This review is part of the “Let’s Adventure!” series. See all reviewed games sorted by rating here.
Released in 1985 under the title The Crimson Crown, on the same platforms as its predecessor. The game tasks the player with a quest to defeat a magical vampire with the assistance of Princess Sabrina (who is now a fledgling magician) and the heir to the throne, Prince Erik.
Make sure to use a 32bit build of Steem SSE if you want to play an STX ROM image on Windows
Since I haven’t really played with an Atari ST ever before, I wanted to make sure I tried at least one of the games in this series on that platform just to get a sense of what the emulation tools were like. There were quite a few options, though most were abandoned by their developers in the early 2000s but Steem SSE is still being maintained and is what I wound up using.
Having already played through Transylvania I can honestly say this game comes with a pretty large improvement to the quality of the graphics. Background artwork is a lot more detailed, and inventory items you pick up and drop are a lot more identifiable as well.
You have to indicate which character should perform a particular action
This time around both Prince Erik and Princess Sabrina are “playable” characters. As this is a parser-driven game you can “control” your characters individually by forming a sentence with them as the subject (ex:
SABRINA, CAST SPELL or
ERIK, TAKE SWORD). The text parser is about as intuitive as last time, and you need to be precise with your inputs.
I actually found this title a lot more difficult than the original as there was an added time-based element to some of the puzzles. For example, later in the game you’ll need to wait (literally by entering
WAIT as the command) for several cycles for something in a room to change, or for some event to unfold.
This process of delaying the game wasn’t intuitive (thanks walkthrough!) and I’m not really sure that this game mechanic is introduced earlier in the game text or in a manual. Once you know it’s an option though you’ll find yourself using this command periodically if you get stuck just to see if it will chance anything in the current room - which it won’t on like 99% of the game screens.
The vast majority of this game is item collection and backtracking to figure out where that item needs to be used. Inventory management comes into play again as you can only carry so many items so you’ll have to occasionally drop something to make room for a new item. Thankfully you can see the items you dropped on the screen, plus the game will let you know that there are items you can pick up.
My gaming experience here consisted of the following:
- get all items on current screen
- try all items on what’s on screen
- read the available directions to move on screen
- pick one and go in that direction
It’s a bit tedious, but early adventure games - especially parser-driven games - were still figuring out how to make this experience “fun”. Honestly Infocom had already figured this out, but graphic adventure games were still re-learning those lessons in the mid-80s …
You’ll eventually make your way to the vampire’s lair, and with the help of some “friends” you meet along the way (and a bunch of items you’ll need to find) get back Prince Erik’s crown and escape from the castle in time for it to collapse. The battle between the dragon and the vampire introduces a bit of animation, which I didn’t expect in this title so it was definitely a welcome change from all the static screens up to this point.
To finish this game you’ll need a lot of patience, and a map. Most enemies can’t be beaten without taking multiple actions, and if you’ve missed any it’s game over. Saving often is a requirement, and the Atari ST version gives you 4 slots you can use. I found myself rotating through the save slots every couple of screens as I’d try different combinations of items in various scenarios until something worked (or I looked it up …).
WAIT, WAIT, WAIT, WAIT, WAIT, WAIT … game over
I didn’t have a lot of fun with this game, though it was an upgrade from the first title. It is interesting to see how parser-based games evolved in the early to mid 80’s, especially when it came to puzzle and dungeon design. Antonio Antiochia did all the artwork and game design solo for this and the previous title, so seeing as this was again essentially a one man show, it’s worth appreciating the accomplishment even if the game doesn’t really stand the test of time.
For a deeper dive into the development journey of Transylvania I highly recommend The Digital Antiquarian’s retrospective of the game.
|Game||The Crimson Crown: - Further Adventures in Transylvania|
|Systems||Amiga, Apple II, Atari ST, Commodore 64, DOS, FM-7, Macintosh, PC-88, PC-98|
|Time to Completion||2 hours|
|Version Played||Atari ST via Steem SSE|
See here for a refresher on how we’re scoring these games.