Sunday, February 27, 2011

A Quick Look Back: The Castles of Dr. Creep

Creep Cover

Playing this game again brings back a flood of memories, of me and a buddy playing hours upon hours of it on the C64 back in my high-school days, threatening each other with the laser, cheering each other wildly as we ran the last few seconds down trying to pass a ticking force-field, and racing each other to be first through each door.

Hobbs, circa 2007
The game was designed by Ed Hobbs, for Broderbund Software.  Broderbund was a powerhouse game publisher from the 80's into the early 90's; the list of classic hits from them would be too large to reproduce here, but some gems include Choplifter!Lode Runner and Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?.  Hobbs himself did Seafox for the company, and later the combat flight simulator Operation Airstorm for Expert Software.

There's really only one word to describe The Castles of Dr. Creep:  diabolical.  It's a platform game, but with a heavy puzzle element.  I'm not sure of the plot, but I think it revolves around the eponymous Dr. Creep needing to sell off his 13 castles; perhaps the electric bill for all those lightning spheres got to be too much.  At any rate, players assume the role of a hapless buyer, only out to purchase a fixer-upper with a nice view of the moors, but finding themselves in a battle to escape alive.

The warm and inviting title screen.

The castles are listed in the menu in order of difficulty, but even the early castles present a daunting challenge, equipped with such amenities as one-directional poles, conveyor belts, the aforementioned lightning spheres and laser guns, teleportation pods... along with the (un)dead tenants who populate the castles such as mummies and Frankenstein monsters, each of whom have different abilities in chasing you down.

Frankies go to Horrorwood

There is a single-player mode, but the game really shines when two people get in front of the computer, making their way through the castle simultaneously.  Most puzzles and traps are designed so that two people working in tandem can greatly shorten the time it takes to make it to the exit door.  What generally ends up happening is one player will man a switch that needs to stay open while the other player makes his way through the screen.  Then the second player must either run through the gauntlet alone, with his buddy cheering (or jeering) him the whole time.  Either that, or you must split up and approach the room from another entrance; in these cases, each player move through their respective rooms alternately, until meeting up again.

I Had Four Mummies

The rooms in Creep make for some hilarious moments; controlling the laser and taking pot-shots as your buddy scampers down the ladder; running like mad to slip by a force field before the timer runs out; luring the mummies towards your friend as he flails helplessly on a ledge.  The graphics are clear and bright, if perhaps a bit sparse with simply a black field as a backdrop, although this can certainly aid in the feeling of isolation the game exudes.

It's a real testimony to the quality of a classic game when you fire it up nearly 30 years after playing it last, and you start yelling and giggling and squirming in your seat like you did as a kid.  The hallways and pathways of The Castles of Dr. Creep still hold their chilling allure decades later.

1 comment:

  1. This game holds a special part of my childhood. We used to play it all the time on the c64. Good to finally get a face on the creator and know he is not some evil scientist in some dark dungeon lab. Thanks for the write up!