Castle Master is a first-person 3D adventure game set in a haunted castle, where the aim is to destroy spirits before they overwhelm you. The game uses the famous Freescape engine, which was an early 3D engine for creating polygonal environments. It was developed by Incentive Software and first published by Domark in 1990.
In Castle Master you can play as either a prince or a princess and can walk, run and crawl by pressing the W, R and C keys respectively. Unlike previous Freescape games you can’t adjust your turn or step rate, and you also can’t rotate the screen around either, but that’s okay as they aren’t really necessary in Castle Master.
To use items and to pick stuff up you use a context-sensitive action key (by pressing ‘A’). You can also throw stones by pressing the fire button. Pressing the space bar will put the game into cursor mode for targeting specific things.
Destroying spirits, when you find them, is mostly achieved by throwing stones at them. You’ll know when you encounter a spirit because the screen will flash and an alarm will sound, and your strength (represented by a set of dumb-bells on the display panel) will start to erode. In this situation you must quickly target the spirit and throw a stone at it. It’s not always obvious where the spirit is, or what it is since it can take different forms, so you must search around and locate it quickly. Sometimes a spirit can be on the floor or ceiling, so it’s a good idea to look up and down to find it. In general you need to remember where the spirits are and get rid of them as quickly as possible.
If your strength drops too low you’ll collapse when you’re too weak to walk, but you can crawl to find and eat food to heal yourself.
Other pertinent information on the panel at the bottom of the screen includes the ‘spirit level’, which shows the strength of the ghosts in the castle and must be kept low otherwise the game will end. A key rack also shows the number of keys you’re carrying (these can be listed by pressing ‘I’, then ‘K’) and a location indicator describes the current room you’re in.
While Castle Master may be too old and slow for some people there’s no denying that it is an excellent game – way ahead of its time in many respects. Once you’ve figured out what to do it’s not too difficult to make progress and exploration is atmospheric and absorbing.
The Amstrad CPC version of Castle Master is arguably the best 8-bit version around as it uses more colours than the others. The game was also developed first on the Amstrad, with other versions following afterwards. Like its other Freescape stablemates, Driller, Dark Side, and Total Eclipse, Castle Master (and its sequel, The Crypt) are among the best games on the Amstrad.