50 Games in 50 Weeks: Action Castle

Action Castle logo

Action Castle logo

You may have played early text adventures like Zork or, well, Adventure. They feel strange to those who didn’t play them at the time, like Victorian mechanisms: quaint contraptions for which one can see the intended use, but appear hopelessly outdated and silly.

But there is an ineffable power to interacting with words.

Action Castle brings this experience back to the modern gaming table. Each Action Castle adventure is a short, choose-your-own-adventure style story that one person narrates–as though he or she is the computer–while the player calls out commands in the style of text adventures (“move west”, “take wand”).

Each adventure includes directions to the “computer” about how to respond to queries, to fully replicate the experience of figuring out a text parser’s vocabulary.

As such, games tend to end very quickly, within a few minutes. You can always try again after you die, of course.

My exposure to Action Castle was a single game with a friend who’d bought a few adventures. We ran through the main adventure, “Action Castle.” It was an odd experience, to talk directly to the “computer,” wrestle with the accepted vocabulary, and ultimately die after three rooms.

It wasn’t fun in the sense of joy or happiness. It was a unique opaque puzzle. It burned itself into my memory.

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