(Now that the power’s back on, I can post this. Actually, the power’s been back on for a few hours, but the computers here in Laura’s father’s house all came back asking for passwords. Finally I gave up and borrowed the Ethernet connection from one of them for my PowerBook.)
I think I was wrong about Dark Castle not being a skill game. I’ve only been playing Beyond Dark Castle for a few hours now, but I’ve already made it all the way to the Black Knight. I haven’t beaten him yet, but getting to this point in Dark Castle took me weeks of effort, and BDC is a larger game. So maybe I did pick up some general Dark Castle-playing skills beyond the patterns of each individual level. Admittedly, there are a few other possibilities. BDC might simply be easier than Dark Castle (at least on the respective Beginner settings). Or maybe BDC’s feature that lets you save games makes a huge enough difference in how much time it takes to get familiar with a level, since you don’t have to replay as much. Still, I was able to beat most of the BDC levels the first time through, and that was almost never the case with Dark Castle.
Regarding my previous problem with Dark Castle’s ending—or lack thereof—I find it interesting that the BDC instructions specifically mention that beating the game on the Beginner and Intermediate levels takes you back to the dungeon to play again at a higher level. They do promise a “secret animation” if you beat the game on Advanced, though. Maybe it’s true of the original as well?
Playing BDC right after DC, it’s extremely obvious how much of a derivative BDC is. When I played them years ago, there was time in between, and BDC felt much more advanced (contrast to my experience with Deimos Rising vs. Mars Rising). The games are very clearly built on the same game engine, with most of the same sprites and animations. BDC has a few more characters, much larger levels, and some new game mechanics, but it’s definitely the same game.