The A-Z of geek: B is for Baron

When I was eleven years old I was walking home from school with a friend to go and play at his house on his BBC microcomputer. I was describing a game in which you must navigate a complex castle, avoid the guards and solve puzzles.  The game I was describing was Castle Quest, but the game my friend introduced me two that night was Baron - and it changed my life.  Get ready to jump over acid pits and test your wits against an army of cute animals....

B is for Baron

Baron, by Superior Software, is indeed a similar game to both Castle Quest and Citadel, but in my mind it is a much better game.  No other game has captured my imagination like Baron.

One of the many infinitely-replaceable guards sent to crush your hopes of rescuing the wizard. And by 'crush' I mean make you lose a few hit points and have to start the screen from the beginning again.

In Baron you play the part of Prince Jason who is on a solo-mission to rescue the King's best wizard from the clutches of the evil Baron.  I don't think that Prince Jason intended to go on a solo mission, it is just that he got separated from the rest of the rescue party and now he is lost in the Baron's forbidding fortress and must make the best of a bad situation.

Enemies that you face include guards that can be dispatched by spitting in their faces.  This does not kill them, however it does force them to disappear off-screen to wipe the offending spittle from their visage whilst cursing your disgusting habits. Homicidal mice and snakes also populate the castle, although in most cases these can be easily avoided by simply jumping over them.  There are also bouncy space-hopper type of monsters who are best avoided by running underneath as they bounce around.

I will crush you unless you stand on exactly the right pixel.  And by 'crush' I mean make you lose a few hit points and have to start the screen from the beginning again.

The similarities... the similarities... oh!
Other enemies include the dreaded skeletons who can only be defeated by solving a puzzles that involve you creating a one-shot sword and shield combo, allowing you to take out one skeleton from the game....but which one?  There are no save positions in Baron, so completing these sort of puzzles is entirely trial by error, and errors, of which there are many, require you to start the game all over again (the save state function of your emulator will help here).

What are YOU lookin' at?
The many puzzles in Baron involve among other things: collecting keys to open gates throughout the dungeon, discovering secret passages and finding teleportation devices.  Useful objects are scattered throughout the castle, however you may only hold two objects at any one time.  That's all part of the fun.

A teleportation machine ready to use.

In order to succeed at Baron the game instructs you to find four magic items that belong to the wizard and teleport them to his cell.  Don't teleport yourself to the cell by mistake though, because that is a one-way journey, and the King has no more sons left to rescue you.  There are also four static baddies that are almost impossible to defeat, one is a mouse, there is also a bear, wolf and a rabbit.  If memory serves correctly, the mouse is defeated by summoning a magical mouse trap, creating a magic cheese knife from the mystical scroll of cheese-platter creation +1, then arming the trap with a small slice of cheese. Phew!

The impassible rabbit, who apart from being in cahoots with the evil Baron, was also a fitness freak.
I never completed Baron.  I did manage to get through just over half of it, which is more than anyone I have ever talked to about the subject.  It dawned on my many years after first starting my quest, aged eleven, that Baron was probably never meant to be completed.  It was created as a filler.  It was just a game to put on side two, of tape two, of the Play it again Sam 11 compilation tapes (along with Pipeline, Barbarian and Monsters).

Baron also contained an interesting bug.  You start the game with two hundred hit points which can be lost through either being touched by an enemy monster or acid pit, or indeed one point is lost every time you spit at a guard.  There are health packs littered around the castle, however the discerning player will want to know how to cheat the game by exploiting this little bug (shhhhh, look below).

An Acquisitions Incorporated joke for those in the know...

Each time you lose four hit points in a row you are forced to start the screen from the position in which you entered.  Presumably, this was to prevent falling into a pit of acid to be fatal Aeofel moment.  Once your health reaches zero then you are killed in a puff of 8-bit animation.  However, should you also spit (thus losing one hit point) at the exact moment you lose enough hit points to take you to zero hit points then you can trick the computer into registering the 'negative one' value of your hit points as nine-hundred and ninety nine hit points (five times more than you start the game with) thus imbuing you with immortality that can be repeated as many times as you can get the timing just right...

Videos of game play: