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Yon Astounding Castle! of Some Sort Reviews
Author: Tiberius Thingamus
Date: 2009
ADRIFT 3.9


Reviewed by Philip Armstrong

What a surprise! Yon Astounding Castle! of some sort by Tiberius Thingamus may not be the best game in the competition, or the most original, or best designed, but it might just go down as my favorite.

Yon Astounding Castle!, like Spelunkers Quest, is another treasure hunt in a cave castle. However, it proves that, with a little stylistic flair, the genre isnít imaginatively bankrupt. The game is about a generic adventure fellow who is searching an abandoned castle for ten magical treasures. What sets the game apart from other treasure hunts is its wonderful, clever writing. The game opens as such:


Outside Yon Castle

Ye standeth at ye edge of ye forest outside yon castle, which is surrounded by yon moat. Yon drawbridge in ye east is up, preventing ye entry into yon castle. Nearby there groweth yon nut tree.

Yes, the entire game is written in this faux medieval style. Some people may be turned off by this or find it annoying. It never bothered me. Mostly because ďyonĒ is a intrinsically funny word. I though the writing was quite clever. For example, yon nut tree is described as ďtall and nutful,Ē and when trying to examine the treeís nut you are asked ďPlease be more clear, what do ye want to examine? Ye nut or yon nuts?Ē I love that ye and yon are item adjectives.

I also liked that Thingamus drops out of the fake style from time to time. It gives the game an irrevent feel that I enjoyed.


> w

That would taketh ye away from yon castle. Besides, yon forest hath poison ivy & poison ivy-like plants, and ye wanteth not to risketh getting that. Also, wolves. And, like, monsters.

This irreverential tone extends in the gameplay. The game can be beaten at any point by simply typing ďwin.Ē There are ten different endings available depending on how many treasure you have when you ďwin.Ē For example, winning with no treasures getís you the following:

Ye returneth from yon castle empty-handed and quite disappointed with yeself.

Ye spendeth ye rest of ye life complaining and picking at ye scabs for leisure. When ye hath time away from that, ye filleth in for ye lad who licketh yon stamps for ye living when he falleth ill from yon stamp poisoning. Ye doth not lasteth very long, and soon perisheth from ye lack of sustenance & sustenance-type things.

Congratulations!

Whatís more, each ending plays on the previous one. When you win with one treasure youíre told how you rose to the position of permanent stamp licker. The continuity in the endings adds a nice little narrative to what is largely, though not entirely, a plotless game. The game has some nice puzzles, though they are of the sort where your traversing back and forth across the map to get items to solve other puzzles to get items. My favorite was one where you have to use magic glasses to examine a thing so closely you see the one pixel thatís out of place.

Yon Astounding Castle! is a wonderful burrito of a game. Itís well made with good, if old-fashioned, puzzles wrapped in a fun old english tortilla and smothered with a heaping of irrevernce. Highly recommended.
 


Reviewed by Conrad Cook

Mm, okay. When I double-click to start this game, I get five error dialogue boxes, and Adrift fails to load the game. Then when I go through the menu system, Adrift loads it fine.

I have a problem with Adrift. Largely due to smouldering resentment at the bugginess an earlier version introduced to my Comp entry of last year.

(I wonder if Emily Short, Victor G. and all those real IF writers who are boycotting un-beta-tested games will play this one. It lists no beta testers, but it runs pretty smoothly; at least, in the Windows version of Adrift.)
Yon Astounding Castle! of some sort is a fine game on the classic Zorklike game model. You go around taking items and doing things with them, collecting treasure, and manipulating devices and magic items, gradually upping your score and gaining access to new rooms, until you win.

The tone is what makes YACoss unique. Really the title says it all. The game is written in faux-Middle English, with much silliness in the way it presents the Dungeons-and-Dragons bent of the game.

And, artistically, this choice of tone is a good one: Rather than hide the inherent silliness of the RPG thing, the author features it.

I got stuck ó yes, even YACoss is apparently beyond me ó and the walkthrough is in an MS Word .doc file, which irritated me.

I got stuck because I didnít notice an exit in one of the rooms ó typing EXITS would have forestalled this ó and eventually resorted to the walkthrough. I almost gave up on the game, but decided that would be lazy.

This is a very courteous game, with in-game hints offered when you EXAMINE things. Maybe too much. But it really does make up for the minor irritations and lamenesses of a Zork-type game in its style. I mean:

> X DEVICE
Lo, ítis yon device for ye resizing of all manner of belts & belt-like things. If ye wisheth to resizeth ye belt with yon device, ye could placeth ye belt upon yon device and pulleth upon yon belt resizing lever. Ye magic belt and ye resizing wheel cronkle are on yon belt resizing device.

>PULLETH UPON LEVER
Ye pulleth upon ye lever and yon belt resizer doth yon thing which is itsĖ that is, it doth practition or thereby executheth yon method which thereby reduceth ye magic belt by one size.

Öand yet, for all this the game is entertaining without actually being fun. I have the converse complaint of the one I leveled against _Earl Grey_: thereís not enough story.

It seems that because this is a Zorklike game, the silliness of the narrative voice, while entertaining, creates too much distance for me care about it, qua game.

I remember once, as a grown-up, I tried playing one of these combat-based battle RPGs ó _Warhammer_, or something. And it left me cold. And I looked around at the other guys at the table, and they were all into it: they stared at the game table with these spaced-out looks, really putting themselves into that world.

