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Crystal Castles - The Atari Times

Crystal Castles

The Arcade Game Comes Home
by Lawrence Armstrong

March 15, 2006
Crystal Castles is one of the cornerstones of the Atari arcade lineup. It has been ported to the 2600 and the ST. The best port however, is probably the Atari 800 version. The cartridge media gives the 800 the edge over the ST for games in some quarters. And the 800 version of Crystal Castles is far superior to the 2600 in both graphics and sound. This should come as no surprise because of the similarities between the Atari home computer and the arcade hardware. The arcade machine used a slightly slower 6502 than the 800. The arcade machine uses dual Pokey chips for the sound, whereas the computer has one of these. The graphics on the arcade version are higher resolution and more colorful than the computer version. The levels on the computer version look great, especially compared to the poor 2600 version. The color looks a little dull and the gems look like little x's, but other than that, Bentley Bear looks good if not a little lacking in the color department.

The sound, as expected is great. The Pokey sound chip is both present in the 800 and the arcade machine, although the arcade has dual Pokeys. The sound isn't 100 percent the same, but it is a good example of what the Pokey is capable of. The familiar tunes at the completion of each level are faithfully reproduced. The beeping sound of gems being picked up by Bentley Bear will be familiar to those who love the arcade game.

Gameplay is fast and robust. The game seems fairly simple in the beginning, but it will quickly pick up the pace and become as fast as Tempest on the higher levels. If you survive long enough, the pace of the game will become nothing short of frantic. The object of the game is to pick up as many red gems as you can and complete the levels while avoiding the various monsters. You can grab honey before the angry bees appear to swarm you and you can wear a magic hat to protect yourself. There are several hidden shortcuts in the game. You can go a certain way and have a shortcut to a later stage.

Playability is pretty good, but gameplay is extremely fast. The joystick is awkward to play with because of the 3d perspective. I was unable to see if a trackball will work with the game as one was not available. The arcade machine used this type of control for maximum playability. This game is very quick and responsive to the controller, but the game has always been known to have a high frustration factor. The game is as fast as Tempest, but requires much more precise movement. The narrow mazes and tight corners combined with the high speed and the awkward joystick control make for a game with lots of mistakes. The game is addictive and fun once you get used to it though.

Overall, I give this game a big thumbs up. If I had to choose between the 2600 and ST version and the Atari 800 version. I would definitely choose the 800. It's just a fun platform to play games on and this is a very good port of the arcade game. The similarity of the 800 chipset and the arcade probably helps a great deal too. This game is considered somewhat rare, but if you can purchase it from somewhere, you can't go wrong with Crystal Castles.

I guess that purplely color fits.
Trees, trees, everyone loves trees! (Especially your average cocker spaniel.)
It's Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doomsdome.
This really looks a lot like the arcade. Except for the blue gems...
Crystal Castles
System: 8-Bit
Publisher: Atari
Genre: Action
Graphics Score: 90%
Sound & Music Score: 90%
Gameplay Score: 80%
Control Score: 95%

Final Score: 95%

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