|Return To Dark Castle[[Image:]]|
|Release date(s)||March 14, 2008|
Return To Dark Castle is the third game in the Dark Castle Series, following the original Dark Castle (1986) and its sequel Beyond Dark Castle (1987). It is the first Computer Game in the Dark Castle series developed by Z Sculpt. This is not counting the Color Remake of the original (1994).
Zack Morris and Zack Black claim that they started working on the game when they founded their company Z Sculpt in 1996. Being Dark Castle fans themselves, they decided on a whim to ask the current rights holder Delta Tao if they could work on a new Dark Castle game. To Zsculpt's surprise, Delta Tao greenlighted the project.
The release of Return To Dark castle was initially planned for Winter 2000, a teaser for the game was released. However, the release was soon postponed to Spring 2001. On March 1, 2001, Z Sculpt began releasing public betas, after which Delta Tao put up an announcement stating "we don't announce release dates" on the Color Dark Castle section of their website, most likely in response to numerous customer inquiries.
Progress slowed after 2001, until in December 2002, an announcement from Z Sculpt told readers that they had been working all Summer on 16-bit color support and that all the graphics had to be redone. At the same time they also announced a Level Editor. There was no subsequent news until August 2003, when another announcement confirmed that work was still being done on the game. A short documentation of the level editor was also posted at this time. In April 2004, Z Sculpt released another Beta version. In October 2004, another Beta was released along with some new pictures, some of which showed off new levels. The next update to Z Sculpt's site was July 2005, with the release of another new beta version.
On December 19, 2006, an E-Mail was sent to Z Sculpt's mailing list declaring that Return To Dark Castle was finished, but only a small number of people received it due to a spam blocker. On January 11, 2007, the president of Delta Tao posted a test demo on his personal blog. On March 4, 2007 Z Sculpt's 'about' page was updated confirming the finished product, and mentioning that the intel port was done.
On March 19th, 2007, Joe Williams posted a comment on his blog, saying: "RTDC will, with luck, ship this summer, probably under Super Happy Fun Fun's label. I'll post more definitive info when I have it." An official website for the game was created in December 2007.. In January of 2008, Super Happy Fun Fun updated their site with a Return to Dark Castle page. In addition to never before seen levels, there was also a note mentioning that the game will be released "very soon."
On the 31st of January, 2008, Zack Black posted on the Dark Castle Forum, mentioning that there would be a surprise the following day. As promised, the following day, the Dark Castle Community was shown the first trailer of the game. Zack Black hinted that the final game was finished, but they were waiting for clearance from SuperHappyFunFun.
On the 22nd of February, 2008, Zack Black revealed that he had pushed very hard for the game to be done in time for that day, but that the details had not been worked out. On the 28th of February, Jon God was given an early copy of the game, about which he spread unflinching praise. On the following day, the 29th of February, the final demo was released, and SuperHappyFunFun's site changed its page to say "very VERY soon." Later that day, Zack Black, later confirmed that the switch had been flipped, and the game would be up in, at the longest, a few days.
On March 14, 2008, the game was released 2 P.M. GMT, for the price of $29.95.
June 11th, 2008, the game was updated to 1.3.1 fixing a long list of bugs, including the control lag.
Sometime in 2008, the price was lowered to $20.
February 2nd, 2011, SuperHappyFunFun let it slip on their Twitter account, that the Mac version of Return to Dark Castle was headed to the Mac App Store.  And on February 25nd, 2011, it was released onto the Mac App Store, for $5. A new version, 1.4, which included new features, such as high resolution interfaces. 
Staying as close to the original Dark Castle and Beyond Dark Castle game play as possible, Return To Dark Castle retains many similarities to the original games. However, a few things have been added to enhance the gameplay, such as the ability to carry weapons in the player's inventory as well as the ability to keep potions in the inventory; with these potions, the player can warp back to the Ante Room II from anywhere in the game. Another fundamental change to the gameplay from the original games is the ability to crawl left and right anywhere while ducking, and this will likely be necessary in order to complete some of the new levels in Return to Dark Castle (as well as find secrets in both new and old levels).
The graphics have gone through many changes, such as the jump from 8-bit to 16-bit as well as (obviously) the conversion to full color from the original games' black and white color scheme. In addition to these improvements, sprite drop shadows and lighting effects have been added.