Afterward, someone very close to me, whose husband was in the game, asked if Iíd enjoyed it. And I told her, ďYeah, it was okay. I mean, itís basically toy soldiers.Ē When you canít get into a game like that, you spend your time watching whatís actually going on ó watching the other people play the game, and going through the motions yourself.

Thatís where I was with Yon Astounding Castle! of some sort. The problem here was the the very cleverness and entertainingness of the writerís narrative voice drew me into that emotional space; and the emotional space the writer wrote the game from was too much a reflection on Zorklike games, very much outside the emotional zone of the game-world itself.

For this to have worked as a game, the writer would have needed to bring his considerable writing skill to bear on making the game-world vivid, lively, and emotionally meaningful to the player. Instead, there was so much meta-humor, and what was going on in the game-story itself was unremarkable enough, that it popped me out of the game.

(I greatly liked the part with the gnome, tho. And you get the idea the author would be very cool to hang out with.)

This game will probably score high in the IF Comp: around an 8. Thatís simply because itís so well done, and it so follows the rules and conventions of classic IF, that nobody will want to rate it lower. And, frankly, it well deserves a high rating. But the author needs to learn to create an emotional investment in the substance of the game, and I suspect that would begin with him finding a story that he himself feels emotionally invested in.
 


Reviewed by Renee Choba

Hey! How did the author get Stephen Hawking to read the intro?

The good: there's a squirrel. And some decent puzzles. And a Book of Wisdom that gives appropriate hints.

The bad: all the ye-ing and yon-ing and -eth-ing started to wear on me quickly, and made figuring out what I had to do unnecessarily difficult.

The really good: when you wanteth to win, you can typeth "win". Which I did after a while, becoming a stamp licker with a shrine devoted to my one treasure. I was content with that.

The game never quite went from amusing to all out funny for me. And I guess I'm just not much of a quest-y type of person. But if you are into this style, there seems to be a decent solve-some-puzzles, beat-the-wizard sort of game here.
 


Reviewed by Shane Fitzgerald-Gale

Yon Astounding Castle. Iíve heard tell of ye!

Oh dear, i see itís written with Adrift. And in Olde Worlde English too. Joy of joys. How lucky am i? Canít say iím looking forward to it. But then, who knows? Maybe itíll surprise me. So, on with the raping and pillaging.

Good morrow yon feisty wench. <nudge nudge, wink wink>

Oh, and work was shit, thanks for asking.

I confess, i didnít give this one the time it deserved(huh!?!). No, i gave it a lot more time than it deserved. Oh, that was harsh. I regret it already. Especially since i spent all of 10 mins on it. I donít know whether it was the headache brought on by the Olde Worlde English stuff(although it couldnít have helped), or the fact that itís clearly a faux medieval type thing or maybe just the fact that i simply wasnít in the mood for this kind of nonsense today, but i just couldnít bring myself to go any further at the moment(and i hadnít got far).

<sigh>

Alright, what iím going to do is this. Iíll hold off on a rating until iíve played all the rest, and then, and only if i get time before the voting, iíll return to it and see if i can face it. Who knows, maybe iíll love it. But seriously now, i just canít face it, and since this is my little universe with my little words in it, iím just gonna sayÖ oh nothing really!

Updates are highly likely for this one.
 


Reviewed by Victor Gijsbers

řis time, Ģe spoiler space is a short Inform 7 program.

"Thorns" by Victor Gijsbers

Include Unicode Character Names by Graham Nelson.

London Bridge is a room. "You have eyes for only one [unicode 254]ing: '[unicode 222]e Olde English Pubbe', right across [unicode 254]e street."


But Adrift may not have unicode support, so on to Ģe review of Yon Astounding Castle! of some sort.

I expected to hate Ģis game. ře blurb seemed pretty bad, and Ģe opening screen was even worse. See, I Ģink you can only poke fun at someĢing effectively if you understand Ģe Ģing you're poking fun at; so to make a humerous parody of old (or faux-old) English, you need to be able to write it very well. So I shuddered when I saw Ģis:


ĎTwas writ using ye olde
ADRIFT 4,
for which all rights of copy & such
doth hereforeto belongeth to
Campbell Wild


Ye First Version
released upon ye
Twenty-Ninth of September in ye
Ninth Year of ye
Second Millenium
Anno Domini.

řere are so many mistakes! I Ģink "hereforeto" should be "heretofore", "doth belongeth" is evidently wrong, "Second Millenium Anno Domini" is utter nonsense, and anyway, we live in Ģe ninĢ year of Ģe Ģird millenium. řis game, I Ģought I knew, is going to be incredibly tedious.


But Ģen someĢing unexpected happened: Yon Astounding Castle started to charm me. It told me "Typeth not of ye word help, for yon message knoweth not what it talketh about.", which was a pretty funny way of dismissing Ģe standard ADRIFT help text. ře game also turned out to have a nifty "win" command.

And Ģen I typed "climb tree", which was obviously what I had to do, and Ģe game refused to understand me. So wiĢ some trepidation I typed "climbeth tree", and... yes, it worked! řat had me laughing. Okay, it's a bad joke, but at least I get to participate in Ģe bad joke.

It turns out Ģat Yon Astounding Castle! of some sort is a well-constructed and quite long dungeon romp, full of jokes Ģat are mostly pretty bad, but add up to someĢing Ģat is often really funny. ře game just keeps sending jokes at you, and at a certain point your resistance wears down and you start enjoying Ģem. ře gnome who says "Gno matter, on with ye gnext gnaming riddle." becomes funny, as does "Ye be pretty sure ye building is yon hovel of some kind, for Ďtis filled with all manner of hovelry." řen Ģere are Ģe footnotes, Ģe weird chain of -akeries, Ģe intricate machine wiĢ its intricacies, and so on... noĢing here is going to win a best joke contest, but again, Ģe overall effect is not just zany or wacky, but genuinely funny.

