Crystal Castles

Crystal Castles

Company: Atari
Model #:
Peter C. Niday (Programmer), Michael Kosaka (Graphics), and Robert Vieira (Sound)
Year: 1984
Peter Niday's initials may be hidden in the game.


When it first appeared in arcades in 1983, Crystal Castles amazed players with its sharp graphics and pseudo 3-D mazes.  Bringing any 3-D style game to the 2600 was thought to be impossible, but programmer Peter Niday proved to be up to the challenge.  While it may not look exactly like its arcade counterpart, Crystal Castles is an amazing piece of programming and one of the top 2600 games of all time (not to mention my personal favorite).


You play the role of Bentley Bear (who would later go on to star in his own line of Atari ST education games), who after falling asleep (dreaming about poached salmon of all things) has awoken to find himself trapped in a giant crystal castle.  Scattered about the castle are thousands of glittering diamonds, emeralds, rubies, and pearls (which just all happen to look like dashes) which Bentley must collect.  Of course one has to ask, what does a bear need with gems (Bentley must have one heck of a salmon habit)?


As is the norm, giant crystal castles are inhabited by evil witches and their henchmen (err... henchcreatures).  The evil witch Berthilda is out to catch Bentley and turn him into bear stew (lightly seasoned and served with a lovely plum sauce).  As Bentley moves through the castle he must avoid all of Berthilda's deadly cronies, not to mention a deadly swarm of killer bees!  Run Bentley! Run!

Gem Eaters
These tall green Centipede looking monsters wander around the maze eating the very gems Bentley is after.  For the most part Gem Eaters are pretty harmless as they would much rather go after gems than Bentley, however they can become a nuisance when confronted in a tight space.  Gem Eaters are the only creature that Bentley can destroy without the aid of the magical hat!  To destroy a Gem Eater simply run over him while he's eating a gem (you'll see it quickly move down his body).  However timing is everything and if Bentley isn't careful he'll end up a Gem Eater snack.  Gem Eaters can be helpful, as they often clear out hard to get to areas of the maze.
Nasty Trees
As their name suggests, these trees are NASTY! Quick and agile, Nasty Trees chase relentlessly after Bentley without pause or rest.  Bentley can temporarily stun Nasty Trees by jumping over them, but the best way to deal with them is to trap them behind a wall or edge.  Although Nasty Trees will eat the gems they walk over, they don't go out of their way to find them
Crystal Balls
The only future Bentley will see in these dangerous orbs is his own death.  Crystal Balls follow Bentley around the maze in a rolling motion, gobbling up gems as they go.  While they're not as fast as Nasty Trees, Crystal Balls are just as deadly.
Ghosts are encountered only on a few levels and are not a standard enemy.  Ghosts move in a random spastic motion over a very small area.  Use caution when collecting gems near a ghost.
Like Ghosts, Skeletons are rarely encountered over the course of the game (although they are more common than Ghosts).  Skeletons move in a swift gliding motion around the board, but their pattern is random.
Honey Pot
The Honey Pot appears on certain levels and is worth big points if Bentley grabs it.  Even if you're not after bonus points make sure you snag it quickly or you'll run into.
Bee Swarm
The Bee Swarm is one of the most annoying enemies in the game.  The Bee Swarm appears every couple of seconds on levels with a honey pot, and will hover over the pot for a brief time.  To get rid of them, simply grab the honey pot while they're temporarily away.  If Bentley spends too long on any given board, the Bee Swarm will come down and chase him around the screen (at an alarming speed).  Consider them your cue to get a move on.
The Cauldron is similar to the Honey Pot except it's deadly to the touch (mmm. Bentley stew).  Consider it a non-moving enemy and avoid it!
Magic Hat
The Magic Hat appears on certain levels (always on the fourth board).  By grabbing the Magic Hat Bentley can make himself invincible for a short period of time.  At the higher levels the Magic Hat will start jumping around and will turn into a Crystal Ball if not picked up quickly enough.
Berthilda appears on the fourth board of every level, slowly cruising the level on her broomstick.  Berthilda can be destroyed by Bentley if he's wearing the magic hat, although he doesn't have to go after her.  Consider her bonus points.


Using the exact same mazes as the arcade version would have been impossible on the 2600.  The main problem with the arcade mazes were the small walkways and twisty passageways which just weren't within the 2600's abilities (the 2600's background graphics are extremely low-res), therefore Peter had to create several new mazes for the 2600 version. These new mazes were very open and removed most of the small ramps and walkways but were challenging nonetheless. Also taken out of the 2600 version was the trackball control scheme used by the arcade game (very few 2600 games had trackball support). This wasn't much of a loss as most players found using a joystick made the game much easier, but the purists still complained.


It's simply amazing how many levels and how much detail was crammed into a tiny 16K cart.  Crystal Castles liberal use of pseudo 3-D really makes it unique among 2600 games.  Top-notch graphics and awesome gameplay helps make Crystal Castles one of the top ten 2600 games of all time.


Version Cart Text Description
1/4/84 Crystal Castles 1-4-84 Levels are in a different order
1/16/84 Crystal Castles 1-16
Final Version
?/??/84 Crystal Castles PAL Final Version (PAL)


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