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About the StoryWelcome to Amaranth, foreigner. The Red Prince haunts your dreams, you say? If you want to overthrow our tyrant, you’ll need to consider this whole blighted land at once.
(Castle of the Red Prince is a small text adventure with a different perspective on how locations can work in a parser game.)
Nominee, Best Use of Innovation - 2013 XYZZY Awards
Emily Short's Interactive Storytelling
The whole game... feels a bit gauzy and distant, reminiscent of Ebb and Flow of the Tide or The Guardian. There’s something intriguing and pleasurable about it, and I enjoyed seeing the experiment in IF world model, but it wasn’t a very intense or compelling experience. I am likely to remember Pacian’s other work longer.
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The game compresses space and time. It makes sure only the important plot points are left in the story, cutting out all the extraneous fat. In this way, Castle of the Red Prince offers a more cinematic game experience with only text than most AAA blockbusters.
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Old Games Italia
Altri giochi dopo Castle of the Red Prince ne hanno ripreso la tecnica delle descrizioni telescopiche, portandola in altre direzioni, però qui la vediamo implementata su un gameplay classico. E la cosa funziona molto bene, perché semplifica l'approccio al gioco e la curva di apprendimento. Al tempo stesso incide anche sull'atmosfera: eliminando i riferimenti spaziali, cambia il nostro modo di visualizzare le scene e dona al ricordo del gioco un tocco piacevolmente onirico.
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Radiator Design Blog
The mechanism in Castle of the Red Prince is this: to navigate, you don't type "north" or "south" or "w" or "e" as in most interactive fiction games. Instead, you just focalize on something -- you "x" or "examine" it. The result is a dreamlike movement as you fly around a space, the IF-equivalent of noclip mode.
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Rock, Paper, Shotgun
After two years CEJ Pacian (author of Gun Mute and Rogue of the Multiverse, if you follow parser stuff) quietly releases another perfect little piece that pushes intfic forward. What to praise? The hint system that works while you sleep? The hidden interactions? How about the dreamlike approach to movement.
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Number of Reviews: 11
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Most Helpful Member Reviews
Related reviews: C. E. J. Pacian
Don't play it if: you prefer gameplay to be accompanied by a fleshed-out story, because in narrative terms this does feel a bit incomplete.
The most memorable aspect of this game is immediately noticeable: verbs of movement are discarded in favor of an alternative mode of transportation, and EXAMINING a place is what takes you to it. What impresses me more than the coding (not that I'm a wizard, but I can make a couple of guesses at how it was done) is the manipulation of English in order to make the effect seamless.
A common flaw in descriptive writing is the provision of information that confounds the mind's natural means of acquiring that information. For instance, in an oft-quoted sequence from the novel Bronwyn: Silk and Steel, the observing character is implied to be standing some distance from the lady he is observing. But then:
"Her face had the fragrance of a gibbous moon."
The reader is confused on two counts: first, the assertion that the moon has a fragrance (which given that's located in space, is impossible); and second, that the observing character can smell her face - specifically - from more than arm's length. In Silk and Steel, this is just poor writing. In Castle of the Red Prince, though, it's twisted into a means of travel. Essentially, examining locations from a distance will often bridge the spatial gap by simply beginning to provide information that would be unavailable from your original location. Coding aside, it's a fascinating linguistic trick.
(I should mention that this gimmick plays havoc with your ability to appreciate the relative locations of things, but given the small size of this world it's not really a major drawback.)
What's also interesting about this device is that it's left ambiguous to what degree this travel is simply a novel description of normal movement, and to what degree it's a form of sorcery available to the player character. This also leads into a minor disappointment I experienced: the player character has a sort of ambiguity which is suggestive of depth, but that depth is never really exploited. I mean, in theory the PC's dreams are being haunted by this Red Prince, but it's not used for much more than a basic motivator to tell the player what they're doing in the game. The Red Prince's rather blase attitude to your machinations, couple with the contents of a certain book, made me think that the PC was the Red Prince's son, or that the Red Prince had some sort of personal role in the PC's dreams and backstory. None of this appeared to be true, which is a bit of a shame.