ře puzzles are good (Ģough a few seemed too difficult, such as Ģe one wiĢ Ģe magic cupboards), Ģe implementation is good and polished, especially for an ADRIFT game, and all in all, playing Ģis was a very enjoyable experience.

It is, of course, not doing anyĢing interesting wiĢ plot, narrative, interactivity; it is simply a treasure hunt wiĢ an evil wizard added for extra special effects. It won't move you, it's not art. But if you are looking for entertainment, Yon Astounding castle! of some sort gives you a lot more Ģan you might expect from Ģe title.


Reviewed by Jenni Polodna (Pissy Little Sausages)

Yeah, this looks like a goofy one. These always worry me, sinceÖ well, letís get this right out in the open: Wackiness is not, by itself, funny. Yes, a great many genuinely funny things exist that are off-beat or surreal or charmingly zany, but you cannot merely show up in a pair of oversized lederhosen and a hat that makes you look as though your whole body is being laid by a chicken and expect the surrounding aether to crystallize into a rich pure vein of actual funny, because it wonít, and everyone will feel sort of uncomfortable and sad for you.

Not that Tiberius Thingamusí Yon Astounding Castle! of some sort is going to be this sort of game, necessarily. It might turn out to be silly, which is highly preferable to wacky. I will give it twelve million points if it turns out to be a Kierkegaard-inspired Gothic cybernoir with an anti-hero protagonist done in minimalist prose.

I never know how big this RSS buffer is supposed to be. One more paragraph, I think, should do it. Haagen-Dazs Five ice cream is delicious. The texture alone makes me wonder if this is a thing mere mortals were ever intended to consume. What act of good have I done in my life that I should be allowed to purchase a tub of this exquisite manna for like three flipping dollars? I have cured no diseases. I have saved no curly-headed children from horrible deaths. There is no way I can be worthy.

Seriously, though, itís really good.

Mostly Spoiler-Free Upshot: The forced-wackiness levels in this game were much lower than Iíd been expecting, but every instance of the words ďthe,Ē ďyou,Ē and maybe a couple others, has been replaced with the word ďye.Ē This. Gets. Old. And thereís something about the green-on-black text that gives me a headache, and Iím not sure youíre even allowed to use the word ďyonselfĒ to mean ďitself,Ē Iím not completely convinced ďyonselfĒ is even a word, andÖ yeah.

The game under the irritating candy shell, though, is a perfectly serviceable, if not particularly challenging, old-school puzzler, and I encountered no bugs or typoes (granted, I was trying to read each sentence without actually looking at it), which by itself probably puts this game in the top sixty percent. Also, I chuckled a few times, and no one actually died. So, yíknow, not bad.

[spoilers start here]

Well, I am yon temporary licker of stamps and I do possess no units of treasure or treasur. Iíd say it could go either way from here.

Ye standeth at ye edge of ye forest outside yon castle, which is surrounded by yon moat.
Oh, God, the entire thing is in faux-medieval. Wait, what am I complaining about? The last game I played was primarily in German. I can probably sort of read faux-medieval. I hope thereís a ye flask somewhere I canít get.

Yon tree is tall and nutful.
Ye better believeth it.

In yon courtyard appeareth to be yon weird squirrel.
I would opine that squirrels, ducks, and bunnies are, if not the top three most frequently chosen animals for vehicles of wackiness, at least in the top ten.

This seemeth like ye right time to mentioneth yon mandatory warning that ye should examineth evírything which ye doth see in ye room description. Or else ítis quite possibly too late, but ye should hath figured as much.
Ah, playing by Infocom rules, are we? I see how it is.

Ye examineth ye greenery-like thing(s), and figureth ítis basically like ye greenery, only more thing-like.
Okay, I chuckled.

(for, lo, ye sense of hallness is strong in this one)
And here I rolled my eyes.

Oh, God, ye Evil Blizzard King hath spake ye curse of bad spakery upon ye kingdom. ďHath spake ye curse of bad spakeryĒ as a phrase makes me want to perform an unspecified violence upon an unspecified personís unspecified bits.

ďYe stoppeth before ye pulleth yon ligaments in ye back or somethingĒ made me giggle, though, possibly because the base sentence under the ye-oldes was modern and colloquial enough for the contrast to work. Itís fun to speculate about this stuff, but itís not getting me any treasure (or treasur), dammit.

I like that the Booke of Wisdom gives room-specific hints when you read it. Thatís neat.

So, okay, looks like what weíve got here is a puzzler of the tascade variety (you need to open door A with key B, which is in box C, which opens with crowbar D, which was eaten by monster E, and can be removed with stomach pump F, etc.), and while the green-on-black type combined with ye olde Englyshe is starting to get to me, itís not un-fun, as these things go.

Furniture objects donít seem to be movable, or at least I havenít found one yet that is. This strikes me as odd for this type of game, where generally thereís a thing under the thing and you move the thing and lo, thereís the thing. Or, yíknow, whatever.

Oh, good, a gnome to ask me riddles I know the answers to! Itís a nice change from ďexamine every object in the room description, then do the logical thing.Ē

ďGack!Ē Ye gnome throweth ye tiny tantrum. ďI hateth yon envelopes!["]

Oh, man, he wants to know if I know the name of the first ever monkey to survive a rocket flight. I certainly hope Iím not expected to not google.

