A great twist on Internet chat rooms is provided by Castle Infinity (Starwave – ages 8-12), a logic/action game for kids that plays on the Web. Log on and you’ll find yourself in a large 2D environment, filled with classic video game elements like multiple levels, transporters, and bad guys (in this case, dinosaurs). It’s also filled with other characters like yourself, each representing a real kid sitting by his computer somewhere. Unlike a Quake death match, these network apparitions communicate more than they fight; every character has a dialogue bubble floating over his head, to be filled with whatever message you care to type. Castle Infinity, then, is a game with social element; a social network with a game element; a chat room where you can see visual representations of your cohorts, or a game where you can actually stop to chat. The play-action itself is fun but ordinary, and without the Net element this would probably be crushed by competition like Earthworm Jim. With the Net element, however, it promises many hours of entertainment (the video game aspect, and wacky customizable characters, guarantee that kids will prefer this to an ordinary chat room). We spent a few hours with the program, and became so absorbed with our new friends that we didn’t make much headway in the goal-oriented part of the game (as compared to our Quake network experiences, in which we also met new people – just before pumping a round into their skulls). It’s as good a way to appreciate Castle Infinity as any. A last note, to our friend Smoots from Missouri: stay well, risk the transporter, and good luck with that report card.
– December 1996