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Castle Wolfenstein by Muse Software (1981)
Sooooo…you think you’ve seen ALL the Castle Wolfenstein games, eh? Do you remember the one that STARTED IT ALL? Castle Wolfenstein was released by Muse Software in 1981 initially for the Apple II.
You take on the role of a prisoner whose mission is to simply escape the notorious Castle Wolfenstein. You are given a gun and bullets by a cellmate before he is put to death. Thankfully, he gives a rundown on what to do and what to look for on your journey to freedom.
The castle has multiple levels and is filled with regular Nazi guards and the harder to dispatch SS guards who wear bulletproof vests. Along the way, you can open randomly placed chests filled with all kinds of supplies, uniforms (U to use), ammo, grenades, and bulletproof vests. Other items found in chests are bratwurst, Schnapps, Liebfraumilch, and occasionally cannonballs. All worthless, and equally useless in the game. These items also do nothing for you other than provide some interesting stuff you might come across. War Plans are also something you might find, but also not essential to winning the game.
Regular Nazi guards frequent most rooms, and they can be held up or killed outright for keys, bullets, and grenades. These all come in handy as you’ll be using them all against SS guards who, if not killed, will never leave you alone, they will chase you down until they get you.
Grenades seem to be your only defense against the SS, that or a full clip of bullets. Either way, these guys are better avoided, but after a while, you’ll have no choice but to tangle with the SS wolves.
The game was pretty cool, it used early speech synthesis when you held up a Nazi or escaped a room if the bad guys were alerted to your presence (and left alive). They yell out “DU SCHWEINHUND!” and other choice German responses to different situations.
The gameplay looks very similar to the arcade game Berzerk by Stern. Leaving a room places you at the opposite end of the next room. You can move in eight directions, and also shoot in the same eight directions. I used to play with the keyboard as that seemed a little easier to control, especially aiming your gun while walking. Searching bodies and chests is simple enough; you just stand next to them and press the space bar. Opening locked doors is performed in the same way, except you need to aim at the door to unlock or open them.
A little trick I learned early on was to press the space bar when opening chests. That would cut the wait time in half.
Opening chests with grenades is not a smart idea, as you’ll kill yourself if the chest has any explosives in it.
The castle has multiple levels, so there is much exploring to do before you find the exit. If you can find an enemy uniform to disguise yourself with, all the better. It will make your life easier. Here’s a little tip! Avoid running into walls, for some reason, it makes the screen glitch out like you just blew up a Qotile from Yar’s Revenge!
I first experienced this classic Apple II game in 6th grade, 1983. One of my middle school’s math labs had a few computers. Like-minded nerdy students would use recess, or before school, to fire up their favorite (pirated) games.
The Apple machines in the school library were harder to play on. It was tough to hide the fact you were screwing around. A year later, my brother would get his own Apple IIe which for me was gaming heaven!
I have no idea how high I jumped out of my seat when an SS Guard would burst into a room where I was trying to open a chest. I would literally get a foot of air! No joke! Good times!
For the time, the game was one of the most immersive action games you could play, not to mention the grandpappy of a pretty major gaming franchise.