What are these puzzle footnotes Iím supposed to see and where do I see them?

To ye south of ye cakery lieth ye more mundane bakery and to ye east is ye dakery.
Okay, thatís sort of funny. I think. Itís possible I donít ye even ye know ye anyemore. I kind ofÖ want to lie down, actually.

Yeah. Yeah. I think Iím done.


Reviewed by Jake Wildstrom

I expect wacky. I expect awful, anachronistic Ye Olde Englysh. I expect an uncooperative parser, since it's ADRIFT. I am immediately not-disappointed on the first two fronts. And the third isn't long in coming, as the game accepts "UP", but not "CLIMB TREE" in the first room.

The writing starts to grate pretty quickly. Ye Olde Englysh is bad enough (particularly with the completely arbitrary use of "ye" and "yon"; I don't think there's any typographical convention in early Modern English using "ye" as a synonym for "your"), but the overuse of the "X and X-like things" construction gets tedious too. I eventually managed to get the game in an unwinnable state and didn't much care, because I'd found this simultaneously way too precious and not precious in particularly entertaining ways.

Plotwise, this game is fairly relentlessly old-fashioned. It's a magpielike treasure hunt, involving a bunch of locked doors, monsters to defeat, riddles, and suchlike. It's actually other than its own stale whimsy a fairly standard exemplar of this type, and, for what it is, on this front, is not all that bad.

The author of this one is presumably competent and has some good ideas, so I'd really like to see them turn their talent to something a little less gimmicky and annoying.

Also, walkthrough in an MS Word document? Not all of us use Windows.


Reviewed by Michael Neal Tenuis

The spoiler-free summary is: If you donít let the fake Olde English put you off, youíll discover a merry, lighthearted treasure hunt. Itís quite a long game, and reasonably well implemented. Recommended, despite some flaws and a very thin plot.

(There are spoilers in the review, but only mild ones, I think. So if you havenít decided whether to play Astounding Castle and the summary above is not enough to sway you, I think you can safely read the following to get a better picture.)

In this adventure, findeth ye olde treasures from within yon castle. Maketh friends as ye oíercome meddlesome goblins! Outwitteth ye riddling gnome! Resizeth ye belts & belt-like things!
Can ye getteth all oí ye treasures & defeateth ye evil wizard?

Verily, thou hast overdone it with thy phrasing.

I suspect that the mock-archaic style will get old(e) very fast for most reviewers. It does contribute to the silly atmosphere, but the author might have achieved the amusing effect without irritating those players, if he had restrained himself and had used this stylistic device only in NPC dialogue and in the Book of Wisdom (the integrated hints). Apart from this issue, there were no glaring misspellings or grammatical errors.

Depending on oneís tolerance of (silly) puns, the writing might be found groan-inducing or hilarious. Itís not highbrow literature, but thatís not what it aimed at, and I felt it was filled with a sense of good-natured humour.

The story/plot is thinner than a Chinese lantern, but that doesnít matter too much, because the game does not pretend otherwise. Still, Iím somewhat on the fence: On the one hand, it would be nice if there was a bit more world-building or backstory (could be unobtrusively exposed in treasure descriptions, room descriptions, NPC dialogue). On the other hand, that would probably run counter to the gameís overall style, which is a deliberate mix of traditional gaming flavour and self-aware, but not self-deprecating, silliness. Adding more backstory might counteract the gameís lampooning of the treasure hunt genre and of IF conventions. The ďintricate objectĒ, for example, is clearly a parody of how some other IF games force the player to examine everything in several levels of detail. Giving the object a credible purpose within the story-world would obviously subvert the parody, and the same goes for the motley collection of treasures. To get an idea of the style, see this quote (though itís not always as self-referential as here):

>listen
Ye heareth whateíer sounds ye room description describeth, oí course.

The puzzles are mostly straightforward, sometimes allowing multiple objects for the solution. Some reminded me of the LucasArts adventures of yore. Two notable exceptions: On one occasion the ďriddling gnomeĒ turned into a trivia gnome and I had to consult Wikipedia, and on another occasion, right before the very end, thereís an instance of guess-the-noun where I had to look at the walkthrough.

I liked the ďWINĒ feature very much: You can retreat from the castle at any time with the >WIN command, whereupon youíll be presented with a short account of the rest of your life (then you can >UNDO). Your fate ranges from an early death by stamp-poisoning to a noblemanís life, and thereís a different result for each number of collected treasures, so be sure to WIN and UNDO when you gain a new treasure. Itís a nice touch that even in the high-ranking outcomes youíll always see some drawbacks and some lingering doubts about the other lives you could have had ó rather realistic!

Astounding Castle is quite long. When I noticed that I had hit the 2-hour-mark, I wrote down my judgment (which is, roughly: ďquite goodĒ[*]), after which I still needed more than an hour to get to the end. In this phase, the game suffers from long walks to and fro, which are exacerbated by a slightly unintuitive geographical layout (If you draw the typical grid-map, youíll get crossing paths, like this: When, from room X, you go N. E. S. W, you are not in room X again). Thereís also a maze, which didnít add much except a pinch of old-school flavour.

I played & finished the game in Gargoyle because of the beautiful typography, and when I later opened it in the original Windows Adrift interpreter, I saw that it had a pretty cover picture and even synthesized speech in the intro. I didnít check if there were other pictures.

Summary: An enjoyable, merry game if youíre in the right mood to get into the silliness. Thereís a cute squirrel, a talking flower, and an obese snake. What more could one want?


