Wednesday, April 3, 2013

C is for Crystal Castles

Crystal Castles was another game I first played at the local roller rink, and has remained a retro favorite for me to this day.  The game featured a number of unique qualities which made it into a standout when it first debuted in the early 1980's.

First, the game mazes (castles) are presented in a quasi-3D format.  In addition to the maze as an obstacle in and of itself, the castles also have elevators, tunnels, and in some cases navigable spaces _behind_ portions of the building, the latter of which force you to guide Bentley Bear, your character behind the building, which can be challenging.

Second, the game controls consist of a track ball and a jump button.  With the track ball, the speed at which the ball is turned controls the speed of Bentley Bear.  Thus, skill must be employed to be able to make Bentley Bear move the way you want him to, and strategy must be employed when jumping to make Bentley be able to effectively evade enemies, which move faster and faster on each successive level.

Third, the plot elements of the game are just unusual.  You're a bear, collecting gems, avoiding monsters (which are also eating gems).  There's a witch, whom you can kill if you're wearing the invincibility hat.  There's a honey pot bonus, which if collected keeps a swarm of bees away temporarily, unless you take too long on a level, in which case the bees come back and pursue you relentlessly.

Finally, as a musician, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the game music.  The game utilizes snippets of classical music from Liszt and Tchaikovsky, the most pervasive of which is a snippet from Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite which plays after each level completion.  At the time I found this game, I had coincidentally been playing excerpts of the Nutcracker Suite in concert band, so suffice it to say I was pleased to hear the same music in the game!

I still like to play Crystal Castles when I find one, though they're obviously getting more rare as time rolls on. What other unusual arcade games have you played?  Or how about games with great uses of music?


  1. Honey, you're too much of a geek. I can't catch up. LOL I've heard of this game, but never played it. Like I've said before, I don't like complicated games. I can't even play Mario and Luigi. I'm a doof.

  2. Well this will really date me, but the arcade games I played were pinball and air hockey. That's about all there was!

  3. While we're dating ourselves, I was probably six or seven years old when I played this game first. I did catch it again up in Portland at the Ground Kontrol arcade last year. I think the graphics and controls are really charming. I'm wary of track balls, but I like this one.

    1. As a kid that trackball seemed kind of heavy, probably because my hands were smaller. As a teenager or adult though the trackball controls were just fine. Fun fact I learned the other day - the first castle's architecture contains the initials of whoever has the highest score when the game is started.