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Shad0WeN

Thunder Castle - an arduous journey to Level 15

Thunder Castle: your personal best  

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  1. 1. In terms of maximum level/screen progression, how far have you managed to get??

    • Level 1 (Forest)
    • Level 2 (Castle)
    • Level 3 (Dungeon)
    • Level 4 (Forest)
    • Level 5 (Castle)
      0
    • Level 6 (Dungeon)
    • Level 7 (Forest)
      0
    • Level 8 (Castle)
    • Level 9 (Dungeon)
    • Level 10 (Forest)
      0
    • Level 11 (Castle)
      0
    • Level 12 (Dungeon)
      0
    • Level 13 (Forest)
      0
    • Level 14 (Castle)
      0
    • Level 15 (Dungeon)
      0
    • Level 16 (Forest)
      0
    • Level 17 (Castle)
    • Level 18 (Dungeon)
      0
    • Level 19 (Forest)
      0
    • Level 20 (Castle)
      0
    • Level 21 (Dungeon)
      0
    • Level 22+
      0


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So I regard this as one of the best arcade-style maze games of all time and easily among my top games in the Intellivision library; it's a shame that this title didn't get more attention imo. Everything from the wall-to-wall music (unheard of at the time) to the art design and animation work is simply wonderful. That and it's a game that I have always found to be very enjoyable and boasting a surprising amount of strategic depth and complexity for something from so early in the history of video games.

 

Back in the day I never could get past Level 9 though. Then a few years ago I picked up the Intellivision Lives collection for the Nintendo DS/3DS and my interest was rekindled. I just had to beat that dreaded Level 9, demons be damned! And so one day I finally did and reveled in the elation of my hard-fought triumph. Then out of curiosity I looked online to see if I could find recorded footage of someone else showing this as well but came up empty. So I thought well how cool would it be to be someone to do it? The problem is I just didn't have any practical means of recording gameplay, whether from the 3DS or original Intellivision hardware. But then one day I discovered the jzINTV emulator and all that changed.

 

Fast forward a bit and here we are now. My tactics have continued to evolve as I've honed my skills in this game to new levels. For those interested or who may also have a love for this game I present to you for consumption my latest deep run to Level 15:

 

https://youtu.be/xD0wwWjOceI

 

I hope that folks will enjoy it and/or that it could serve as a learning tool for this excellent game, and perhaps people could glean new strategies from it for their own play. I have also toyed with the idea of writing a strategy guide for the game as well as I haven't really seen one out there. Hmmm perhaps one day =P

Edited by Shad0WeN

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It's been a while, but I think I made it to the 3rd dungeon (L9) once.  I don't recall, maybe the 4th forest (L10).  Once of these days I'm going to print a custom overlay that helps me remember which magic items are which.  I play it so intermittently, I can never remember.

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It's been a while, but I think I made it to the 3rd dungeon (L9) once.  I don't recall, maybe the 4th forest (L10).  Once of these days I'm going to print a custom overlay that helps me remember which magic items are which.  I play it so intermittently, I can never remember.

 

If you have the manual it covers the magic items though of course it's not something you can just slip into the hand controller like an overlay. Anyway this is how I would personally rank them in terms of best to worst:

 

Magic Items:

  • Grail/Chalice - Energizes the knight when activated. With the proper timing and memorization of the entrance point for new enemies on each maze layout it can be used to score a double kill on an enemy stack on levels 1-3, 5, and 6. It may be possible on level 4 as well but it seems unreliable and kind of tricky.
  • Crown - When activated it freezes enemies for a few seconds (as well as the energizing rat in the Castle levels) and also allows you to pass through them unharmed.
  • Key - When activated it allows the player to pass though/into a single wall tile as though it is not solid. Can be used for both offense and defense though its saving grace is using it to 'hide' in a safe spot from enemies to escape death and wait for the opportune moment to emerge.
  • Necklace - Grants the player a short temporary speed boost when activated.
  • Ring - Transports the player to a random tile in the maze when used. Can save you in a pinch or conversely, not really help at all. This has to go low on the list because of the unpredictable nature of it.
  • Lamp - Extends the duration of the knight's energized state when activated. Not very useful because it has to used while energized and must be activated early enough, plus it only works once for one cycle. It becomes marginally more useful in the higher levels where the energized state duration becomes drastically shorter, though still not enough for me to prefer it over anything else.