Reviewed by Sam Kabo Ashwell

I suppose that if this sort of thing amuses you, you could do worse. The game is fairly well-polished, for an ADRIFT offering. There's a hint system, appropriately retro cover art and sound, and the crappy parser isn't as obvious as usual. It is, of course, impossible to really try anything that isn't a solution, but again, ADRIFT. There is probably an audience for this, and they will not go ill-served; if you're a fan of highly old-school faux-medieval settings and over-the-top parody, it might be your thing. But I am emphatically not a member of that audience; I found it painfully tedious. 3, maybe a 2 depending on how the rest of the field shakes out.


Reviewed by Christopher Huang

The language of the game was interesting and amusing, at first, but after a while it began to be a little tiresome to read. I suspect that the object of the game is to defeat the Macguffin that has somehow magically caused the language of the world to turn pseudo-mediaeval, but I never really got that far. Truth is, the sprawl of the map undid me. I think I was wandering through a dungeon of some sort when my eyes started to glaze over.

The series of -akery rooms was amusing, though.

Another aspect of the language was the way in which the game would frequently append a qualifier -- "of some sort", "or something" and so on -- which I did not feel added anything to the game experience. If anything, it was distracting. A little of that in the beginning, that might perhaps have been sufficient, but it was too much. It gave the impression of being rather too self-deprecating, too lacking in self-respect.

As a breakfast, this would be crusty bread (slightly stale) and cheese, with a glass of milk. No wait, that's yoghurt.

 


Reviewed by Amanda Lange

It kinda makes my head hurt.

It's all ye and yon and stuff.

Hm, I wonder...


>get ye flask

Taketh what?


Dammit! Oh well. Actual probable spoilers below.

I didn't get all the way through this one in the time alloted, at least not to get what I assume the best ending would be. I suspect actually figuring out how to do so would take longer, though I'm also a little distractable today.

I actually like the general atmosphere of this and the puzzles are forgiving and solvable. I dig that I can 'win' at any time for a different ending, and tried this a few times (including as the first command, I confess, though that's obviously not much of a win).

The in-game hint book isn't really terribly helpful. It seems to tell me mostly what I need to do, but not how to do it, in situations where the former is obvious and the latter is not.

I took off my headphones because the game talks, in a text-to-speech voice that grates on you pretty fast. I can't think of any way reading, or even writing, text in this faux-olde-tymy language would actually be fun. I get that it's meant to be humorous but it kind of isn't, particularly in the painting room which made my eyes glaze totally over. I get the feeling like the author was going for something here, but the end result is he probably put a ton of potentially annoying effort on his end in to something equally annoying on the user end. The one thing that's good about the faux-old-English is it makes the game stand out, since the plot of the game, such as it is, might not otherwise.

I did find one outright error where it says something is south but it's actually east. I like that I can use 'exits' to verify this.

There's a goblin about halfway in who steals from your pouch. There's probably a way to get my treasure back from the goblin, but I never found it. I just avoided him as much as I could, and hit 'undo' any time he stole anything, since this appeared to happen completely at random. Since this works just fine and actually prevents my stuff getting stolen I have to declare the whole goblin thief thing a bit poorly thought-out.

Probably the worst idea in the game is having the gnome riddler ask a trivia question that the average person won't know the answer to. The in-game hints say to look on Wikipedia, but since the answer as phrased on Wikipedia is a bit confusing I had to do the riddle section five times before I made the right guess. This is doubled in annoying-ness by the fact that it's the last riddle and you have to re-enter all your answers for the previous riddles beforehand. This is tripled in annoying-ness by the simple fact that... anyone can edit Wikipedia. Yes, I understand that its scientific articles are reasonably accurate due to massive policing, but I might be playing Yon Astounding Castle the one day a troll from 4chan decides to change the answer to "Goku." You just don't know.

So, um, bottom-line is a lot of things in this are ill-conceived but it had an OK flow overall and enough content to keep my interest. Most puzzles were reasonably clued. There's just some stuff I would've done differently.


Reviewed by Michael Martin.

Arrrgh, argh argh argh argh argh.

If we're going to write in Ye Olde Butchered Englishe, could we maybe butcher it with a sharper cleaver?

Your target for mimicry is Early Modern English, with maybe a few extra archaisms thrown in. We have lots of very good text in that dialect and it's all freely available. You don't have to get everything right as long as you get the feeling right. Hie ye to some primary sources and get that voice running in the back of your head.
Not directed at the author here, but please, nobody ever make an IF in Middle English. The parser alone could probably achieve sentience and destroy humanity to deal with all the chaotic spelling.
You should also learns to conjugates verbs; if you puts everything in the third person singular, it will drives everyone who reads it up Ye Olde Walle if they has even the most basic familiarity with the dialect, which everyone who's graduated from high school basically has achieves. (Seriously. See how annoying that is? "I" and all plurals use the basic verb stem, while thou gets -(e)st and he/she/it gets -(e)th. It's not hard to fake! The wiki article has a few more basic rules that make it read even more cleanly.)
Furthermore, "yon" does not mean "a"; it means "that, except further away" and in fact survives to this day, somewhat in Modern English. (It's also similar to the Spanish aquťl or the Japanese ano.) This means, among other things, that when you climb yon tree it stops being yon tree and starts being this tree. If you have climbed the tree, the tree is not, if you will, anymore located over yonder.
This is less "you're doing it wrong" and more "this made me sad", but I'm including it anyway; the parser is familiar enough with the player that it's OK to thou them. Just remember that thou/thy/thee works like I/my/me and you're fine. Ye/your/you is also OK (which you did, except for using ye instead of you) but (a) it's less Ye Olde because it conjugates just like modern English, (b) it's kind of formal, and (c) if you are doing the Ye as in Ye Olde as well, where printers used 'y' because they didn't have 'Ģ' or 'ū', it produces a name collision. Especially since 'ye' as in second person formal/plural is pronounced as in "Hear Ye", as written, but "ye" as in "ye olde" is supposed to be pronounced with a voiced 'th' as in our modern 'the'. Sorting it out is work, and so we all win if you just thou us.
A high point, though: older dialects of English were a whole lot freer with "-ship" and "-ful" and "un-" and "-like" and such, so your early inclusion of a chestnut tree standing nutfully in the courtyard was an excellent move.
Deep breath.