Another significant feature, as shown in the Demo version 1.0, is the ability for players to record their own demos that can be played back from within the game by pressing the "Demo" button on the main screen (when running the current demo version, pressing the "option" key while on the main menu screen will change the "Demo" button to say "Record"). The recorded demo is saved as a file in the Return to Dark Castle folder, allowing players to trade movies of themselves playing the game.
From the Demo/Beta's intro:
- In a time of magical and mythical beasts, the ominous Dark Castle glows eerily under the full moon.
- For Centuries, the evil Black Knight has dwelled within these walls, spreading fear over the once peaceful countryside.
- All seemed hopeless until one day, a traveler from a faraway land wandered into the peasant village.
- He called himself Prince Duncan , and told the townspeople he had come on a quest to vanquish the Black Knight.
- Overjoyed that peace might finally be restored to their land, they cheered as Duncan set off toward the caste.
- But alas, their hero never returned from his valiant quest.
- Tales of his bravery were all there were spoken of Dark Castle for many years.
- .. Until now. A new hero has arrived, ready to face the perils of the castle and destroy the Black Knight once and for all.
Return to Dark Castle's Hero is not Prince Duncan this time around, instead it is his nephew, Bryant.
The controls in this game are as follows:
- W - Up (Climb ladder/Stairs/Rope up Along with A/D keys)
- S - Down (Climb Ladder/Stairs/Rope down Along with A/D keys. Low Jump with Space)
- A - Left (Walk left, Up/Down stairs, with W/S keys. Long jump with Space)
- D - Right (Walk right. Up/Down Stairs, with W/S keys. Long jump with Space)
- Q - Action (Shield/Use switch/Pick up item)
- E - Duck (Crawl when used with A/D key, next to a pipe)
- Spacebar - Jump (Jump. When used with A/D keys, long jump. When used with S key, low jump)
- Mouse - Aim (Aim arm for Rocks/Fireballs)
- Mouse Click - Throw rock (throw rock in direction of aiming)
- Tab - Take out/put away weapon.
- Return - Warp to Ante Room II by using a Potion.
- Apple+P - Pause
In Helicopter Pack:
- W - Up (Ascend/Take off)
- S - Down (Descend/Land)
- A - Left (Fly Left/Turn Left)
- D - Right (Fly Right/Turn Right)
- Mouse - Aim (Aim arm)
- Click - (Throw Rocks/Fireball)
- E+Click - Drop Bomb
- A - Left (Move Left)
- D - Right (Move Right)
- Q - Block (Block Attack/Put Weapon back on rack)
- E - Duck (Duck Under Attack)
- Tab - Take out/put away weapon.
- E+Click - Place Bomb
Main article: List of Levels in Return to Dark Castle
Dark Castle and Beyond Dark Castle each had 15 levels, and Return To Dark Castle is reported to have all the levels from the first game plus a lot more. It's been said many times by Z Sculpt that this game will be huge in terms of levels, with developers hinting possibly 90 unique levels, including the original Dark Castle and Beyond Dark Castle levels as well as many new secret levels. According to one of the developers, the majority of the new levels in Return to Dark Castle will be on a single screen to preserve the feel of the original Dark Castle; however, there will be a significant number of new scrolling levels as well. Some of the new levels have been described as having a grand, "cinematic" feel.
Levels from Dark CastleEdit
- Trouble Level Path: Trouble 1, Trouble 2, Trouble 3.
- Fireball Level Path: Fireball 1, Fireball 2, Fireball 3, Fireball 4.
- Black Knight Level Path: Black Knight 1, Black Knight 2, Black Knight 3.
- Shield Level Path: Shield 1, Shield 2, Shield 3, Shield 4.
Levels From Beyond Dark CastleEdit
- Ye Roof: Computer Room, Clock Tower, Swamp, Black Forest.
- West Tower: West Tower Wall, West Labyrinth, West Tower Top.
- East Tower: Black Knight's Brewery, East Labyrinth, East Tower Top.
- Underground: Basement, Catacombs, Dungeon.
- Main Hall: Ante Room, Black Knight's Showdown & The Final Battle.