The point is not to judge Castle by the arbitrary standards of my personal imaginary alternate universe for this game, but to point out that this game ignited my curiosity in a way it wasn't prepared to engage. In fact, the story itself is not particularly engaging, lacking much in the way of twists. The titular antagonist knows what you're doing from quite early on, but he'll be damned if he expends any energy on trying to actually stop you - and speaking here as a reader rather than a game-player, seeing that sort of thing feels like it's the story itself expressing this attitude to me (though I'm hardly going to go about accusing the author of laziness). Victor Gjisbers's The Baron might have been fairly unremarkable gameplay-wise but it made better use of a similar sort of premise.
On the whole, then, I have to agree with previous comments that this is a better experiment than a game. It's not that it's a bad game, it's just that what actually happens in it is barely enough to fill a two-page short story.
It's a very simple, not particularly complicated plot, but this game mechanic places your focus on examining everything. The prose is simple, direct, and well-written without florid verbosity. This gives CASTLE OF THE RED PRINCE's player and PC a refreshingly objective perspective on the actual goings-on. Who cares about directions when you needn't even bother with walls? You can go right to the Red Prince and stab him in the face. It won't work...but that's the game.
I find myself sometimes with very little patience for some IF. This one was direct enough to grab and hold me to completion. I did cheat by sleeping a lot, which essentially hands you as many next steps as you need to get you back on the right path. It took me about a half an hour, but it can be played longer (perhaps like a crossword puzzle for very experienced if-readers) if you avoid sleeping and figure it all out yourself.
I encountered only one place where I struggled with the parser and implementation: (Spoiler - click to show)In my dream I knew I had to place dynamite in the cave at the castle's weak foundation point. I was skimming the list of steps provided in the dreams perfunctorily, and I spent a while trying to PUT DYNAMITE ON FOUNDATION. The foundation is a container, not a supporter. True, the hint steps spelled this out, but I thought "on" was reasonable for placing dynamite on what I pictured as a timber beam.
Yes, it's short and yes, it has all kinds of potential in a larger game. I could see this approach being taken to tell an epic with the breadth of ZORK or STAR WARS or A GAME OF THRONES within the manageable size of a Infocom-ish length work.
It is short. It is simple. It is seamless.
The premise is not revolutionary. You have come to a forested land to overthrow an evil prince who lives inside a castle on a cliff. There is a haunted graveyard. There is a village inn. The barkeep has gossip and ale to dispense.
These are all staples in the fantasy genre. This game reminds you why. Here, they have been pared down to achieve purity. And by allowing the player to travel anywhere spontaneously just by "examining" an object or location, the game streamlines the story, letting it slip down so smoothly that it's delicious.
If you want complex puzzles, or difficult moral choices interwoven into the gameplay, or deep characterization, then this game will no doubt disappoint. But if you want a classic fantasy scenario executed superbly, look no further.
See All 11 Member Reviews
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Recommended ListsCastle of the Red Prince appears in the following Recommended Lists:
2013 XYZZY Awards Nominees by Molly
Here are the nominees for the 2013 XYZZY Awards, roughly by order of appearance on the finalist page. Note that this list does not cover the Best Technological Development Award.
PollsThe following polls include votes for Castle of the Red Prince:
Lost Pig type puzzle complexity by Mostly Useless
I haven't played a lot of IF, as I'm often put off by what are (for me) difficult puzzles. Without doubt the most satisfaction I've had from finishing a game has been Admiral Jota's Lost Pig, and I would love to hear about other games...
For Your Consideration: Games from 2013 that should be nominated for the XYZZY Awards by Molly
There were a lot of great games released in 2013, and now that the XYZZYs are coming up, it seems like a very good idea to take a poll of all the games from last year people would like to see nominated. The management has asked that we...
Games for Beginners by WriterBob
I'm looking for games that are suited for adults who are new to IF. My purpose is to share these games with friends and let them get experience IF without being frustrated by mazes or guess-the-verb issues. Please avoid children's games....
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