Butchery aside (though it was huge enough to damage my enjoyment significantly), this is a perfectly acceptable silly treasure hunt. Even the riddles were fair, except for the last one, which asks a trivia question about 20th century history and prefaces it with "Do ye know". The 20th Century won't be for hundreds of years; "NO" should totally have been acceptable answer.

Conclusion: If you can get past the butchery, sure, why not. It's better than Thy Dungeonman by a wide margin, and there is in fact a game here.
 


Reviewed by Mike Snyder

Preconceptions:
I wonder if the author has heard of Thy Dungeonman? Is this going to be a serious attempt at humor, a parody of a parody, or just a joke entry? It seems like Iíve stumbled on mentions of this game looking for other reviews (and at this point, it seems impossible to avoid), but I donít remember any of it being favorable. I guess Iím starting this one with very low expectations.

Review Summary:
Although it could be a very decent (if generic) puzzle-fest, the purposely clunky way in which it lampoons Old English parody text makes it too much a chore to read and play. Itís also a bit on the long side for an IFComp entry.

Played: 10/19/2009 for 1 hour and 45 minutes.
Score: 6 (Limited Appeal)
Transcript: here

I didnít play this through to completion, and so I donít feel qualified to fully review it. From the looks of things, I finished maybe half of it, into an underground portion where I made some progress but had to start relying more and more on the built-in hint (the book of wisdom) and even the walkthrough. Even with a ďspeedyĒ version of the walkthrough available and fifteen minutes to spare, it just doesnít seem worth it.

The disappointing thing is that nothing is wrong with a good old-fashioned fantasy puzzle-fest. Itís certainly not everybodyís cup of tea, but I kind of like games that are put together the way this one is. It has things to find, puzzles to solve, areas blocked off until further progress is made, a throw-away plot thatís at least interesting enough to justify the puzzles and draw it all together. Itís even competently coded, and didnít exhibit many of the quirks Iíve come to associate with Adrift games. Part of this may be because I played entirely using Scare (in Gargoyle), but a bigger part is probably that the author has done a pretty good job writing a solid, working game.

So what went wrong?

It must be-ith all yon faux-Olde-English-ization of thy every sentence or sentence-like thing. Makeseth it hard tí readeth or something of some sort.

I donít often feel awful for being less impressed by a game than it probably deserves, but here, I do. The author put so much effort into this. Itís not hastily thrown together. Itís not buggy and simple. Sure, itís a generic puzzle fantasy treasure collection quest, but it could have been a good one, akin to The Colour Pink. Itís as though the author sabotaged his own work, thoroughly and irreversibly. The protagonist comes across as a complete moron, and not in the loveable Lost Pig sort of way (which is even worse, because the player is described as being the protagonist).

As absurd and familiar as the gameís premise may be, it also shows cleverness and originality. For instance, the spiral section (w, n, e, s, repeat) with rooms all rhyming with ďbakeryĒ was sort of charming. A room description spewing P-words must have been difficult to construct, but ultimately itís just hard to comprehend and a chore to visualize. I felt the gnomeís riddles were a little easier to solve (possibly because I was using the book of wisdom and hadnít yet realized it was actually a cheat) than however many entries so far this year have had riddles, but the one requiring Wikipedia sort of broke the illusion.

Thatís about all the non-reviewery-type things I have to say. Iíve rated it a ď5Ē Ė passable Ė which means this on the Game Informer scale: ďIt may be obvious that the game has lots of potential, but its most engaging features could be undeniably flawed or not integrated into the experience.Ē While the writing style is very much integrated into the experience, I donít know if the game would have been worlds better without it, or if it would have been just another generic puzzly fantasy treasure hunt. Iím disappointed (in myself, if not the game) for giving up before completing it. Still, it must say something meaningful when even a person who has suffered through far worse in this and other IFComps would choose to quit.

Update: Upon further reflection, Iím bumping the score up to a ď6.Ē Enough good is here, and (whether liked or disliked) the text style is thorough and never lets up, that it deserves more credit than I initially gave. It is a recommendable game (especially if played at leisure, without feeling the pressure of a two-hour voting limit), although itís not going to be the right choice for everyone.

 


Reviewed by George Oliver

The amazing thing about this game is I stuck with it -- even after the totally unclued up exit in the hovel, looking something up in Wikipedia (?!), and the random apply this to that sort of thing going on here. Regardless YAC is unabashedly what it is, and pulled off with a style and unity most games don't come close to. Still it was far too much of this sort of thing for me to stick with it; I quit after about an hour when the goblin stole my treasure and peeked at the walkthrough. I'll come back to this on a rainy afternoon. I don't know why but I had fun playing this game.