New levels in Return To Dark CastleEdit
In the official release, there are 7 doors in Ante Room II. Starting in the lower-left and proceeding clockwise and ending in the center:
- Main Shield Path: Library, Courtyard, Catapult, Olde Tower, Olde Tower Top.
- Main Stoneball Path: Forest Guard Tower, Witch's Woods, Witch's Woods 2, Witch's Cave.
- Main Conservatory Path: Armory, Stables, Garden, Conservatory.
- Main Fireball Path: Rooftop, South Wall, South Wall 2, Observatory.
- Main Mosquito Path: Castle Grounds, Castle Grounds 2, Tangled Roots, Mosquito Marsh.
- Main Potion Factory Path: Laboratory, Laboratory 2, Sewer, Potion Factory.
- Dark Knight Path: Gauntlet, Grand Stairway, Black Knight's Throne Room.
There are also several other levels accessible from the above main paths:
- Giant Tree Mini-Path: Library, Courtyard, Hedge Maze, Giant Tree.
- Cave Dungeon Mini-Path: Library, Courtyard, Cave Dungeon.
- Wine Cellar Mini-Path: Armory, Stables, Wine Cellar.
- Chapel Mini-Path: Rooftop, South Wall, South Wall 2, Chapel.
- Crypt Mini-Path: Castle Grounds, Castle Grounds 2, Graveyard, Crypt.
- Crypt 2 Mini-Path: Castle Grounds, Castle Grounds 2, Graveyard, Crypt 2.
- Iron Spire Mini-Path: Castle Grounds, Castle Grounds 2, Graveyard, Iron Spire.
- Kitchen Mini-Path: Laboratory, Kitchen.
In addition, there are several secret levels accessible:
- Underground River Secret Path: Castle Grounds, Underground River.
- Oubliette Secret Path: Library, Oubliette.
- Pantry Secret Path: Laboratory, Kitchen, Pantry.
- Olde Tower Basement Secret Path: Library, Courtyard, Catapult, Olde Tower Basement,
- Mine Shaft Secret Path: Library, Courtyard, Cave Dungeon, Mine Shaft.
- Forest Tower Secret Path: Forest Guard Tower, North Tower, Forest Bridge, South Tower.
- Airborne Secret Path: Ante Room, Airborne.
- Torture Chamber Secret Path: Basement, Dungeon, Torture Chamber.
- Belfry Secret Path: Black Knight's Brewery, East Labyrinth, East Tower Top, Belfry.
- Casino Secret Path: Computer Room, Clock Tower, Swamp, Casino.
- Invaders Secret Path: Trouble 1, Trouble 2, Trouble 3, Game Room, Invaders.
- Graffiti Secret Path: Fireball 1, Graffiti.
- Breakout Secret Path: Great Hall, Breakout.
There is also a small training area, accessible from the Title Screen:
Levels known before the official release, gleaned from screenshots, betas, and demos:
- Hedge Maze Test 1 - Based on the name, it will probably not make it in the final game.
- Test Level - Used in later betas, probably will not be in the final game.
- West Courtyard.
- Cave Dungeon.
- Witch's Woods 1.
- Secret Room.
- Bryant's House.
- Bryant's House 2.
- Target Practice.
- Ante Room II.
- Forest Guard Tower.
- Castle Grounds.
- Giant Tree.
- Wine Cellar
- Untitled Kitchen Level - A kitchen level, with no name shown.
- Untitled Forest Level - Shown in the trailer, when the Wild Boar is chasing Bryant.
- Untitled Swamp Level - Shown in the trailer, with the slot machine-looking things.
- Untitled Dark Level - Shown in the trailer, where a machine crushes Bryant.
- Untitled Disappearing Platform Level - Shown in the trailer, where Bryant makes the platforms disappear by throwing the rocks at them.
- Untitled Flying Level - Shown in the trailer, when Bryant is flying through the air.
Main article: Items
- Morning Star
- Poisoned Potion
- Piece of Paper - These are scattered throughout the castle, and contain hints and tips.
- Crossbow - Shown in the leaked screenshot of Giant Tree, on Joe Williams's blog.
- Iceball - Shown in early beta screens.
- Smile Ball - Shown in the leaked picture of the Giant Tree.
- Unnamed Golden Mushroom - Shown in the Giant Tree level.
