The sound, as expected is great. The Pokey sound chip is both present in the 800 and the arcade machine, although the arcade has dual Pokeys. The sound isn't 100 percent the same, but it is a good example of what the Pokey is capable of. The familiar tunes at the completion of each level are faithfully reproduced. The beeping sound of gems being picked up by Bentley Bear will be familiar to those who love the arcade game.
Gameplay is fast and robust. The game seems fairly simple in the beginning, but it will quickly pick up the pace and become as fast as Tempest on the higher levels. If you survive long enough, the pace of the game will become nothing short of frantic. The object of the game is to pick up as many red gems as you can and complete the levels while avoiding the various monsters. You can grab honey before the angry bees appear to swarm you and you can wear a magic hat to protect yourself. There are several hidden shortcuts in the game. You can go a certain way and have a shortcut to a later stage.
Playability is pretty good, but gameplay is extremely fast. The joystick is awkward to play with because of the 3d perspective. I was unable to see if a trackball will work with the game as one was not available. The arcade machine used this type of control for maximum playability. This game is very quick and responsive to the controller, but the game has always been known to have a high frustration factor. The game is as fast as Tempest, but requires much more precise movement. The narrow mazes and tight corners combined with the high speed and the awkward joystick control make for a game with lots of mistakes. The game is addictive and fun once you get used to it though.
Overall, I give this game a big thumbs up. If I had to choose between the 2600 and ST version and the Atari 800 version. I would definitely choose the 800. It's just a fun platform to play games on and this is a very good port of the arcade game. The similarity of the 800 chipset and the arcade probably helps a great deal too. This game is considered somewhat rare, but if you can purchase it from somewhere, you can't go wrong with Crystal Castles.