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Video Game / Castle Wolfenstein

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Solid Snake's grandpa at work.
Welcome to Castle Wolfenstein, mate! The Nazis brought you here to get information out of you before they kill you. That's what this place is for — if you listen you can hear the screams. They've already worked me over and I'll never get out alive, but maybe you can with this gun. It's standard issue — each clip holds 10 bullets, and it's fully loaded.

Be careful, mate, because every room in the castle is guarded. The regular guards can't leave their posts without orders, but watch out for the SS stormtroopers. They're the ones in the bulletproof vests and they're like bloody hounds. Once they've picked up your trail they won't stop chasing you until you kill them and you almost need a grenade to do that.

Castle Wolfenstein is full of supplies too. I know one chap who found a whole German uniform and almost sneaked out past the guards. He might have made it if he hadn't shot some poor sod and got the SS on his trail. If you can't unlock a supply chest, try shooting it open. Now I wouldn't go shooting at chests full of explosives…

One more thing. The battle plans for Operation Rheingold are hidden somewhere in the castle. I'm sure you know what it would mean to the Allied High Command if we could get our hands on those…

They're coming for me! Good luck!


Castle Wolfenstein (1981) was a computer game written by Silas Warner for the Apple ][, IBM home computers, Atari 8-Bit Computers, and the Commodore 64. It is regarded as one of the first stealth-based games ever, and began the long-running Wolfenstein series.

The player is an unnamed U.S. soldier during World War II; he has been captured by the Nazis and imprisoned in Castle Wolfenstein. When the game starts, he has managed to get a gun and ten bullets from a dead cellmate. Once the player starts moving, he attracts the attention of the guards, who will try to shoot or apprehend him. The player's objective is to avoid being captured or killed, find the secret war plans, and escape alive. The player can wear uniforms to sneak past (some) guards, ambush patrols, and find helpful items such as keys, food, drink, bullets, grenades, and bulletproof vests. The game is played with Three-Quarters View.

The success of Castle Wolfenstein prompted a sequel, Beyond Castle Wolfenstein (1984). In this game, the player must infiltrate a secret Berlin bunker where Adolf Hitler is holding secret meetings; he must find a bomb hidden somewhere inside the bunker, plant it in Hitler's meeting room, then escape before the bomb explodes.

The Castle Wolfenstein games provide examples of the following tropes:

  • Alternate History: Beyond Castle Wolfenstein's premise is based on the July 20th plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler with a bomb, except that the agent is actually successful in killing him.
  • Artificial Stupidity: The regular guards (including SS Stormtroopers that had their body armor removed) make no attempt to follow you into another room, and when you come back and you're wearing a uniform, they completely forget that you were just shooting at them a few seconds ago.
  • Autosave: In the original 1981 version the game saved your situation every time you entered a room or died. If you died you could prevent this by opening the disk drive's door, then re-booting. The game would start up again right where you entered the room.
  • Back Stab: You do double damage to opponents if you attacked them from behind. In the sequel, your character could backstab and kill any Nazi soldier in one hit if you had the dagger equipped.
  • Blatant Item Placement: Ammunition, explosives, uniforms, armor, food, drink, and even plans for military operations are placed in identical containers that are scattered throughout the castle with no rhyme or reason.
  • Blending-In Stealth Gameplay: Your character can either steal a German uniform or find one in a chest. Once you do so, you won't be recognized as an enemy by regular guards and have a chance of escaping without further combat as long as you aren't seen by an SS guard.
  • Bottomless Magazines: Averted. Both you and the Nazis are given a maximum of ten bullets to use. After they run out of ammunition, the guards will run after you and try to capture you.
  • Collapsing Lair: If you blow yourself up with a grenade or shoot a trunk containing grenades or cannonballs, the entire screen is lit up with an explosion and sends you back to the main menu. Apparently, the entire castle is destroyed from this one blast, since the game forces you to start over in a new castle if this happens.
  • Collision Damage: If a Nazi knows you're an enemy and touches you it's an immediate Game Over. Justified, as the Nazi would likely either restrain you or gut you with a combat knife or other melee weapon in that case.
  • Deadly Walls: Bumping into a wall stuns the player for several seconds. Not particularly lethal unless he's being chased by a soldier at the time…
  • Die, Chair, Die!: All of the walls (except for the four main ones) in each room, along with all of the chests, can be destroyed with grenades.
  • Do Not Run with a Gun: Averted. The protagonist and the Nazis can all move while firing their guns at the same time. They can even walk in one direction while simultaneously shooting at targets in another direction.
  • Doomed Fellow Prisoner: The introductory screens have information given by the PC's cellmate. It ends with the other prisoner screaming as he's being dragged away by the Nazis to be tortured.
  • Dressing as the Enemy: In Castle Wolfenstein, you can find uniforms in chests and then put them on to sneak past soldiers, though SS Stormtroopers will immediately see through your disguise. In Beyond Castle Wolfenstein, you're always wearing a uniform, but the guards will ask you for a pass if they see you.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: 2D Top-Down View, stealth-based gameplay, Randomly Generated Levels, Atari-esque graphics, and twin joystick controls? Not something you'd expect from the series that helped put the first-person shooter genre on the map.
  • Elite Mooks: Unlike regular Nazis, the SS Soldiers can see through the uniform you might be wearing. They're also harder to kill due to their bulletproof vests.
  • Food Porn: In Castle Wolfenstein, you can find a variety of German delicacies (bratwurst, sauerkraut, schnapps, etc.) in the various chests throughout the castle.
  • Gratuitous German:
    • The original Castle Wolfenstein was noted for its unprecedented use of digitized German voices.
    • This also applies to Beyond Castle Wolfenstein, with guards giving commands in German. Most of them are correct; however, using "Anfang!" to indicate an enemy is very odd ("Alarm!" or "Achtung!" would have been more accurate).
  • The Guards Must Be Crazy:
    • In the original game, you can steal a uniform and wear it; the regular guards would ignore you, but the SS would see right through it.
    • Averted in the sequel. If the guards see you with a weapon out, they'll start shooting immediately. Also, if you don't remove dead guards before the others see it, they'll head for the alarm and set it off. Finally, they'll periodically ask you to show a pass.
  • Guide Dang It!: Trying to run the DOS version of Castle Wolfenstein on modern computer systems, since the default speed is too ridiculously fast for any human to catch up. Thankfully, emulators like DOSBox allow one to decrease the cycles to a sufficient amount.
  • Heal Thyself: In Beyond Castle Wolfenstein, the player can recover from being shot by using a first-aid kit.
  • Hyperactive Metabolism: Schnapps (alcohol) screws up your shooting accuracy, and bratwurst fixes it.
  • Intoxication Mechanic: Your character can find alcoholic beverages (such as liebfraumilch wine or schnapps) in chests. Whenever your character drinks them, the direction your gun is aiming can't be reliably controlled for a while.
  • Jump Scare: A light example: a player encountering the SS troopers for the first time may mistake them for room-locked enemies just like normal guards. That is, until one jumps out of a door while pursuing them, screaming "SS!" in sharp, digitized German.
  • Loading Screen: The game (except in the DOS port) displays four pages of unskippable introductory text (as shown in the page quote) while generating the castle for the next run.
  • Locked Door: In the original game these could be shot open by bullets or blown open by grenades.
  • Luck-Based Mission:
    • Castle Wolfenstein is all about this; You have to navigate through the randomly-generated castle with all its rooms and levels, find the war plans in one of the dozens of chests randomly scattered throughout the complex, and then find the exit (which could literally be anywhere) without being caught or killed by any guards on the way. And of course, there's a chance that SS Stormtroopers will show up when and where you'd least expect them.
  • MacGuffin: The war plans in the original game.
  • Master of Unlocking: In the original game, if the player finds a locked chest he has to "lockpick" it (wait for a timer to count down) before it will open. The player can shoot the chest to speed up the timer; unfortunately, this uses up bullets, and may attract nearby guards. It's also bad news if the chest's contents are explosive (ammunition, grenades, cannonballs)).
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: Due to the randomly-generated nature of Castle Wolfenstein, there's a chance that there will be a container carrying grenades, armor, a disguise, or even the war plans in the cell the Nazis placed you in.
  • No Swastikas: Averted; the regular Nazi guards had uniforms with large swastikas across their chests. SS Soldiers wore uniforms with "SS" instead.
  • Non Standard Game Over: No matter how many times the guards kill or capture you, the game will still let you continue playing. But if you blow yourself up with a grenade or destroy the castle by shooting a chest containing explosive materials (ammunition, grenades, cannonballs, etc.), the game will force you to start over in a new castle.
  • NPC Roadblock: More than often, the path to another room will be obstructed by a Patrolling Mook. In order to get past him, the player will either have to kill him or use a grenade to make an alternate route. Either one means you'll have to risk blowing your cover.
  • One Bullet Clips: The player only has one pistol and can't store any extra bullet magazines. Thus, coming across enemy bullets means only reloading if they had more bullets than the player currently had.
  • One-Hit-Point Wonder:
    • Played mostly straight in the first game — while a single shot will kill or incapacitate the player, the probability that a shot will hit depends on several factors, such as the distance of the gunman and whether the player is wearing a bulletproof vest.
    • In Beyond Castle Wolfenstein, getting shot actually caused you to limp and slow down.
  • Optional Stealth: It's a good idea to sneak through as much of the castle(s) as possible, because fighting German soldiers is a good way to get killed. However, you can still fight them if you want to, and at times it may actually be necessary (e.g. before you got a uniform or passes, or to "clean out" the room where the alarm box is located).
  • Patrolling Mook: If one of the guards sees you while you aren't wearing a uniform (and for SS guards, regardless of), he will call out to alert other guards and possibly activate an alarm.
  • Permanently Missable Content: If you are killed or captured with the war plans in your possession, then you won't be able to retrieve it a second time without starting a new game.
  • Randomly Generated Levels: The game has pre-generated rooms whose layouts didn't change; however, the order and connection between rooms was randomized at the start of each game.
  • Rewarding Vandalism: Averted; blowing up a chest with a grenade causes everything within to be lost. Blowing up a chest with explosives results in a Non Standard Game Over.
  • Stick 'em Up: The player can surprise guards and hold them at gunpoint, even with an empty gun.
  • Top-Down View: Somewhat; the layout of each room is a top-down view, but the player, the soldiers, and furniture are depicted in 2D profile.
  • Unwinnable Joke Game: In Castle Smurfenstein, a hacked version of the original Apple II Castle Wolfenstein, the game was deliberately modified so that it's impossible to get past the first level.
  • Utility Weapon: In the original game bullets can shoot out locked doors and help open chests faster, and grenades can blow open locked doors and destroy interior walls and chests.
  • Weapon for Intimidation: A common tactic is to stick up a guard with an empty gun, rob the guard for any bullets, then shoot him immediately afterwards.
  • Video Game Stealing: You can steal the uniform of a guard or an SS trooper's bulletproof vest, then put it on and use it, all while holding the guard at gunpoint. This was the best way to kill an SS trooper, since it usually took a full clip or more to take one down. Sneaking up on them, telling them to give you their bulletproof vest and then shooting them? One bullet.

Alternative Title(s): Beyond Castle Wolfenstein