The Mystery of
|Release Date:||March 2006|
|Article Posted:||May 2006|
|Review by Ugur Sener
You weren’t exactly thrilled to receive the king’s summons. You were asked to join the king in the room where the knights and the monarch discussed the nation’s problems. You expected hours of boring debate and petty quibbling from the kingdom’s would-be rulers. But you were in for a surprise when you entered the room. The king was waiting for you alone. This was no ordinary meeting.
The old monarch spoke to you about an important mission. He told you of Wildenburg, a mysterious castle that lies deep within the forests to the south. An artifact of tremendous power is hidden within the castle. This magical jewel, known as the Lapsit Excillis, has the power to grant its owner eternal youth. The monarch asked you to find a way to sneak into Wildenburg and capture the jewel. In return for delivering the artifact, the monarch promised you his daughter’s hand in marriage.
Now you stand alone on the path leading to Wildenburg. You know that the journey will be arduous. Even finding the castle in this dangerous forest would be a significant achievement. Sneaking inside Wildenburg and stealing the wondrous Lapsit Excillis seems little more than a suicide mission. Hesitantly, you walk towards the forest in search of the castle and the jewel. Either greater glory or a horrifying death awaits you.
The Mystery of Castle Wildenburg is a freeware browser-based independent adventure game. Players are not required to create an account or install anything on their computers before they can start the game. Standard Web browser software and an Internet connection will be all you need. Combining real photographs from the German countryside with hand-drawn images to illustrate certain objects and characters, Wildenburg provides an easily accessible and fairly pleasant adventure gaming experience.
The adventure begins just outside the forest you will have to navigate to find Castle Wildenburg. In search of the powerful magical jewel, you will have to make your way to the castle gates and figure out a way to get inside. However, there is much more to Wildenburg than the forest area. Once you manage to find a way into the castle, you will have a lot more ground to cover before you can solve the mystery. About two thirds of the way through the game, a plot twist will take you to a third area to explore. Even though Wildenburg is a relatively short game, solving the puzzles and successfully completing the journey should still keep you occupied for a few hours.
Played from a first-person perspective, Wildenburg features a control structure that will be familiar to players who have had a chance to enjoy some older adventure games. You move around the forest by clicking on buttons indicating geographic directions. To interact with the environment, you utilize action buttons. Attempting to perform an action involves clicking on a command button such as ‘use’, ‘examine’, or ‘throw’ and a hotspot on the screen or an item in your inventory. Every time you find an inventory item, solve a puzzle, or uncover an important clue, you earn a certain number of points. The points contribute towards a final score that you can submit when you successfully complete the game or die during the adventure. Thus, even after completing the game for the first time, players have an incentive to play through the adventure again to earn the maximum number of points available.
Among the distinguishing features of Wildenburg is the hunger and thirst system. The ‘food’ bar on the top left corner of the screen depicts how hungry your character is. Likewise, the ‘drinking’ bar on the top right corner indicates your thirst level. Each time you move from one screen to the next or attempt to perform an action, your character gets a little more thirsty and hungry. If you fail to find food and drink to satisfy your character, it is possible to die of hunger or thirst. This system requires players to constantly keep an eye out for food items or places where they can get water. While the hunger and thirst levels do not increase very rapidly, you cannot afford to ignore them as you go through Wildenburg.
The hunger and thirst system may initially sound interesting, but it can cause a great deal of frustration as you play the game. Having to keep an eye on the hunger and thirst levels means that you will not be able to completely freely roam the game world. The amount of experimentation you can do before your hunger and thirst reaches critical levels is greatly restricted. Be prepared to die quite a few times as you struggle to solve the game’s puzzles for the first time. When you do not know the correct path to take and the right items to use in each situation, your character will seem to get hungry or thirsty all too quickly.
The Mystery of Castle Wildenburg does have a save system that can alleviate the problems created by the food and drink bars. Players can save their progress at any time using a very simple interface. However, in order to load a game, you have to know the name you entered during the save. The game does not display a list of all the saved games. Thus, if you forget the name you chose for the save, you will have to start the adventure from the beginning.
Unfortunately, having the ability to save and load your progress still does not give you complete freedom to explore the game world and experiment with items without having to worry about hunger or thirst. When you load a game, your points are reset to zero. As such, if you are shooting for the maximum number of points, it is not possible to use the save game feature during the adventure. Players are thus encouraged to play through the game once with the help of the save system to find the solutions to the puzzles. Upon completing the game for the first time, it should be much easier to play the game again and focus on obtaining a high number of points.
The puzzles in Wildenburg primarily consist of inventory-based challenges. The game also features some dialogue-based puzzles and a couple of puzzles where you have to enter a correct combination. If you carefully survey each screen for clues and inventory items, most of the puzzles should prove fairly easy to overcome. However, the game does have a few challenges where the clues to solving a puzzle are either a bit obscure or non-existent. As such, players might find themselves resorting to trial and error to get past a few of the game’s challenges. Unfortunately, having to watch out for hunger and thirst levels can make this trial and error process quite frustrating.
Finding some of the hotspots in Wildenburg can occasionally become tiresome. All of the hotspots on a given screen are not necessarily obvious. Players have to resort to a fair amount of pixel-hunting in order to locate certain areas they can examine. To game does feature a considerable number of screens with no items of interest. These screens serve simply as part of the journey from one area of the game to the next. As such, players may have a hard time deciding when they should drag the mouse all over the screen just to make sure they are not missing any available hotspots.
The Mystery of Castle Wildenburg certainly has its fair share of problems. While it is an interesting and fairly uncommon concept, it is debatable whether or not the hunger and thirst system brings true value to the game. On one hand the system makes the experience more intense as players have to constantly keep an eye out on the thirst and hunger bars. Yet on the other hand the system restricts free exploration and can force players to save and load the game many times. A few of the hotspots are quite easy to miss and some of the puzzles do not have sufficient clues.
However Wildenburg is one of those games that manage to be fun despite their problems. The photographs from the German countryside make up a pleasant game world to explore. Aurèle Mechler’s character drawings, a good deal of the dialogue, and some of the puzzles give the game a most welcome relaxed and humorous tone. While the story is certainly on the light side and lacking in depth, it still manages to keep your interest throughout the game. The game’s mouse-driven interface is very easy to use and offers players a wide variety of ways to attempt to interact with the environment.
Taking into account that the game does not have any download or registration requirements, and given the fact that it is offered completely free of charge, adventure game enthusiasts should at least consider giving The Mystery of Castle Wildenburg a try. If you can look past the game’s frustrating features, you will see that Wildenburg has an inherent charm. The adventure can offer you a pleasant few hours as you search for the elusive Lapsit Excillis.
The game can be played at: www.Wildenburg-Spiel.de