 

Other pickups:

  • Candlestick - grants the player an extra life in reserve (up to a maximum of 9).
  • Coins - Adds 500 points to the player's score.
  • Comb - Cuts the player's score in half. Note that if grabbed at the right time this can actually be beneficial to the player in gaining extra lives since they are awarded when reaching (or repeating) specific score milestones. The point thresholds as stated in the manual are actually incorrect and they should have been 4000, 8000, 15000, 25000, etc.
Edited by Shad0WeN

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I got this cartridge as an adult so I never put in the time I would have as a kid. It's a shame it never came out in 1983 as planned, in fact I didn't know it was even released until the mid 1990s. I'm not a fan of arcade style maze games but I really like Thunder Castle.

Some say it's too hard but I like it just as it is. Except I wish you could choose the starting forest level. Once I get past the first dungeon level I'm pretty much done; not too interested in chasing after bats I can't see.

Thanks for posting the video. You obviously weren't going for a high score. Do you have a high score? Edited by mr_me

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If you have the manual it covers the magic items though of course it's not something you can just slip into the hand controller like an overlay. Anyway this is how I would personally rank them in terms of best to worst:

 

Magic Items:

  • Grail/Chalice - Energizes the knight when activated. With the proper timing and memorization of the entrance point for new enemies on each maze layout it can be used to score a double kill on an enemy stack on levels 1-3, 5, and 6. It may be possible on level 4 as well but it seems unreliable and kind of tricky.
  • Crown - When activated it freezes enemies for a few seconds (as well as the energizing rat in the Castle levels) and also allows you to pass through them unharmed.
  • Key - When activated it allows the player to pass though/into a single wall tile as though it is not solid. Can be used for both offense and defense though its saving grace is using it to 'hide' in a safe spot from enemies to escape death and wait for the opportune moment to emerge.
  • Necklace - Grants the player a short temporary speed boost when activated.
  • Ring - Transports the player to a random tile in the maze when used. Can save you in a pinch or conversely, not really help at all. This has to go low on the list because of the unpredictable nature of it.
  • Lamp - Extends the duration of the knight's energized state when activated. Not very useful because it has to used while energized and must be activated early enough, plus it only works once for one cycle. It becomes marginally more useful in the higher levels where the energized state duration becomes drastically shorter, though still not enough for me to prefer it over anything else.

 

Other pickups:

  • Candlestick - grants the player an extra life in reserve (up to a maximum of 9).
  • Coins - Adds 500 points to the player's score.
  • Comb - Cuts the player's score in half. Note that if grabbed at the right time this can actually be beneficial to the player in gaining extra lives since they are awarded when reaching (or repeating) specific score milestones. The point thresholds as stated in the manual are actually incorrect and they should have been 4000, 8000, 15000, 25000, etc.

 

Thanks for that, that's a perfect concise summary.  I do have text file version of the manual, but realistically I play one or two games of Thunder Castle ever couple of years, so even when I look it up, by the time I remember what everything is I'm done. :)  I still may make an overlay one of these days.  I think it'd be a good little project.  If I ever get industrious on that I'll share here.

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Cant really remember my highest level. Now Going to have to get wine game-time in and see.

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I got the game when I was maybe 15 yo or so, I loved it and I was a wiz at it! But I don't remember how far I was able to go. Though, I remember the fourth or fifth stage of demons was really tough. The enemies become very, very fast and move frantically, the power-up (the skull) changes position after a few seconds and the energized state lasts very little. It's a hell and thank god it's only a video game!

