I've already mentioned his name a few times, so it should be no surprise that Willy Electrix was one of the most active members of the community in 2011. He wrote a number of great reviews and retrospectives for HamsterSpeak throughout the year, and also found the time to release 4 games. The first of which, "Castle on The Night Land" is a nostalgic throwback to the adventure games of old and a name I've heard thrown around all year. It's easy to see why.
Featuring monochrome graphics, the first thing you'll notice about this game is that it's a little hard to tell what's going on. My first time, I got killed by a wraith before I even knew the game had started. It feels good this way, though. What's an adventure game if you're not a little frustrated? Everything in the game will kill you unless you have the right items and if you didn't grow up on Shadowgate, that might take some getting used to. Once you've grown accustomed, you easily fall into a rhythm of exploring where you can, finding new items, backtracking and then doing it all again. Willy Electrix finds the sweet spot for this kind of gameplay, with everything taking just long enough to be satisfying but not so long as to be tedious. Some of the items are optional, only adding to your final point total.
Atmosphere is crucial for something like this to be successful. Black and white graphics help set the tone, but the music is what truly sets this game apart. Original compositions by the author manage to be old school and simple without becoming stale over the course of the game. Excellent writing seals the deal, with masterful death messages and item descriptions adding just the right amount of darkness without getting too fanciful.
Seeking a perfect score adds some replayability but once you've solved the puzzles you're pretty much done. Great while it lasts, "Castle On The Night Land" is a unique OHR experience and shows that you can do a lot with just a little. While plotscripts are employed for convenience, I think the game could easily have been made without them, a concept we'll hear a lot more about later on. Right now, Willy Electrix has left me excited for the remainder of his 2011 catalogue and put himself easily on top of my GOTY pile.
2011 Score (Per March 8th): 75/100
Part of Gomey's 2011 Year In Review