Execution: 8. Despite the random difficulty and some minor typos this is really well put together in my opinion.

Creativity: 8. The work of a fertile mind.

WTF!?: 7. This gets points for the Olde Englishe (which isn't random as far as I can tell -- there is a curse of spakery after all).

Score: 7.6
 


Reviewed by Shane Fitzgerald-Gale

Yon Astounding Castle. Iíve heard tell of ye!

Oh dear, i see itís written with Adrift. And in Olde Worlde English too. Joy of joys. How lucky am i? Canít say iím looking forward to it. But then, who knows? Maybe itíll surprise me. So, on with the raping and pillaging.

Good morrow yon feisty wench. <nudge nudge, wink wink>

Oh, and work was shit, thanks for asking.

I confess, i didnít give this one the time it deserved(huh!?!). No, i gave it a lot more time than it deserved. Oh, that was harsh. I regret it already. Especially since i spent all of 10 mins on it. I donít know whether it was the headache brought on by the Olde Worlde English stuff(although it couldnít have helped), or the fact that itís clearly a faux medieval type thing or maybe just the fact that i simply wasnít in the mood for this kind of nonsense today, but i just couldnít bring myself to go any further at the moment(and i hadnít got far).

<sigh>

Alright, what iím going to do is this. Iíll hold off on a rating until iíve played all the rest, and then, and only if i get time before the voting, iíll return to it and see if i can face it. Who knows, maybe iíll love it. But seriously now, i just canít face it, and since this is my little universe with my little words in it, iím just gonna sayÖ oh nothing really!

Updates are highly likely for this one.

 


Reviewed by Shane Fitzgerald-Gale


Ya know, i really donít know my own mind on this one.

I want to like it, i really do, but find it extremely annoying. I think it wants to give me a good time but just, well thereís no other way to put it, it annoys me. It also wants me to explore and enjoy and laugh and, yes, yes iíve done all those things.

But itís damned bloody annoying.

It just sodding IS.


So even though i hate it(i donít, i love it) and iím pretty sure it hates me too(no, no it loves me), it would not be fair to Not Rate this one. Itís hateful, and yet sweet and endearing. It wants to cuddle me to death and yet desires nothing more than to watch me die slowly and painfully while i look lovingly into itís big, beautiful eyes. And i find i want to kiss it and cuddle it and, andÖ hell, i dunno!

But itís so very sweet and so very, very fluffy. And there are so few truly sweet AND fluffy things left in life.

I think i like it.

I do, i do. I really like it.

Iím Ďa give it a big, big score. Just because itís so hatefully lovable.

Well done (i think).

This has been a non-review of Yon Astounding Castle.


Reviewed by Rob Menke

Technical: 9
Puzzles: 7
Story: 9

SCARE problems again. It gives me no end of trouble. Each Adrift game seems to be tailor-made for a specific interpreter, and crashes all others. This game is no exception. Granted, this is an anecdotal problem ó not a technical one on the part of the author.

Cute introduction.

OK, what was cute is now bordering on the annoying.

Well, at least the first bang-youíre-dead gave me an explicit warning.

OK, being the grammar nazi I am, the horrible misuse of ďyeĒ (second person plural, equivalent to German ďihrĒ and the modern American ďyíallĒ) is really annoying. Unless I have a tapeworm that I do not know aboutÖ

Gonna need a bigger mapÖ

Looks like only the six cardinal directions work here.

Iím no longer annoyed by the language. Iím annoyed by the number of times Iíve had to go across the entire mapÖ

Not much more to complain about. Generally fun to this point.

This was a cute game, but a bit long for a competition entry. Still, the parts I successfully explored were clever. The stilted writing style was annoying at first, but I adjusted. (I had the same problem with Lost Pig when I first played it.) The silver keys were a nuisance. The occasional find-x-use-x puzzle is welcome, but the sheer number of places that keys could be hidden was ridiculous. Also, a lot of the puzzles involved crossing vast distances: this was a problem I had with Zork Zero too: the map was too big and many rooms existed for no reason but to add atmosphere and/or annoy the player. The second make item puzzle (which required me to scan the walkthru) seemed a little too complex. Surprised there werenít any complaints during playtesting.

Best of the lot so far, but thatís faint praise.
 



Reviewed by Nate Dovel

I loved Zork. I don't remember how I discovered it, since I am obviously far too young and handsome to have encountered the game in its original era. But one day, my directionless Internet escapades stumbled across The Great Underground Empire, and I was enthralled. It was random, silly, treasure-hunting goodness, the perfect salve for my exploration itch. A quick trigger finger was unnecessary, thank goodness, and for once, my creative vocabulary came in handy, because that parser certainly wasn't doing me any favors. I will never forget that experience.

But folks. Honestly. No more Zork-era tribute games. Please. The Thy Dungeonman series did it best; the rest I've experienced are amateurish and dull. Think outside the box, for Lord Flathead's sake. Case in point: Yon Astounding Castle takes all the tropes of the genre, removes their charm, and then makes it as inaccessible as possible for the unfamiliar, modern player.

I started out hopeful. The tutorial was a decent, if fairly standard, introduction to the genre. The amusing cover art was a nostalgic callback to the simpler times of computerized gaming. The title is read aloud by everyone's favorite intentionally unrealistic computer voice, a la Stephen Hawking. But it quickly dawns on you just how much improperly used old English this game relies on, presumably for laughs. The kind of turkey-leg-vendor-at-the-Renaissance-Fair medieval humor you would use if you were slightly tipsy and joking with your friends, lots of "yon"s and words ending in "-eth". Certainly not historically accurate, but not even cutely mangled, as Thy Dungeonman does so well. The author's comedic precision is roughly equivalent to a shotgun aiming for a penny on top of a bulk-store jar of mayonnaise at one-and-a-half paces.

