I usually praise developers for bringing me something unique, and this game can be categorized as such…or maybe “odd”…”weird”.
A 1983 Atari product, Crystal Castles is a game that stands out. From its crazy-detailed cabinet art to its glow-in-the-dark trackball, you wouldn’t be able to miss this in any arcade. But, how does it play? The “Crystal Castles” are 40 isometric levels given a 3D look. You play as a goofy-looking bear wearing Dorothy’s ruby slippers. Throughout the pathways of the castles are scores of gems and jewels. Your mission is to collect them (for points) as quickly as possible. The trackball moves you around and there is a jump button, as well. To reach the different levels of the screen, you’ll use ramps, stairs, elevators, and secret passageways.
To stop you in your mission are a multitude of creatures: There are wormy things that eat the gems, taking points from you. You can avoid them or (only while they’re eating) run into them, which kills them. There are killer trees (that chase you?!?), which if jumped over will freeze them for a short time. Also, skeletons and ghosts, which should be avoided. One of the bonus items you may capture for points is a pot of honey, but you’ll have to watch for the swarm of bees protecting it. Lastly, every so-many levels is an ugly Witch (I think these are her castles from which I’m stealing), who you can avoid, but will probably need to kill because she’s hanging around gems you’ll need to complete the level and move on. So….there’s this silly little hat that you can find and put on, making you invulnerable for a short time…and the only way to kill her.
As you can see, this game is a little f’ed-up, but it has quick, intense gameplay. The levels will be more difficult as you progress (as usual), but there are “cheats” in form of level-warps, if you choose to use them. A couple of neat additions to the game: Whenever you get killed, a word balloon pops over the bear’s head, usually a comic-book curse word (#$^!). Also, the importance of being careful on each level, but still having to maneuver quickly. As you delay, your gems are being eaten, costing you points…and there are bonus points for who/whatever grabs the last gem. If a creature gets it, you’ll go to the next level, but lost out on the bonus.
I do find it odd that the bear’s motivations are stealing money, and the honey is a bit of an afterthought….and why does he need to wear clothes on his feet and head? It’s hard to tell, but he may actually be wearing a thong. Also, why would the Witch ever want to stay at her castles when they’re clearly overrun by ghosts and goblins? There is also an actual ending to the game, which I’ll never be good enough to see (lack of continues). But, if someone knows what it is, please let me know. This was truly a lot of fun, and will always get my recommendation if someone is looking for a “different” kind of retro game.