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One of the early shareware text adventures, Castle Ralf is a fun dungeon romp first released in 1987. The official blurb of this funny but very difficult game: "...When the drawbridge crashes into the moat, you can only hope there is another way out - somewhere beyond the castle's dark entrance. But don't expect the owner of Castle Ralf to show you the way. Dr. Bellefleur Q. Izgotcha III invents phenomenal puzzles to frustrate and tantalize the finest minds. And, since the castle is his workshop, a myriad of obstacles block your exit, including an acrobatic hamster, some incarcerated alligators, and a less-than-friendly Chihuahua. To escape from Castle Ralf alive, you'll have to learn how the Castle itself, and some of Dr. Izgotcha's most amazing inventions, work. Can you beat the odds, the alligators, and the puzzles to get out?"
The game is fun, largely thanks to off-the-wall humor and challenging puzzles, which range from dealing with burnt pizza, portable cyclotrons, and alligator love potions. Most puzzles are quite hard, but fair. In an innovative touch that predates Legend Entertainment's games, Castle Ralf features a menu-based interface that you can use instead of the text parser: just select verbs from the menu shown at the bottom of the screen. This means you can see at all times a full list of verbs you need in the game - a nice touch that IF beginners will find helpful. There is also automapping: a map of your surrounding is displayed in the bottom right corner, and constantly updates as you explore. If you are looking for a harder and funnier fantasy text adventure than Zork, Castle Ralf is well worth your time.
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Castle Ralf screenshot
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