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The Castle of Frome

Series: Escape from the Kingdom of Frome #1
Translated Into: El castillo de Frome (Spanish)
Author: Packard, Edward
Illustrators: Huerta, Catherine (cover)
Perry, David (interior)
Release Date: 1986
Length:121 pages
Number of Endings:1
User Summary: In search of adventure, you have decided to explore the dangerous Kingdom of Frome. No sooner have you set foot in the land than you are imprisoned in the royal castle. Can you escape imprisonment and find a way out of the castle?
Guillermo's Thoughts: (review based on the Spanish translation)

I usually hold a lot of respect for Edward Packard's work, not only because he is one of the pioneers of interactive fiction, but also because he took the genre in many interesting and innovative directions. However, I don't believe this book is one of his stronger works. The idea used here certainly has a lot of potential, but much of it is certainly wasted. First of all, the castle is not as interesting as it could be. The accompanying maps detail many rooms and areas that sound interesting, but several of them are just visual decoration, as there is no way to explore them in actual gameplay. This underdevelopment of the adventure is especially notorious in the two dungeon levels. While exploring the castle may prove to be fun, it's not really that interesting: you get to meet several nonplayer characters, but very few of them are developed in any interesting way, their descriptions and dialogue often being written in an extremely dry prose. There are few fantastic creatures to be found in the castle, and while the encounters with them feature decent writing, they don't do anything terribly interesting, nor do they play a major role in the adventure (though people may find the "trolls" of particular interest, considering they are depicted in a different way than that of Dungeons and Dragons or the Tolkien canon).

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the book is that the player character runs into castle guards at different points of the adventure. While the guards are usually as unsympathetic and featureless as Star Wars stormtroopers, there is a certain variety as to the punishment each of them applies (the most gruesome involves being tortured in a gas chamber). Speaking of punishments, I find it surprising that, while there are no death endings, the book is not overly sanitized, as there are choices which lead to near-death situations (though the character is always magically rescued and teleported to another point in the castle).

As far as gameplay goes, the book is the easiest in the series, though novices may find it a bit complex. The player needs to find the escape route and two critical clues in order to succeed. One of the clues is way too easy to find, while the other one at least involves solving a clever puzzle. Experienced adventure gamers won't have too much of a problem with it, though being jailed in the same cells over and over again, and always using the same escape strategy – which is what will almost certainly happen - can prove boring and frustrating after a while.

Overall I believe this is not too bad a book, but it's definitely not a favourite of mine. Fortunately, the later volumes in the series are much better. My advice is to get this book over with as quickly as possible and head on to book two, which is one of the best books in the series.

More reviews by Guillermo

Special Thanks:Thanks to Guillermo Paredes for the plot summary.
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