. Hate your life while playing? You bet! Crappy controls are complemented by the cheap enemies, whose patterns and movements have zero rhyme or reason. White stingrays sometimes float up and down, and other times, they come right for you, attacking you with reckless abandon. Most enemies take three hits to kill, but the AI is so “good,” the enemies are constantly dodging your blows. It’s so bad, it can take up to twenty seconds to kill one enemy. In twenty seconds, I could have beaten the majority of Contra‘s first stage. That’s a long time to focus on one enemy for an NES title!
After struggling through the first level, I was surprised to find the boss battle was incredibly well done. Every battle is in first-person where you face the boss head on, avoiding his projectiles and hitting him with your own. It feels like some of Contra‘s battles to some extent, but they’re such a nice break from the collect keys, enter doors, try not to upset your grandma with your swearing that the rest of the game gives to you, that it almost feels like a different game.
After trying to beat the second level for what felt like hours, I gave up on Castle of Deceit. All I had to do was run to the right of the stage, climb to a higher level, go back across to the other end of the stage, and enter a door. What stood in my way of this simple task were moth creatures that constantly regenerated every time I beat them. They fly around you, up next to you – basically, they’re “all up in your grill” and it’s hard to get any shots off of them. They’d knock me off of the top level every time, so I’d walk all the way back to the other side of the stage over and over again. In the end, the moths won. I turned off the game after spending far too much time on it. Don’t be like me. Don’t play this game.