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I have it on lto and also CIB in a box signed by the game creator and you know what, I've never played it.
Not sure why. Everyone says it's hard and also that it's great. So, maybe I'm afraid either that it won't live up to the hype, or that, and probably more likely, that I'm just gonna suck at it :D

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I have it on lto and also CIB in a box signed by the game creator and you know what, I've never played it.
Not sure why. Everyone says it's hard and also that it's great. So, maybe I'm afraid either that it won't live up to the hype, or that, and probably more likely, that I'm just gonna suck at it :D


It's a pretty terrible game if you never read the manual :D Much more fun once you learn the items.

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Once of these days I'm going to print a custom overlay that helps me remember which magic items are which.  I play it so intermittently, I can never remember.


I also choose this guy's overlay idea.

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I also choose this guy's overlay idea.


I normally do nowadays especially when it's a game I'm not familiar with. Actually, it's surprising how many games I've played for years had features I didn't know about because I thought I knew how to play so didn't read the manual. I've learned my lesson :)

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It's been a long time since I've played Thunder Castle, and I seriously need to find time to fire it up again this summer.  I recall being able to get to at least level twelve, but I don't remember exactly.

 

For whatever it's worth, I offered some tips years ago for the Castle levels, which I've always found to be the most challenging:
 

The "trick" is to use the magic objects as efficiently as possible. Avoid the temptation to chase the mouse around the screen; instead, concentrate on getting the two spells most useful for killing the wizards. The grail energizes you, and the crown freezes the wizards, so these are the two you want the most. As long as you have one of them, skip all the others except the coins and the candles (which give you points and lives, respectively). Try to stay near the center of the screen as much as possible, so the spells are always within reach when they appear. If you get a grail, lure the wizards into traps (dead-ends or behind closed gates) and use the grail spell to kill them off, or even better, lure them into the halls in the upper-right corner of the maze where new wizards appear: even during the brief period of time you remain energized, you can sometimes kill off several wizards this way as soon as they appear on the screen. If you get a crown, stay close to the mouse and wait until the wizards come within striking distance; then, touch the mouse, use the crown spell, and kill the wizards while they're frozen.

The dungeon maze is my favorite: the vanishing skulls add an extra element of randomness to the gameplay, and the demons seem to be a bit easier to catch.

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I got this cartridge as an adult so I never put in the time I would have as a kid. It's a shame it never came out in 1983 as planned, in fact I didn't know it was even released until the mid 1990s. I'm not a fan of arcade style maze games but I really like Thunder Castle.

Some say it's too hard but I like it just as it is. Except I wish you could choose the starting forest level. Once I get past the first dungeon level I'm pretty much done; not too interested in chasing after bats I can't see.

Thanks for posting the video. You obviously weren't going for a high score. Do you have a high score?

 

Yeah the game wasn't released as originally planned due to Mattel Electronics exiting the video game industry but I believe INTV Corp (who acquired the rights to the Intellivision stuff from Mattel) released it in like 1986 or 1987 if I'm not mistaken.

 

I can see some people being dissuaded by the difficulty or find the lack of difficultly levels off-putting but I've always enjoyed a good challenge that forces you to learn & evolve so it never bothered me.

 

Nah, I don't have a high score since I don't play for that. If I did then I could honestly say that my high score would be infinite though. It's easy to artificially farm/leech points without making any real progress (especially in the earlier levels) and there's very much a gray area there and it's just too subjective as to what is or isn't doing so. Consequently because of that I don't consider score to be a proper measure of skill in this game.

Edited by Shad0WeN

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I have it on lto and also CIB in a box signed by the game creator and you know what, I've never played it.
Not sure why. Everyone says it's hard and also that it's great. So, maybe I'm afraid either that it won't live up to the hype, or that, and probably more likely, that I'm just gonna suck at it :D

 

Oh sweet! Who signed it? Connie Goldman (she was an animation wizard and did the graphics) or David Warhol (music & programming)?