Main article: Enemies
- Burning Eye
- Magic Broom
- Magic Bucket
- Whip Henchman
- Big Bird
- Mosquitos/Killer Birds
- Shovel Henchman
- Brewery Henchman
- Black Knight
- Armored Guard
- Wild Boar
- Marsh Creature
- Purple Eye
- Acid Eye
- Stone Eye
- Trunk Henchman
- Potion Henchman
- Bowling Ball Henchman
- Axe Henchman
Main article: Obstacles
- Spike Trap
- Swinging Scythe
- Falling Books - Shown in the Library
- Falling Bottles - Shown in the Wine Cellar
Main article: Difficulties
- Novice - It was shown that this difficulty was added. (SuperHappyFunFun's January update).
Main article: Level Editor
As announced in December 2002, Return To Dark Castle will include a level editor; with this editor, players will be able to make their own levels or even create an entire quest. Judging from the demo/beta versions of the game released to date, these custom levels will likely be activated from within the game using the levers and tubes found in the Laboratory level.
The levels have 7 layers, each with its own specific purpose, such as monsters, stairs, pick ups, etc.
The Layers are as follows:
- Layer 1: Scenery.
- Layer 2: Background.
- Layer 3: Midground.
- Level 4: Items.
- Level 5: Animation.
- Level 6: Foreground.
- Level 7: Stamps.
Descriptions of all of them are located here.
It's possible that the developers themselves will release some custom level packs after the full version of the game is released.
Main article: List of Return to Dark Castle Betas
On February 6, 2001, Z Sculpt announced a public Beta. On January 11, 2007, Joe Williams posted a test demo on his blog; the demo is labeled 1.0. Z Sculpt has not changed their Return to Dark Castle page since the January 11th demo, and is still offering Beta 13. 
- Teaser - March 25, 1999 - This isn't an official beta, rather a teaser, but it's worth noting.
- Beta 1 - March 1, 2001
- Beta 1.1 - March 5, 2001
- Beta 2 - April 3, 2001
- Beta 3 - May 3, 2001
- Beta 4 - May 17, 2001
- Beta 5 - August 1, 2001
- Beta 6 - September 12, 2001
- Beta 7 - November 2, 2001
- Beta 8 - February 21, 2002
- Beta 9 - July 8, 2002
- Beta 10 - April 21, 2004
- Beta 11 - October 15, 2004
- Beta 12 - May 5, 2005
- Beta 13 - July 22, 2005
- Test Demo 1.0 - January 11, 2007 - Leaked on Delta Tao's blog.
- Final Demo 1.1 - Febuary 29th 2008 - Released by SHFF.
Release versions of Return to Dark CastleEdit
Return to Dark Castle has had a few versions since it's initial release.
- Version 1.0 - (Date unknown, possibly January 2007) This was the pre-release version, which still included some bugs, and was updated before release.
- Version 1.1 - (February 28th, 2008) The special release given to Jon God to preview, before release. It did not include the eSellerate copy protection, but another in house copyright protection. Also a few changes and bugs were fixed between this and the release version.
- Version 1.2 - (March 14, 2008) The release version, contained some bugs, such as often broken replays, control lag, and some minor things. It also included eSellerate copy protection.
- Version 1.3 - (Date unknown, possibly around april 2008) This release was only available to new buyers of the game for a short time, as a bug was found, and the patch made for download was changed to 1.3.1.
- Version 1.3.1 - (June 4th, 2008, for buyers, June 11th 2008, for everyone else) The first update, this included a fix for the infamous control lag, as well as fixes for the game's credits, and some fixes for the saved films (Though, they were still broken often).
- Version 1.4 - (February 25, 2011) The Mac App Store release, containing new updates to the interface, film set up, and more. It also lacked the copyright protection eSellerate, as seen in older versions.
Return to Dark Castle PortsEdit
While none have so far been released, some ports of the game have been announced or hinted at.
- Return to Dark Castle PC - Confirmed by Mark Steven Pierce via a comment on Macworld.
- Return to Dark Castle iOS - In the same comment as above, Mark Steven Pierce confirmed an iPhone port. Due to the success of the iPad, it's likely we will also see a port to it.
