When it comes to spoopy gaming stuff, I guess I really can’t keep myself from thinking about Rareware. Perhaps it’s the distinctive style of their early games or maybe it’s just straight-up childhood nostalgia on my part. Whatever the case, I think that Rareware is the definitive king of video game spoop, and the Creepy Castle stage in DK64 is one of their spoopy mastercrafts.
Creepy Castle is another one of those levels that lives and dies on its atmosphere. It’s not exactly scary since there are very few actual threats in it, but that creepiness is still there all the same. Actually, I’m not really sure “creepy” really applies here despite the level’s name. It’s more like something that’s playing at being creepy rather than actually being so. If anything it’s like visiting an event like Fright Fest at Six Flags: it’s scary, but not really. In a word, it’s “spoopy”!
Alright, so what gives Creepy Castle its spoopy charm? I’d say it’s a combination of its music, its scale, and sheer number of spooky cliches it manages to cram into its dank halls. Starting with the music, it ranges from a combination of somber and sad outside the castle, to foreboding in its dungeons, to just plain silly in areas like the great hall. That great hall music is all kinds of tropey too, making the whole experience in there a wonderfully cheesy time. Then there’s the sheer size of the area.
There’s something inherently creepy about a large, old place since there are so many places where unknown horrors could be hiding. That along with the disorientation that comes with exploring a large building is often enough to make one nervous. It never gets to that point with Creepy Castle thanks to the banana warps and general goofiness, but the echo of that feeling is still there nonetheless.
Lastly we’ve got the clichés; Creepy Castle has everything save for a couple of classic monsters like vampires and Frankensteins. We’ve got a haunted hedge maze, dungeons, underground crypts, an armory with knight armor, a grand hall with cackling laughter, a deadly mine cart ride and an excessively tall tower on top of it.
Rounding things off are enemies that include a “ghost” (a kremling wearing a sheet), and skeletons that make the teeth clattering sound when they’re defeated. Beyond all this, I think what makes this level stand out is that it’s designed somewhat better than the rest of the stages in DK64. It’s laid out in a way that minimizes back tracking and doesn’t force the player to switch Kongs as often. So by the time one finishes the game, Creepy Castle will likely stand out as the level that felt the best to play through.
Whatever the reasons though, I think that Creepy Castle is a great level to pull up during the Halloween season. Not only does it nail the spoopy feel more than almost any other stage, it’s also just a really well-designed level. Even if you don’t like DK64 as a whole, you could probably enjoy Creepy Castle as an individual level thanks to this.
What do you think of Creepy Castle? Got another level that nails this feeling? At any rate, be sure to stay tuned for a couple more weeks of Spooptober!
Image by Duck of Indeed