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Thanks for that, that's a perfect concise summary.  I do have text file version of the manual, but realistically I play one or two games of Thunder Castle ever couple of years, so even when I look it up, by the time I remember what everything is I'm done. :)  I still may make an overlay one of these days.  I think it'd be a good little project.  If I ever get industrious on that I'll share here.

 

Btw there is a pdf file of the manual for Thunder Castle here:

https://onedrive.live.com/?authkey=%21ALLO0GH%2D0YcLj3M&cid=71F50E381A8C0F7E&id=71F50E381A8C0F7E%21457&parId=71F50E381A8C0F7E%21237&o=OneUp

 

And lots of other stuff here:

https://onedrive.live.com/?authkey=%21ALLO0GH%2D0YcLj3M&id=71F50E381A8C0F7E%21139&cid=71F50E381A8C0F7E

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anyway, for those who think Thunder Castle is not too difficult, an excellent hack of the game, Mystic Castle, was released a couple of years ago. It's faster and harder and I suggest it to anyone who likes Thunder Castle. Also, the new box, manual and overlays are awesome!

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anyway, for those who think Thunder Castle is not too difficult, an excellent hack of the game, Mystic Castle, was released a couple of years ago. It's faster and harder and I suggest it to anyone who likes Thunder Castle. Also, the new box, manual and overlays are awesome!

 

I got the impression that it was made easier due to the addition of difficulty levels and other changes? Anyway I've seen it before though don't know if i can bring myself to drop the $$$ on it for a modified ROM of a game that I already have.

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I got the impression that it was made easier due to the addition of difficulty levels and other changes? Anyway I've seen it before though don't know if i can bring myself to drop the $$$ on it for a modified ROM of a game that I already have.

this is the description of the hack posted by the programmer on his website:
"Mystic Castle was a prototype game that was later relased as Thunder Castle. The game play to Thunder Castle is slow and takes away from the fun of the game. This UPDATED release fixes the game play speed issue, adds 4 levels to start the game with making it more fun for beginners, and updates bonus images."
So, yes, it has different levels to start, but IIRC the easiest one is harder than Thunder Castle. I should check it out though

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this is the description of the hack posted by the programmer on his website:
"Mystic Castle was a prototype game that was later relased as Thunder Castle. The game play to Thunder Castle is slow and takes away from the fun of the game. This UPDATED release fixes the game play speed issue, adds 4 levels to start the game with making it more fun for beginners, and updates bonus images."
So, yes, it has different levels to start, but IIRC the easiest one is harder than Thunder Castle. I should check it out though

 

Well judging from this video of Mystic Castle on Youtube that doesn't seem to be the case at all:

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VWKbAUuIotQ

 

On the early levels the player can be seen running faster than even the red enemies, which is never the case in Thunder Castle. The player speed in general just seems way higher.

 

Faster and harder need not be the same thing though. From reading through this thread about Mystic Castle it sounds like the intent was to make the game a bit faster-paced and from some people's comments it actually seems easier than Thunder Castle to me, though it's unclear what difficulty level some may have been playing on or what the harder ones may be like.

Edited by Shad0WeN

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I agree with you when you say "Faster and harder need not be the same thing". Mystic Castle is probably the case. And the Squire level (the one selected in the video) looks actually very easy.
I think I've only played it at Knight level. I assume that difficulty level was the main upgrade the programmer aimed to when he decided to hack Thunder Castle

EDIT: apart from speed, at Knight level the power-ups are significantly harder to catch, just like on high levels in Thunder Castle Edited by intellivotion

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Oh sweet! Who signed it? Connie Goldman (she was an animation wizard and did the graphics) or David Warhol (music & programming)?


It's signed by David Warhol. There's a pic of it somewhere on here or intellivision Invasion.

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It's been a long time since I've played Thunder Castle, and I seriously need to find time to fire it up again this summer.  I recall being able to get to at least level twelve, but I don't remember exactly.

