From 2010 to 2014 Richard Cobbett wrote Crapshoot, a column about rolling the dice to bring random obscure games back into the light. This week, Nazi zombies once again run amok in a spooky German castle full of mad necroscience… but it sure as hell ain’t Wolfenstein this time around.
Castle Knatterfels (Knatterfels being German for “Worst Shooter Ever”) is a game that really makes you think. “I think my clicking finger is falling off,” for instance. “I wonder what asbestos tastes like,” from time to time. Mostly though, “What were they thinking?” Aside from “Heh, boobies,” obviously.
Wolf-Whistlenstein 3D here has a good claim to being one of the dumbest games ever, in every sense of the word. It’s one of those games that figures its audience will be so excited by the opportunity to see not even badly rendered nudity, but badly rendered lingerie, that the interconnecting tissue (Kleenex, presumably) doesn’t matter even a little.
It goes one step beyond most though, by putting what we have to charitably call ‘the good stuff’ on the death screen to be browsed at leisure, thus removing any need to actually descend into this nadir of fun and discover that the ending walks off with a Guinness World Record for being even lazier than what preceded it. This is actually quite an achievement.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Operation Wolfenstein here starts with the longest, most pointless text scroll since the Uwe Boll classic Alone In The Dark—and if you want to read the whole thing, go find purpose in your life. Volunteer at Cat Rescue, for instance. Donate a pint or two of your blood to my proposed Greatest Water Balloon Fight Ever. Your call.
In summary though, you are world-renowned porn photographer Huge Beefner, and that is your real name, creator of the internationally renowned jazz mag CASTLE MAIDEN. The Playboy Mansion? Pah! Everyone knows it doesn’t get sexier than giant spooky castles full of Nazi science. Either that or this game’s creators had heard the goth scene was big, but thought everyone meant the Vizigoths.
This is genuinely the story here, and of course, while the this game (or more likely, the game’s translator) saw no problem with the whole “Curse Of The Zombie Krauts” thing, the sexy side soon ends up being a sheepish and nervous as these things always seem to be.
There’s no actual nudity, just girls in bikinis that clearly don’t fit—just check the image above for that. Its attempts to sound edgy are just… well… sad. “Mansfield, Monroe, Russell—I have photographed them all for my magazine, in the scantiest clothing imaginable!” boasts the intro. “It goes with the job that I have a jet set lifestyle—or do you think you can find women like that in the hamburger joint on the corner?”
Please. Church groups hit the beach in skimpier bikinis than this, and that’s just the vicars.
Much like ancient John Goodman movie King Ralph, everything goes wrong when a lighting rig causes a short circuit, only this time spawning an army of the undead instead of a terrible comedy. Your mileage may vary on which is worse, but the result ends up being less Wolfenstein than Operation Wolf.
There is a chance that what follows may look like a fun blast. It is not.
Castle Knatterfels is level after level of pure endurance, taking the simplest shooting gallery concept imaginable, adding girls in bikinis popping up as if to go “Toasty!” every now and again, and somehow managing to be more pointless than a blank box saying “SEXY GOES HERE”.
(Especially later on, when you’re routinely gunning down zombie bikini girls, at which point they only serve to waste your precious ammo. Get out of the way, idiots! And put some clothes on!)
How many ways does this game suck? Let’s see. For starters, enemies don’t actually move or throw any kind of projectile. A zombie will spring up miles away and wave his hand, and that seems to count as a hit. Stages always scroll, so you’ve got things popping up all over the place whether you’re looking at them or not and cover does nothing to protect you. Weapons have painfully little ammo, and pickups only give bullets to the gun you’re using.
As for those guns, automatic weapons… well, aren’t. There’s a reason most of these games default to using a chunky machine gun and let players spray indiscriminately like they’re in a music festival Portakabin. It means far less finger blistering, and far more of that ‘fun’ thing that’s quite popular in the industry.
Finally, far from trying to take out the hordes, all you’re really doing is holding out until the timer expires. That puts you ridiculously at the mercy of health pickups appearing at the right time, and makes accidentally triggering a time bonus pickup the equivalent of elbowing yourself in the face.
And that isn’t even possible!
The reward for this (aside from every minute spent doing it knocking off two minutes in any purgatory you may find yourself in after death), is to have your lady friends go “Meh” at being pursued by zombies, Nazis, other models turned into succubi/spiders /whatever, and instead take the time to wave their wobbly bits in front of a camera.
Live fast, die young, become a beautiful zombie, I guess.
These sequences are better than the rest of the game, though only by default. Other things in that category including stubbing your toe on the door and having your fingernails ripped out by the KGB. It’s a timing-based puzzle: you stand miles away to snap the most boring smut in the world, with a skeleton trying to photobomb the girl as she focuses and defocuses while the rest of the screen doesn’t. Succeed, and you get a better weapon to add to your arsenal for the next zombie wave, and lingering questions about where the hell she was keeping it.
For his trouble, our main character also gets unforgettable cheesecake shots like… uh… this.
The lack of any real tactics makes it easy to race through most of the game in one or two sittings, depending on health power-ups and whether you accidentally slip into a state of torpor somewhere between stages 3 and 4.
By the second stage, it’s not the sexiness that stands out so much as the slip-ups in palette that make it clear these are very visibly different art assets half-heartedly smushed together. The spiders especially come from a mysterious land where artists haven’t heard of this thing we call ‘gamma correction’.
When the ending comes, it’s low-resolution in a way that suggests everyone involved figured almost nobody was going to see it anyway, and consists entirely of one quick visual gag and a last-minute revelation about our hero that it probably wasn’t worth waiting the entire game for.
Oh, my. No wonder the zombies didn’t invite him to their sexy afterparty.
It is, after all, a dead classy affair.