Buy Crystal Castles and about 90 other Atari games in the Atari Vault on Steam:
What if Pac-Man was axonometric 3D, had a completely forgettable cartoon bear antagonist, and kitchen sink design that threw as much crazy nonsense as the designers could cram into its PROM instead of polishing a handful of elements to perfection?
I've played Crystal Castles at ACAM, and the cabinet is a sight to behold, with its striking M.C. Escher-inspired artwork all over; the sides, the front, the speakers, and the control panel, where a glowing red Atari trackball sits in right in the middle, standing out from the icy cool design. This, of course, is lost playing on an emulator.
The game is set over 36 castles divided into nine levels, plus one final level consisting of a single castle. You control Bentley Bear with the trackball for movement, which feels oversensitive and slippery at first, but it's crucial for survival later on when enemies move incredibly fast.
eaters, the most common enemy. They don't seem to have a movement
pattern, though when they start eating gems, they'll tend to gather them
in a straight line. They never move very fast, but their random
movements and numbers make them troublesome for the entire game, as
places you need to be tend to be patrolled by roaming gem eaters who get
in the way but also don't finish eating all of the gems in the pockets
they block off, forcing you to get around them. They can be killed and
their ranks thinned by touching them while they eat, but starting around
level 3 they eat so fast that this is nearly impossible to pull off
unless you anticipate this.
- Trees move fast, eventually
ridiculously so, but always make a beeline for you. With clever
maneuvering they can be trapped in corners while you work at clearing
the parts of the stage that's safe from them. Trees destroy gems,
absolving you of the need to collect them.
- Whereever there's honey, there will soon be bees, which behave like trees except that they buzz off eventually, but they'll be back. Collecting the honey slows their return, and should be a priority in most levels.
balls also behave like trees, except they have a momentum to their
roll, possibly foreshadowing Marble Madness of the next year. Trees and
bees will instantly hone in on your position, while crystal balls can't
change their direction so immediately, which can make manipulating their
behavior more difficult, but also allow strategies that wouldn't work
otherwise. They also destroy gems.
- Berthilda the Witch is set up as Bentley Bear's nemesis but actually one of the least dangerous opponents, moving slowly and randomly. She can be killed by collecting the magic hat and touching her before the magic runs out, which it always does far too soon. Said magic hat has a very nasty surprise in the penultimate castle.
- Ghosts and zombies also move slowly and
randomly but they can't be killed. Coaxing them away from their corners
to get at the gems near their feet can be a problem.
for a golden age arcade game, Crystal Castles has a definite ending and
doesn't loop once you beat the final bastard of a level. It also has
continues of a sort; three secret warp zones to skip most of the
castles, and the locations are revealed when you reach the level that
the warp skips to. The third and final warp goes to level 7-1. Good luck
beating the last 13 castles one one set of lives - I needed save states
to pull this off, almost on a per-level basis, though I might have been
able to beat the game without saves on 8-4 onward if the final castle
weren't clown pants ridiculous.
All 37 castles aren't unique, though. In fact, there are only
16, and levels 5 through 9 consist almost entirely of repeats, the sole
exception an "Impossible Staircase" stage in level 9.
GAB rating: Average.
To answer my own rhetorical question posed at the start, it would be
overbloated and would wear out its welcome shortly after you've seen its
whole bag of tricks.
As for Bentley Bear, Atari would put him on furlough until 1995, when he'd be revived as the mascot for Atari Karts.
|Stare into his eyes hard enough and you can see Sam Tramiel's dead dreams.|