 

For whatever it's worth, I offered some tips years ago for the Castle levels, which I've always found to be the most challenging:
 

 

Interesting. Personally I've always found the Dungeon levels to be more problematic due to the number of enemies (i.e. three demons vs two wizards). Also, as much as this is a skill-based game I'd be lying if I said that some random elements didn't affect the difficulty. For example the maze layout (to a lesser degree), though sometimes I think this may just come down to one's personal level of familiarity or comfort. Then there are the more significant ones in my opinion. Like your starting position in a maze and that of the enemies (and the rat if in a Castle level). Obviously where the red skull appears in a Dungeon level, especially at the beginning. The timing of the opening/closing of the gates in the level relative to your starting position, as well as relative to each other as you play the level. In my experience these can be significant factors that can either seem more benign or conversely, really work against you. RNG does play a bit of a factor.

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I agree with you when you say "Faster and harder need not be the same thing". Mystic Castle is probably the case. And the Squire level (the one selected in the video) looks actually very easy.
I think I've only played it at Knight level. I assume that difficulty level was the main upgrade the programmer aimed to when he decided to hack Thunder Castle

EDIT: apart from speed, at Knight level the power-ups are significantly harder to catch, just like on high levels in Thunder Castle

It looks like he made the knight faster but not the guardians. You can see this at knight level in the video. So you're now faster than the yellow and red guardians which never happens in regular Thunder Castle. I think the difficulty levels advance you further in the game i.e. skipping levels. So having a faster knight makes all levels easier. It changes the balance of the original game where you're faster than the green guardians, about the same speed as yellow, and slower than the red guardians. I'd like to see a hack that keeps the speed the same but lets you skip levels. Edited by mr_me

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Oh sweet! Who signed it? Connie Goldman (she was an animation wizard and did the graphics) or David Warhol (music & programming)?


Checked it. It's actually signed by both of them :)

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It looks like he made the knight faster but not the guardians. You can see this at knight level in the video. So you're now faster than the yellow and red guardians which never happens in regular Thunder Castle. I think the difficulty levels advance you further in the game i.e. skipping levels.

 

Meh, taking another look at it it seems like you may be right about the difficulty levels feature. If what it mostly does is just skip ahead a certain number of levels/screens then to me that's not a real difficulty setting. It's just a shortcut. A proper solution to me would carefully tweaking the different variables amongst each set of levels from the beginning on a per selected difficulty basis, and with the way the game is designed there are 4 sets of 3 levels. Dumping you ahead on Level/Screen 10 when you select "Knight" for example is not my idea of implementing a true difficulty setting. Which is presumably what it did in the video since there is only 1 black bat on this level (as in the original game). I didn't realize that the guy had switched to Knight difficulty (which is the hardest according to this post) about halfway through so thanks for pointing this out. I should have paid closer attention when skipping ahead. So upon second glace at this point of the video, I swear he might even be slightly faster than the red dragon, though there is very little time to say definitively. Then on the next level (11) he is definitely faster than the Yellow Wizard (which is the opposite of the original game) and about the same speed as the Red Wizard, which is significantly faster than you in Thunder Castle at this point. Then in the dungeon level at the end of the video there are 2 clear instances where the player is faster than even the Orange Demon so that can't simply be chalked up to the use of the necklace they picked up. It also seems like the knight's energization duration has been increased as well though that's tougher to judge as in the video there is no sound from the game.

 

So having a faster knight makes all levels easier. It changes the balance of the original game where you're faster than the green guardians, about the same speed as yellow, and slower than the red guardians. I'd like to see a hack that keeps the speed the same but lets you skip levels.

 

Indeed it does. Good points all around. Oh and on the higher levels in Thunder Castle even the green enemies become about the same speed as you. Anyway from what I'm seeing based on the evidence in this video (and as someone who has played Thunder Castle extensively on every set of its levels) this debunks any notion that Mystic Castle is in any way more difficult. If anything it looks like the opposite and the difficulty has been noticeably nerfed/reduced, in particular with what seems to be the knight's increased speed in general. Which is fine if the goal is to make the game more accessible or whatever, but let's just get it right.

Edited by Shad0WeN

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