Black Crystal, Commodore 64

Black Crystal is infamous for being an overpriced and under-produced RPG from the early days of home computing.

This Commodore 64 version plays pretty much the same as the ZX81 and ZX Spectrum versions, in that: it’s absolutely awful and will have you both tearing your hair out in minutes, and also wondering who on earth would make such a game…

Sadists. Sadists would make such a game…

On the face of it Black Crystal is like any other early, proto-RPG type game. Tiny graphics on a map and ridiculous keyboard controls. But what makes Black Crystal so difficult and infuriating is its real-time combat system, which has no place in a game like this. At least, it didn’t in an essentially text-only adventure in 1985.

When you’re under attack in the game you have to read text descriptions at the bottom of the screen and respond in real time using key-presses for counter-actions. You can do moves with your sword, cast a Lightning spell, and a few other things. Invariably these all lead to your death, as you flounder around the keyboard trying to survive for more than 30 seconds.

As it turns out, the key to survival in Black Crystal is not the sword. No… It is the Lightning spell.

It doesn’t matter whether you are a warrior, an Elf or a Sorcerer, apparently the sword is pretty much useless against anything but Harpies. Which must be true because I heard it on YouTube.

Black Crystal has six different maps in total, with the goal being: to find seven rings hidden among them. Good luck finding the two on the first map, and making it to the second map. Only an elite number of gamers have ever bothered to manage that, and I’m not one of them.

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