Crystal Castles, Arcade

Crystal Castles is a legendary arcade maze game developed and published by Atari, Inc. in 1983. What made the game so good were: the trackball and jump button controls (which gave a good degree of freedom to make headway at pace) and the unusual isometric graphics (which drew on-screen in an unusual and interesting way).

You control Bentley Bear and the aim is collect all the gems on each screen, without getting nobbled by the chasing monsters. Which is easier said than done.

The key thing is that you can kill the most common monsters – Gem Eaters – by touching them when they’re picking up gems. Wait until they’re in the process of swallowing a gem, and  – bam! – quickly get them. Get the timing wrong, however, and you lose a life.

Chasing trees can be jumped over to stun them temporarily, but otherwise can’t be killed.

A swarm of bees also starts harassing you after a period of time has elapsed, and this follows a pattern that you have to keep an eye on to survive. The bees drop down to the level you are standing on, before giving chase for a short while, then disappearing again, then the cycle repeats. On later levels you have to trick the bees by moving to another level as soon as they arrive, otherwise they’ll more often than not get you. And they appear to speed up the longer you take to finish a level, so are essentially the time limit on a level because there is no on-screen timer.

If you pick up the magic hat that appears occasionally it will make Bentley Bear invincible and he can then kill Berthilda.

Sometimes you have to use elevators to reach higher and lower areas, sometimes you can use tunnels, sometimes you can just outrun everyone with the super zippy trackball controls. It depends on the level – each of which have their own quirks.

Crystal Castles has been converted to most other systems and has been re-released many times. It’s probably still on release somewhere now. And it’s a formidable challenge. You have to be good at the game to get to level two and beyond, and there are nine levels in total, each with four castles – except for the last level which has one.

Crystal Castles is more strategic than it looks. You have to learn to leave some crystals down so you can deal with the Gem Suckers, and you have to learn to kill them all off as soon as possible. On higher levels you have to play the game very carefully to win.

More: Crystal Castles on Wikipedia

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