Castle 64

Castle 64 is a Nintendo 64 homebrew game developed by Manfried and released on 13 December 2020. This game has you playing as a knight navigating a maze through a castle’s dungeon. It was made for the 64brew game jam 2020 among 13 other sumbissions.

You can download the ROM and source code from the download page for this homebrew game by using the password manfiedscastle or see the source code on Github and download from Drive.

Castle 64 style, story and gameplay

The game’s overall style reminds me of a flash game from the mid to late 2000’s. It has a very high-resolution output (for an N64 game anyway) which makes the sprite’s movement and rotation feel seamless. Castle 64 has a distinct cartooney feel that keeps the game’s style simple yet inviting.

The story

Long was the war for Tericius, but at last the mighty knight was back at home. His King wanted to meet. He expected some new dangerous task to be waiting for. He also expected to meet again the princess… Had she waited for his return?

What happened to the castle? While falling in a hole he just walked into, Tericious wondered… No living ones, but no dead body or blood. Well, whatever happened, first the mighty knight had to escaped from this maze.

You start the game as a knight returning from war. As you walk through a castle’s ground floor and work your way through some rooms, you fall down through a hole and reach the dungeon. After going through there, you get a message saying that this is where the game ends, so that’s about all there is to the plot.

The gameplay

Castle 64 plays very simply. It’s a maze game where the challenge is finding your way around, traversing obstacles and reaching an exit. The first level is the castle entrance where everything is very close together and within easy reach, while the second level is a dungeon that is much larger and composed of long, winding corridors. There are doors, keys, switches and spikes which provide a simple challenge to navigating through the maze.

‘Size’ Theme

This isn’t immediately obvious like it was from other entries. In fact, I had to look up the developer’s commentary to see how the theme was interpreted.

Manfried said that the way it was interpreted was technical rather than having to do with the game design itself. He used the highest resolution possible on the N64 (640×480) as well as the large size of the sprite on the title screen.

Credits

The game was made by Manfried, who also made a Minesweeper game for the N64 plus some utility programs.

The sprites and music were taken from free libraries: GameArt2D, ZapSplat, LaSonotheque and filmmusic.io.

Conclusion and review

Castle 64 is technically very impressive. It uses very large sprites which are displayed with very neat sharp edges. It has a fairly simple premise and play style which makes it easy to pick up and play.

That said, there are a slew of issues that affect the game negatively. The game itself is very short (3 minutes using glitches, 15 normally) but there’s only about 8 or so actions that you need to do to reach the end. There is so much walking, and the knight moves so slowly too which makes the tedium even more tedious. Thankfully, the maze isn’t too complicated. Once you know the general direction of what you’re looking for, the path to get there is quite straightforward.

Something that would have greatly improved this would be to have a ‘run’ option in the game to allow you to move around a lot more swiftly. I don’t know if this would have cause problems loading the backgrounds, but it would have made the game so much better.

The knight can attack and defend, but it serves no purpose as there are no enemies in the game. There’s one rat, but it just walks around and you can’t interact with it. This kind of got my hopes up about there being a battling system, but there wasn’t one.

There aren’t many glitches, the only thing I can think of is that the doors in the dungeon do not require keys to be opened. Other than that, there’s some frame rate slowdown but it doesn’t really affect the gameplay.

Overall, I think it’s best to think of Castle 64 as a playable tech demo rather than a full-fledged game to play. If you approach it that way, you’ll be able to enjoy the aesthetic and appreciate the effort put into it rather than focus on its flaws.

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Castle 64 is a homebrew game for the Nintendo 64 by Manfried where you guide a knight through a castle's basement maze.
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