The Game: You are Bentley the Bear, cuddly defender of a vaguely 3-D fairy tale realm just loaded with ruby-like crystals. While this would seem like an idyllic existence for many sentient stuffed animals, it is, of course, not that easy. Berthilda the Witch has sent her evil minions to seize the crystals for her. Walking trees, upright centipedes, and animated skeletons prowl the geometric vistas to keep Bentley from claiming the crystals. Finding the wizard hat will briefly give Bentley the power to dispose of Berthilda if and when she makes an appearance. Bentley also has a weakness for the pot of honey that appears on each level – and if he grabs the honey, a swarm of bees suddenly has a problem with him. Clearing each screen of crystals advances to the next level. Keep in mind that the enemies can also consume crystals, so they may actually clear the level – Bentley gets a bonus if he’s the one who nabs the last gem on the screen. (Atari, 1984)
Memories: This game is a tough nut to crack. It’s something I’d file under “games I can’t believe anyone tried to port to the Atari 2600,” the same category where I’d put Coleco’s disastrous port of Zaxxon. Surprisingly though, while the graphics are a bit of a mess, enough of the game play is intact to make this version of Crystal Castles surprisingly effective.
To a certain extent, the 3-D perspective of the game’s playing fields is preserved. What’s lost is the fine-grain graphical detail – everything is reduced to a single shade of a single color. It’s like a very crude line-art take on the original game’s graphics. The control of the original game is a bit of a casualty too. Crystal Castles is meant to be played with a trackball. The closest you can currently get to the real feel this game was meant to have is by hooking up a Nyko trackball controller to a Playstation and playing Crystal Castles on Arcade’s Greatest Hits: The Atari Collection Volume 2. Even with my trusty Wico trackball for the 2600, Crystal Castles just doesn’t feel authentic in this form.
And yet, on a certain level, it’s enjoyable. And most of the arcade game’s elements are intact in cartridge form, so one has to at least give Atari and General Computer (the programming firm to whom the task of translating Crystal Castles to cartridge was outsourced) a B- for the effort.