Lo-Fi Let’s Play: Crimson Crown (Transylvania II)

I’ve been doing a series of Let’s Play videos exploring old adventures, text games and lost design forms from the 1980s Apple IIe and Commodore 64 era. In a time when young men shout over new action games, I will talk softly over strange old ones. Come along on a visitation of a different era that’s one part meditations on my childhood, one part adventure game criticism, and one part preservation effort. Bonus: Everyone says the quiet talk, lo-fi handmade feel and keyboard tapping triggers ASMR responses. Please enjoy!

Sometimes when I do this series I play games I have strong memories of from childhood; others I discover for the first time thanks to the magic of emulation. Usually I do a good bit of research beforehand, and practice solving some of the puzzles in the hopes of being able to show the best bits, and to demonstrate the particular breed of problem solving that was useful to adventure games in the early 80s — a blend of spatial awareness and deductive reasoning.

I stumbled upon this week’s journey, Crimson Crown, by accident, and within just a few minutes I decided I had to dive in and hit record, even though I hadn’t learned much yet. I wanted to share with viewers the sense of awe and discovery I was experiencing. The art is just amazing: With just a few colors, the game creates a rich, atmospheric fantasy forest and its adjacent caverns. This is also one of those games where, by default, you have companions.

Although older text-only games and dungeon crawlers often had people with you based on simple AI, and you could tell them to do things (remember The Hobbit?), this particular mode of graphics-accompanied parser game usually keeps things as simple as possible. Crimson Crown, though, gives you two companions: Sabrina the princess, and Erik, the heir to the throne. It really changes the tone of the experience when you know you have people with you.

As a kid I played Dallas Snell’s Ring Quest a lot, in part because I was inexplicably in love with the needy, easily befuddled cave man that came along, greedily dredged my waterskins and scolded me when I made poor decisions. I’d love to show you Ring Quest eventually, as I loved that game and I’d also love an excuse to interview Mr. Snell, but on emulation it loads very, very slowly from one screen to the next and I fear frustrating people.

Anyway, after spending some time with the impeccable Crimson Crown, I learned it was the second game in the early-80s Transylvania series published by Penguin Software — and that I was not off-base at all by being reminded of Ring Quest, as it’s the same publisher and Dallas Snell himself would have been responsible for the parser, at least, if not the writing and the graphics. We’d better get in touch with him!

Crimson Crown contains a beautifully-drawn owl, a gryphon, a spooky sage, and concludes with an arresting image. INTRUDER. Brr! Please enjoy!

The entire Lo-Fi Let’s Play series is available and regularly updated at my YouTube channel if you’d like to subscribe, but my friends at RPS are graciously syndicating them here from now on, with some additional written analysis and commentary.


  1. Gothnak says:

    Try our Castle of Riddles the old BBC Micro adventure game, probably one of the hardest games i have ever played. Never did finish it, i remember being killed by the three bears in the maze loads of times as a kid.

  2. Sinomatic says:

    I think we often forget, with all the dated graphics and ‘simplistic’ control scheme, that these text adventures could actually be quite involved, and involving. I’d also forgotten the joy of watching the pictures slowly drawn and filled in on-screen.

    Wonderful series Leigh, thank you.

  3. Chillz says:

    Beautifully done let’s play. Your voice nearly made me doze off in my chair, which is a compliment btw! As someone who hasn’t played any of these old adventure games this was a very intriguing experience :) You got yourself a new subscriber ;P Oh, nearly forgot to say Thank you! :)

  4. dvorhagen says:

    I’m absolutely loving this series. These are the games I played as a little kid, and there’s really no modern-day analogue. I never played Transylvania II, but I remember the first one fondly. Penguin was awesome – The Quest, Ring Quest…I think they published The Coveted Mirror, too, which was one of the best. I try to have an Apple IIe emulator on as many devices as possible, just so I can play this sort of stuff :)

    • Leigh Alexander says:

      Yes! Coveted Mirror was also Penguin. If you follow the link in my post directly to my channel itself, you’ll see I did a Coveted Mirror Let’s Play a while back! Such a great one, although I play it pretty poorly.

  5. Web Cole says:

    This series is simply wonderful :)

  6. thedosbox says:

    Listening to these has been great. Yes, I barely watch the video, just listen to Leigh’s transatlantic accent evoke a mental picture.

  7. Harlander says:

    The secret of these old, evocative games was really doing less with more.

    This kind of game isn’t as dead a genre as people think, though. It’s not mainstream any more but text adventures are still going strong. I guess their increasing sophistication can lack some of the purer minimalist aesthetic of the early stuff…

  8. TheSplund says:

    Loved the Hobbit. I never finished Snowball (on the Tatung Einstein) – I still have the 3″ (no, not 3.5″!) disc and one day will try to finish it on an emulator

  9. James Pursaill says:

    Thanks for this Leigh! More soothing 8-bit storytime please.

    It’s cool to see the challenge these games pose explained by someone who’s got a passion for it – I always wanted to explore Anchorhead, but didn’t appreciate that the initial ‘what the hell is going on, who am I, what have I got in my pockets’ vibe is actually a key part of the game, not just my inexperience with the genre.

  10. shitflap says:

    Oh my god.
    I loved this.
    Keep making these.