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Crystal Mines II - The Atari Times

Crystal Mines II


Having a blast with this earth digger
by David Sherwin

March 22, 2003
It seems that "Crystal Mines II" (CM2) has been around for just about forever now on the Atari Lynx, although it actually was released about mid-way through the Lynx's mainstream life. It was one of those games so massively over-produced by the old Atari, Corp., that unopened pallets will still probably be auctioned off on eBay in 2050, and today a copy can be had for, at most, $5 unopened. Being neither rare nor particularly flashy, you'll rarely hear CM2 described as a "must-have" game to collect or play for the Lynx, but don't let that put you off. CM2 is great, cheap fun for your favourite hand-held and a sure purchase for both puzzle and arcade fanatics.

Gameplay

The background plot of CM2 is pretty much nonsensical and involves something about a remote-controlled robot and "haunted mines". Although it's ostensibly a sequel to an original title for the NES, it's simply easier, saner, and more practical to think of CM2 as Boulderdash for the Lynx -- with a few tricks up its sleeve.

Like Boulderdash, the object of CM2 is to gather as many gems as possible given the limited amount of time allotted per level. You control a robot that comes equipped with a gun, which is handy for vaporizing dirt or the odd monster or two. Other tools, such as a power drill, may be found in higher levels and added (briefly) to the robot's arsenal. Dirt or rocks may also be blasted with dynamite, but be careful! That explosive isn't very discriminating, and you will blow up your 'bot if you're not careful with it. The robot, while useful, isn't very hardy, and it can and will be done in by any number of the game's hazards. Monsters will destroy it; radioactive material will fry it; boulders can crush it; and so on. Players will get a certain guilty pleasure by testing the robot's various reactions to the many hazardous substances in the mines, and CM2 always offers a helpful explanation (e.g. "Robot shot!") about the robot's demise. Sadistic or frustrated players may also self-detonate by pressing "Option 1" during the course of play.

There are a number of different gem types to collect that are variously worth a certain number of points Extra points are awarded for collecting any gems beyond the required limit. Bonuses are also awarded for finishing with extra time, or for finding and completing one of the more than thirty bonus levels which are hidden in the game. 

Primary amongst your foes are a variety of earth-toned "demons", which in their most benign form may be killed by repeated blasts from your robot's gun. Other demons are hardier and will destroy your robot with the slightest touch, resulting in a satisfying explosion. Other inanimate hazards, such as radioactive waste and acidic slime, will also seek to destroy one of your robots. Fortunately, various protective devices have also been hidden in the mine, so no level is really impossible to complete.

Sound and Graphics

Ken Beckett, the designer of CM2, clearly put a lot of effort into designing and coding the game's graphics, but had mixed success with the results. The Robot is detailed and well-designed, but dispassionate; players with long memories will likely pine for the cute, winking protagonist of Boulderdash, who famously tapped his foot with impatience on the Atari 8-bits when players took just a bit too long making up their minds. Similarly, the "demons" are nicely plotted, but they look, rather disturbingly, like rabid muppets. Most of the game's bonuses and traps boast designs that are more traditional and, usually, pleasing to the eye.

The game's colour palette is, however, something left to be desired at the best of times, and many of the screens are downright garish -- are all those lurid oranges and browns and neon greens and yellows really necessary? -- but usually not so blinding that gameplay will be compromised.

The game's sound effects are similarly well-placed and are often used as an integral part of the game. On some levels, for instance, the exit will be hidden by dirt or other objects, and only a flash and a "pinging" noise will alert players that the goal's been met and that it's time to leave before time runs out. CM2 also features a number of "electronica" background tunes that are pleasant and appropriate to the game's theme.

Tips and Cheats

CM2 has been around for more than a decade now, and it should surprise no player that most of the game's cheats and Easter eggs have long since been discovered. You can easily find them, including codes for all 150 "regular" levels, on a number of different gaming sites.

The most useful cheat is triggered by entering "KIMI" on the level select and pressing, in sequence, Option 1, Option 2, and the Lynx's "B" button: this enables players to select the starting level of each game, and is a god-send for players wishing to start their games at one of the higher (and more difficult) levels.

Summary

CM2 may not be a true sequel to Boulderdash, but it is its most worthy cousin, and one of the cornerstones of the Lynx's puzzle library. CM2 has more than 180 levels to explore that have never been completely mapped; even eleven years after my initial purchase I continue to find new bonuses and hidden areas on each level. For those who have conquered these mines, Songbird offers an expansion pack that contains fifty more levels and a construction set that allows players to design their own levels on any Wintel (but, sadly, not ST) machine via cable hookup with their Lynx. In fact, CM2 is begging for a sequel of its own, and those fifty extra levels would make a mighty fine cart in itself.



And to think, this was the game that originally sent Nintendo into a suing frenzy!
You never know where you'll find secret areas.
The monsters aren't that tough. Drop rocks on them Dig Dug style or shoot them.
Some of the later levels look a bit randomized...
Crystal Mines II
System: Lynx
Publisher: Atari
Genre: Puzzle
Graphics Score: 65%
Sound & Music Score: 70%
Gameplay Score: 80%
Control Score: 80%

Final Score: 75%



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