I can't overstate how unreadable this game is. The word "ye" is used interchangeably for "you", "your", and "the", and is often jarringly shoved into a sentence five or six times. For some reason, the author finds it hilarious to incessantly vacillate on the simple naming of objects, such as saying "You see here a table or some table-like object" or- I kid you not- referring to "travelers and/or traveler-type people and/or objects." Even the walkthrough gave me a headache, when I inevitably had to use it or risk inflicting blunt-force trauma on my innocent laptop. Note to authors: A good walkthrough is not a repetitive and abbreviated list of the fewest possible commands it takes to win with a complete lack of specific game context. It should be a massage, a relaxing experience prior to returning to the harsh world, or in this case, the frustrating game.

The story, naturally, is non-existent. You have no name, background, or goal except the acquisition of treasure, nor does your environment or the people you encounter. In this, at least, it accurately emulates Zork's one flaw, the one we all forgive because it was so fun the first time. You are just plunked down in front of a castle, and never even really told to explore it. Exploring is just what you do in IF, right? So why bother filling in the details? People are smart, they'll create their own backstory. And no one wants multi-dimensional characterization, anyway- let's face it, people are stupid. The old guy is hungry. You find some oatmeal. Give it to him. We don't need to know why he's hanging around a dusty basement surrounded by poisoned spikes. He just is. Man Vs. Oatmeal- that's one of the classic conflict archetypes, so by no means elaborate on that.

One or two good jokes float intact amongst the mess. Something about "ye grandma could probably beateth ye up with one hand tied behind her walker", and oh! That sequence of room names which all rhyme in a chucklicious way. I hope you enjoy those monkeyshines, player; you'll be rereading them constantly as you trek back and forth through the same rooms, because the in-game teleport feature meant to lance that proverbial zit or zit-type thing is completely glitched. I guess they didn't have beta-testers back in the day of Tiberius Thingamus, the alleged original game scribe. Or at least none without leprosy and the annoying tendency to each require different conversation parsing just to wring out the one scripted piece of dialog they contain: ">ASK BETA-TESTER ABOUT GLITCHING". "The beta-tester smiles vacantly and teleports his oatmeal into his cranium, rendering him useless, and also dead."

Zork is dead, people. All dead. Stop going through its pockets for loose change. (See what I did there? I made a reference to a niche movie instead of making my review strong enough to stand on its own without stealing the successful parts of someone else's much-beloved work of fiction. What an ass I am.)
 



Reviewed by David Fletcher

A title with an exclamation mark is usually a bad sign, and a title with an exclamation mark in the middle is probably a worse one. The awful ye olde speake in the blurb is likewise repellent.

Oh god. It is all like that.

I've seen lots of games with grammatical errors before. This is the first I've seen that was entirely composed of grammatical errors.

This is the third millenium, not the second.

Badly implemented from the start, where you have to climb a tree and "climb tree" doesn't work. Played through with the walkthrough and it doesn't appear to improve much.
 



Reviewed by George Shannon


Iíll admit it Ė I cannot get the title of this game out of my head. I read the first few paragraphs and thought, ďSeriously? Seriously? Youíre brave, game. Youíre very brave.Ē And somehow I enjoyed the faux-medieval romance voice the whole time I played it. I know some people hated it instantly, and I guess I canít blame them. The whole thing is better if you ham it up in your head, though. Imagine everything read by a slightly drunk Patrick Stewart. Or, possibly, a slightly drunk Patrick Stewart dressed like Don Quixote.

The game is basically a one-joke game wrapped around a old-school treasure hunt in a castle. The joke, like I said, I liked. The treasure hunt is loooong. I hit two hours and only seemed to be halfway (if number of treasures is any indication). Fortunately they were relatively active hours; there are lots of things to do. Itís just that a one-joke game wrapped around anything canít be too long.

Something I would have preferred is simply a smaller map Ė I felt like I was wandering around in random directions; the map overall just looks like a jumble with no attachment to a real place.
 



Reviewed by Dark Star

Yon Astounding Castle! of some sort. Right off the title sounds weird, and it becomes a tone used throughout the game that grates on my nerves. Hereís an example:

Ye standeth in ye castle courtyard. Bountiful greenery & greenery-like things bloometh all o'er ye place. Yon curious buildings stand at all sides of ye, except for ye west which is occupied by ye castle walls and yon drawbridge. Also, here there occupieth ye grounds yon weird squirrel.

Writing like this makes it a chore to play the game, slowing me down as I try to figure out what the author is saying. It might make sense, but it sure doesn't flow. Though I did find if you could get past this there was actually some nice writing.

I didnít play the game for long, so I canít give it a proper review, but I did find that the game relied on some ludicrous puzzles. Climbing up the chimney? I was picturing a fire cooking the stew, but with all that crazy writing it's hard to get a clear mental image. I also ran into a set of riddles, and I'm figuring everybody is going to have to turn to the walkthrough to get through those.

I scored this game a 5. I didn't get far into it so I didn't run into any technical errors, but the writing felt off and the story is clichť. There's not a lot of room for playing around, Adrift is pretty strict and there's a limited number of verbs, and everything felt empty with no real NPCs around. Strange for any castle Iíd figure. Iím sorry; I just couldnít get into it.
 


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