Crystal Mines II: Buried Treasure
I basically forgot about CM2 after its release, but I must've sorely underestimated its long-term appeal, because its seems that CM2 quietly built up a loyal following in the following decade, and enough so for Carl Forhan of Songbird Productions to first release a CD package enabling enthusiasts to design additional levels on their PCs, and then this title.
Crysal Mines 2: Buried Treasure isn't a true sequel to one of the Lynx's best-remembered games, but rather a sort of neat expansion pack that retains all 181 of the original levels while adding over one hundred screens coded by, and for, amateur Lynx enthusiasts. It's a must for anyone who enjoyed the original Atari title and remains eager to head back down Crystal Mines 2's most alluring tunnels.
Much of the considerable attraction of the original CM2 game could be traced to its modest goals and relative lack of innovation: CM2 ripped off elements of almost every digger/maze game from Boulderdash to Mr. Do! (and most cheerfully so), and invited players to dive right in without absorbing (or caring about) any particular gaming context. In short, players have to dig, blast, shoot, and run their way through an interesting array of monsters and traps (all amusingly rendered in best cartoon graphic style), just as they have to do in any number of Boulderdash playalikes out there. It's familiar, sure, but you can't really gripe too much about a tried-tested-and-true gaming format like this one.
Lynx enthusiasts will be pleased to find all of CM2's original levels here (yes, cheats will work), although the point of the package lies with those afore-mentioned new special screens. There's not a dud among 'em, and they're all worth playing. CM2's original level skip cheat will not, however, work with any of the new levels, so I had to play them all through sequentially. Carl, how could you do this to me?
The best of CM2's new screens are reflective of their respective designers' interest in videogame history and collecting, and are an absolute blast to play. I especially like the "heritage" screens, which attempt to recreate the graphic layouts of screens of other classic diggers such as Pac-Man and Dig Dug while retaining the physical rules of CM2: BT. The overall effect can be both very disorienting and quite hilarious, as it's very easy to forget which game you're playing. I've caught myself trying to utilize tried-and-true gaming strategies from some of the older classics before cottoning on to the fact that these kamikaze ghosts are worlds away from Inky, Pinky, Blinky, and Sue, and that it's never a good idea to get too close to them in the hope of scoring extra points.
Carl Forhan wisely decided to retain the simple, but interesting, graphic environment of Atari's original game, which reproduced a colourful underground mining environment on the Lynx's small screen quite effectively. While none of the sound samples or gaming sprites are therefore either novel or particularly impressive, most players will find them to be quite adequate for gameplay and will likely be quite charmed by their familiarity.
CM2: BT retails for nearly $40, which is reasonable for a new Lynx title, but is otherwise a bit stiff for those who likely paid two or three dollars for Atari's original title. I can heartily recommend CM2: BT, despite its hefty cost, though, due to the fact that the new levels are such fun and rather poignant, in their own way, as they celebrate both the history of the Lynx and video gaming in general. There's certainly no better tribute for this under-appreciated system than a game that recaptures the magic - and excitement - of those eady days in '90 and '91 when the future seemed bright and endless for this system.