|Atari Inc was king in the late 70’s and 80’s in video game pioneering and today still has a plethora of new titles. Back in the day, when video games were in its infancy and “Pac-Man” dominated every arcade and convenient store in the United States, Atari Inc wanted something that could grab the people who shoved quarters into those little slots. The answer was similar to “Pac-Man” and yet so different and cute, in a title charmingly named “Crystal Castles.”
This 1983 title worked its way into the hearts and minds of video game players all over the United States and in most local arcades you would find two or more “Crystal Castles” standing prominently side by side surrounded by people wanting to experience the joy of controlling a little character properly named “Bentley Bear.” This cute character wore a red wizard’s hat with moons and stars, red boots, and a belt to match his colorful attire. The game became an instant classic with adults and children alike and is still charming people today.
The premise was simple to understand, control the bear and collect the dots (Gems) placed around a different castle per level while avoiding different creatures that chased the bear around the screen. Atari Inc also made history with “Crystal Castles” since it was the first game in history to have an actual ending at the completion of the game. The actual arcade version used a tracking ball to move the character around the screen exactly the same way the classic game “Centipede” used the tracking ball device. Though the tracking ball made the movement competitive, the player also had a button while pressed allowed Bentley to jump over those pesky creatures.
Graphics – Beautiful! The graphics used for Bentley is simple and yet visible to the eye that the image is a bear. Many games in the 70’s and 80’s was difficult to reflect on screen, for example Atari’s original game “Combat” was hard pressed for graphics that captured a true army tank or a fighter jet. Though “Combat” was for Atari console the 2600 and not a coin operated game, it still lacked in the graphics department. For the time “Crystal Castles” was excellent in regards to graphics and the creatures and castles stood out.
Controls – Average. Tracking ball controls impeded quality game play, though it made the game more competitive. Today a player can have a variety of different controls which makes the game a little bit easier to manage. Xbox 360 controllers are actually the best use for this game title and not recommended for the computer unless you have a plug in joystick. Players who mastered this game rarely use the jump button, though it can get the player out of a jam from the wandering creatures.
AI – Shifty at best, those creatures are relentless and very similar to the ghosts in “Pac-Man” and most dot chasing games. It is not difficult for a walking tree to corner you and take a life away during game play. Best thing to do is to stay away from those trying to ruin Bentley’s castle gem searching and complete the levels as quickly as possible. Sometimes it seems that those chasing Bentley are smarter than the actual players and at times the player will forget they are being chased since they do wander and at times seem non-threatening.
Replay value – Extremely high. There is a reason this game is a classic and it has survived through the years as one of the best games of all time, and the most inventive in regards to the tracking ball device and the storytelling ending. Today the tracking ball will not come into play unless you have the actual arcade cabinet version, most people will be utilizing their computer or Xbox 360 to play this classic. Players will find a fascination with this title and will come back to it more and more.