I was recently suffering through playing some CastleQuest, and ended up burning through about 7 of my 50(!) lives trying to beat one of the seemingly-normal enemies. Eventually I had tried enough times to rule out the usual excuses for CastleQuest combat deaths --
Your character is armed with the shortest pocket-knife "sword" until the world invented Lagoon
the game's Heroes of the Lance-esque decision that "B" doesn't attack unless you're also holding down the Left or Right arrow
My general incompetence.
Instead, the game made the unusual decision to make one of the seemingly-normal enemies completely invulnerable to your basic sword-poke attack.
Here's a screen with several enemies; can you spot the invulnerable one?
No, it's not the dweeb on the bottom, in the big hat armed with an elongated thumb tack. That's your character.
Well, it turns out *spoiler alert* the Bearded guy with the magenta skull-cap is the one who's sword-proof. Not the knight (who is wearing full plate armor, and carrying what appears to be a shield), but the bearded guy.
Given that your character has one basic offense (walking in to enemies with his toothpick flailing -- who does he think he is, Hydlide?) This means that any room where you have to tackle Unbreakable Beard Guy will involve either a lot of careful out-running, or dropping some of the game's rare pushable blocks on his head.
(Ah, the classic Looney Toons maneuver)
For a pseudo-puzzle game, having this kind of enemy makes sense, but having such a nondescript sprite seemed like such an odd decision that it made me start to wonder...
What other games feature invincible seemingly-normal footsoldiers?
First, the CastleQuest bearded wonder phenomenon is one specific kind of invulnerable monster, so let's set some ground rules or we'll be here all day:
I'm not talking about Bosses who have to be defeated in different ways than the basic enemies (see, Bubble Bobble, Kirby's Adventure, Snow Bros, etc).
Also let's rule out invulnerable enemies that don't directly kill you (Legend of Zelda's sword-stealing bubbles, 3-D World Runner's blocking-the-way hands).
Additionally, I'm not thinking about invulnerable "timer" enemies, who are mainly there to make a level harder if you take too long (Bubble Bobble and Snow Bros again, but also Joust).
We won't include "regenerating" enemies, who get knocked down, but they get up again, because you ain't never going to keep them down (the Castlevania series's Red Skelton Skeletons are a prime example of this).
Also, there's several games where specific stupid game design means you're armed with something that LOOKS like an attack, but its main effect and/or limitations means you'll be fleeing more than fighting (Predator's inability to duck and punch tiny woodland creatures, Little Nemo: the Dream Master's "stun candy", or Solstice and Dash Galaxy's few-and-far-between attack charges pitted against an infinite stream of antagonists).
And finally, I'm not including games where you have a lot of alternate attacks, many of which can take out enemies immune to your normal munitions. The Mega Man series would be a prime example of that, but just about anything where you explore a lot and collect a number of additional weapons or attack enhancements -- Metroid, Ghoul School, etc -- has this as part of its core design (or at least it should).
And with those qualifications aside...
Here's a bunch of games where your basic attack bounces harmlessly off one of your seemingly-normal foes:
CastleQuest - Beard Guy
I've already discussed him in depth, but click the checkbox to see what happens if you go toe-to-toe with him!
...the hero's death-throes coming off like a temper tantrum? Just another one of this game's endearing features!
Spy Hunter - Bulletproof Bullies
Your spy has been well-scouted: his enemy's most common attack car comes with shields to block his machineguns.
Friday the 13th - Swimmin' Jason!
In keeping with slasher tradition, by the time you hear the signature musical sting, it's too late. When you're rowing across the lake and Jason dog-paddles up, he gets a "free hit."
Fortunately this only happens when you have to row across the lake -- and that's only when Jason's attacking the campers in the lake cabin (of course, since you'll spend about 1/3rd of your time rescuing those campers, you'll get plenty of tickets to the Jason Voorhees swim meet).
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles - steamrollers
"Oh, boy, I get to play as my favorite Ninja Turtle! Here comes the first enemy, let's take a swing at it...oh, I'm dead."
One of the many odd decisions from this game involves starting you on the "overworld" map (which you have to traverse to get to the fun parts). It's also full of invulnerable one-hit-kills-you machinery. The manhole in the picture above is where you start; the dead turtle in Picture 2 is me losing 1/4th of my Renaissance reptiles two seconds into the game. A job well done, Ultra games!
Wizards & Warriors - beehives
One of the very rare (and useful) subweapons will let you destroy these monster-generators; otherwise you're stuck being ended by bees.
(To lessen the sting*, in later levels they just have a constant stream of nuisance-enemies pouring in from off screen at all times, so you don't need to worry that the game makes you risk your great subweapons every time you choose to open its ubiquitous unmarked treasure chests. For example, there's no "Bat Hive" or "Imp Hive" to kick over later on, just a constant barrage of nigh-unavoidable punishment).
Gauntlet II - slimes
In Gauntlet II, even The Grim Reaper has an Achilles Heal, in the form of the game's only and most important special weapon: the Magic-Potion-Bomb things. But there's no counter to these puddles of green ooze; you either outrun them or take the pain.
Xevious - spinning monoliths
These gray rotating rectangles don't respond to laser-blasts or ground-bombs, they just shuffle end-over-end towards you (and through you, if you don't fly out of the way).
City Connection - those darn cats
We'll end like we began (with a click-here-for-animation option). But contrary to appearances, crashing your red sportscar into this checkered-flag-waving cheshire causes you to lose, too.
It's another baffling decision; because it's an old arcade-style game, there's few mechanics* involved: you paint the floors, collect barrels, and launch barrels at the pursuing police. But with disturbing regularity these barrel-proof kitties appear in various spots on the road, and force you to scroll them off-screen and double back again until they've left.
*: Hiiiiyo again!!
Well, that's it for this week!
This is possibly the most reflection caused by playing CastleQuest in the last twenty years, but I think that's all I have to say. Let's see if Mr. Quest or Lagoon Boy have anything to add -- perhaps some useful pen-knife self defense techniques?