Main Article Return to Dark Castle Teaser
On a whim, Dark Castle fan Jon God, was looking in the data of the Return to Dark Castle Teaser, and uncovered a host in few levels and information.
The original system requirements from the old Return To Dark Castle F.A.Q. were as follows:
- 90-100 MHz
- Mac Os 8 or higher.
The Requirements on Mac Game Files states the following:
- Mac OS 8.6 or higher, with CarbonLib.
- Mac OS X 10.0 or higher.
- NOTE: The Current Requirements are unknown.
In a text file that came with the test demo, it says that they are working on an Intel version, but in the meantime it works "acceptably" under Rosetta.
In the newest update to Z Sculpt's News page, they mention that an intel universal binary version is finished.
In January 2008, SuperHappyFunFun updated their site with the requirements for version 1.2 - 1.3.1:
- Hardware Specs:
- Minimum Specs
- - Mac OS 10.3.9
- - G3 processor
- - 500 mhz
- - 128MB of RAM
- - 100MB of free hard drive space
- - Turn all special effects off to run at 15 frames per second
- Recommended Specs
- - G4 processor
- - 1.0 ghz
- - 256MB of RAM
- - 100MB of free hard drive space
When it launched on the mac app store, in February 2011, the current requirements were listed:
- Mac OS X 10.6.6 or later
- 57MBs of Hard Drive space
The December 19 E-MailEdit
On December 19, 2006, an E-Mail was sent out from Z Sculptsaying "Return to Dark Castle has been completed and will be available soon." The only problem was that very few people received the E-Mail, and some people thought it was not true. Upon questioning Z Sculpt, they said that their Spam blocker, Comcast, had blocked their E-Mail address and let only a few E-Mails out, but they did in fact send the E-Mail.
The E-Mail said:
Lords and Ladies, Return to Dark Castle has at long last been completed. We're working hard with Delta Tao to make the public demo available for download soon, followed by the full product release shortly after.
The Email also included a picture of Duncan dancing from Beyond Dark Castle.
Main Article Dark Castle Community
In late 2006, a small community of Dark Castle started to form, and in early 2007, a dedicated fan, named Jon God started a forum, which has become the official Dark Castle Forum, linked to by Z Sculpt, in addition, Zack Morris, and Zack Black have joined the forum, and and they post occasionally.
- This game was said to start development in 1996, which means that the total Development time is over 10 years; this is comparable to Duke Nukem Forever, whose development was started a year later.
- After finishing Color Dark Castle, Delta Tao dropped their plans to convert Beyond Dark Castle to color, since Return To Dark Castle is going to include all the levels from it.
- The Christmas Tree easter egg from Dark Castle is still included in this game, found in the Great Hall room. There are some new easter eggs to be found as well.
- In some of the early screenshots, there was a weapon next to the Fireball in the inventory which looked like an Iceball. When questioned about it, Z Sculpt said it was a placeholder, and that nothing is final. Z Sculpt has confirmed that a new spell will be in the game, however, and that this placeholder has something to do with it.
- The Dark Castle rights were bought by Super Happy Fun Fun, and extended Return To Dark Castle's development due to the rights changing hands, it appears. Originally it was going to be produced by Delta Tao, but it was cleared up (via a comment on Joe Williams' blog from March 19).
- Return to Dark Castle Homepage The official site for Return to Dark Castle.
- Leaked demo download link. (dc3demo1.0.zip)
- Z Sculpt Homepage The Developers of Return To Dark Castle.
- Super Happy Fun Fun Homepage Publisher of Return to Dark Castle and rights holder to the Dark Castle Series.
- Inside Mac Games preview of Return To Dark Castle.
- The latest Beta for download at Mac Game Files.
- Forum thread discussing Return To Dark Castle.
- Recent news article featuring Return To Dark Castle.
- Another recent article on Return To Dark Castle
- Dark Castle Links, including the closest to official forum (where players can chat with Zack Morris of Z Sculpt, one of the developers for Return to Dark Castle).
- Return to Dark Castle trailer which made it's debut on February 1st.
- Press Article from The Unofficial Weblog.
- Press Article from Macenstein.
- Press Article from Mac Mega Site.
- Article which mentions Return to Dark Castle.
- Macworld Article on the release of the Return to Dark Castle demo.