The quest for the staff of Demnos
As the full moon rose high above Kastlerock on the eve of the winter solstice, Morbius the Malevolent grinned a wicked grin and continued to ready the impending ritual, the sacrifice of a helpless damsel to the forces of darkness in return for total domination of the world. But this was no simple girl, he thought in his black and twisted mind, this was the beautiful Princess Eleanor of Arcadia, the land of his sworn enemy. It was too perfect, too perfect.
Not even that accursed Staff of Demnos could stand in his way now. For years his spies had used every conceivably horrible method to find it, and if they could not succeed, surely no one else would. Besides, with or without the magic Staff, his evil plans would succeed. With or without it, he would become the supreme symbol of evil, the Black Baron of Darkness. Then all would be forced to grovel at his feet. And he would plunge the world into a deathly darkness from which it would never return. Everything was prepared. Nothing could stop him now!
The fearsome fortress of Kastlerock had long been the stronghold of Morbius the Malevolent. Built high atop a tremendous cliff of jagged rock, rising straight up from the Sea of Sorrows, the castle had withstood the onslaught of many great armies over the centuries.
Rumors of secret halls and rooms protected by deadly black magic and ferocious man eating beasts had entered the legends of old by the few fortunate prisoners who had escaped Morbius' torturous clutches. They trembled while talking of the dreaded Caves of the Doomed Souls, an endless labyrinth of catacombs carved out of the shear rock cliff far beneath the castle walls. The words crept from their tongues when they spoke of the four deadly towers of the main castle, as if with a mere mention they could be transported back by some of Morbius' evil black magic.
Brave men cowered in fear when they heard the terrible tales of torture in the Gardens of Pain and the Blood Gardens just to the west of the castle. Women and children wept when told of the grisly horrors that befell the unsuspecting who wandered aimlessly through the Slaughter Yards that protected the Tower of Tears at the northernmost boundary of Kastlerock. And few words could describe the hideous screams of terror from the foolhardy who mistakenly tumbled into the Mines of Insanity, never to be heard from again.
But, no stories could compare with those of the eastern grounds of the castle where the Tower of Ultimate Terror stood surrounded by the gruesome Stonehedge Gardens whose massive walls were said to be made from the crushed bones of Morbius' unfortunate victims. Of the Tower itself, little was known. Many believed that it was the site of Morbius' secret workshop; such an overwhelming sense of fear hung about its walls. Certainly, it was the source of his evil powers; as for many days now a black cloud could be seen pouring forth from it, spreading across the land, and choking off the last hopeful rays of the sun.
The old sorcerer Shadax stood at the foot of the great cliff of Kastlerock and stared into the blackness above. Having sailed unseen across the Sea of Sorrows, he now set his mind firmly on the task at hand. He knew a secret way into the castle, a way unknown to even Morbius himself. He'd discovered it by carefully translating the ancient rune maps and poetry he'd found in the Library of the Oracles in far off Arcadia. But he knew getting in was the least of his worries. After all, Morbius would never expect that someone would actually want to get into Kastlerock.
Hopefully, his disguise would provide him with the element of surprise he so needed. After all, who would suspect that an old man could cause any trouble in such a deadly powerful place. But he was not the withered old beggar he appeared. His true identity remained safely concealed beneath his tattered cloak and hat, and there it would stay until he possessed the strength he needed to confront Morbius. For powerful as Shadax was, he was still no match for the vast forces of darkness growing daily in the hands of the evil Baron. For this task he needed the strongest of allies; he needed the awesome power of the Staff of Demnos.
According to legend, this magical Staff had been forged long long ago in the mystical fires of the mythical Elf Kingdom of Old Earth. And legend had it that he who possessed this mighty weapon, would rule Heaven and Earth. How it had wound up in the hands of mankind is a tale far too long to tell here, but in the wise hands of the Ancient kings of Arcadea, it had provided centuries of peace and prosperity.
However, many years ago, for fear that it would fall into Morbius' increasingly powerful grip, the Staff had been beoken into six pieces, a spell of invisibility had been cast upon them, and they were scattered to the far corners of the continent. But, once again Shadax knew something his enemy did not.
If the ancient rune poems were true, the pieces of the staff had been hidden in the last place Morbius would ever think to look: in his own castle. And only once every hundred years, would the spell be broken, allowing the pieces of the staff to be seen once again by human eyes; on the eve of the winter solstice when the full moon rode high in the heavens. That is if the ancient poems were true... if he could even find where the staff was hidden in this deadly place... if, if, if...
But, this was not a time for idle thinking. Morbius had sent most of his vile forces throughout the land in search of the broken pieces of the magical staff leaving Kastlerock thinly guarded. If ever Shadax's plan were to succeed, it would be this night. It was time to claim his rightful place as a king among men, or vanish anonymously into the black abyss of history.
--From the NES Solstice instruction manual.
The player controls Shadax as he moves through the aforementioned dungeon made of isometric rooms. The player solves puzzles in these rooms to either advance to the next room, or obtain a specific item needed in order to progress further. While doing this, the player must avoid the usual traps (pitfalls, spiked floors, etc.), and monsters (slimes, trolls, etc.). Most enemies should be avoided, but occasionally some are incorporated into that room's puzzle.
Solstice is a non-linear adventure game in that there is no set path, but specific items must be collected before Shadax can advance to the next portion of the dungeon. Shadax can jump, pick up objects, and use potions with various effects, but must generally worry about evasion as a primary tactic.
Players often remember Solstice's unorthodox and sometimes aggravating style of puzzle solving. These usually involve jumping from one object to another within a specific room to reach a doorway or item. The majority of puzzles simply involve jumping from one block to another, which is made difficult by the 3D nature of the rooms. Sometimes the player must find invisible blocks that are revealed by either touching them or using the green potion. Alternately some puzzles involved Shadax jumping above an enemy and dropping a colored block on its head to create a moving platform that would carry you to your target.
Shadax has four potions at his disposal but his resources are limited. There are refills located in the dungeon, but they are sparse. Each potion's effects last only until Shadax leaves the current room.
Blue - Invincibility - Shadax becomes impervious to damage from monsters, but can still be damaged by spikes. While using this potion Shadax can even jump on a monster's head without using a box, which is necessary for some puzzles.
Purple - Destruction - Destroy all monsters and blocks in the room. Good for getting through rooms with particularly tough monsters, but always keep in mind that the monster could be part of the puzzle.
Green - Reveal - Invisible blocks or platforms reveal themselves when Shadax touches them, but this potion saves the trial and error needed to find them.
Yellow - Freeze - This potion freezes all monsters in the room. Shadax can still be killed by touching them, but this potion is useful for stopping monsters he normally wouldn't be able to outrun.