It seems that our friend Bentley Bear is trapped in an evil witch's castle. The only way he can get out of the castle and move on to the next one is by picking up all the gems and then be teleported. Enemies such as skeletons, trees and a witch will try and stop you and any contact with them will take away one of your lives. If you pick up a hat then you will be invincible temporarily.
The game plays like a 3-dimensional Pac-Man for the most part. Collision detection when trying to pick up the gems isn't the greatest though. Most of the time you will zip through gems just to have one not be picked up. You may have to go back and pick up a couple of gems but that is a problem when there are enemies around. It doesn't prove to be to big of a problem though and will only happen a couple of times during a game.
You can also jump over enemies which allows for more skill than Pac-Man and even a little more strategy. But enemies always try to take a direct course towards you so they may get you on your landing If you aren't careful. Sometimes enemies will even get stuck behind walls leaving you to try and use yourself as bait to get them unstuck so you can get the gems they are sitting on. But I have found these things to be minor annoyances and don't cause enough wrongful deaths to be a big problem. Eventually you will work around the gameplay issues.
The games graphics are awesome. Just like the cover art would imply Crystal Castles is presented in isometric 3D. This adds a whole new dimension so to speak to the maze collecting genre and is probably what makes the jumping system possible. Bentley has plenty of detail to make him look like a bear and the enemies are easy to recognize without reference to the manual. Sprites move smoothly like the elevators and enemies. My only problem is with the gems that are simply lines and that is disappointing. But the game's graphics are sure to please anyone.
A nice little tune is used to kick off each round as they begin. other sounds like picking up gems or dying are also well done and when you finish a round a sound effect is used when you teleport to the next castle. Crystal Castles is one of the few 2600 games that are actually pleasant to listen to and is easy on the ears.
This is where Crystal Castles seem to take a turn for the worse. Movement seems to be a bit stiff and the jumping is hard to pull off at first. The joystick control is far from the Arcade version's track ball and could have used more work. But with a little bit of practice you can control Bentley with ease. (Note: a trackball was released for the 2600, which I think Crystal Castles was compatible with it, but obviously Brendan hadn't used one for this game; if anyone has, feel free to put up their experience with it in the comments section at the bottom! -- Assistant Ed. Darryl B.)
Crystal Castles is a must have for 2600 owners. It adds a lot of character to the maze collecting genre that is filled with to many clones. Even with it's flaws Crystal Castles is an awesome and loveable game.