| William Jahnke & Paul Metz
released by Atari Corp. in 1988
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 a home computer was though
challenge, but luckily programmer Bill Janhke proved to be up to
the challenge. No only was Bill able to keep most of the
arcade's graphics, but all the gameplay is intact as well.
Crystal Castles is one of the more impressive arcade to
home conversions out there.
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 Bentley
must collect. Of course one has to ask, what does a bear
need with gems? Bentley must have one heck of a salmon
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!
||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.
||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
|| 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
|| 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
||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.
||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.
||The Magic Hat appears on certain levels,
and 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.
The 8-bit version of Crystal Castles is especially
impressive. The 3-D castles are beautifully rendered and all
the gameplay elements as present, from the elevators to the hidden
passageways. Since the 8-bit was much more powerful than the
2600, all the castle designs were able to be ported over from the
The graphics are very nicely drawn, but there are a
few places where they could have been tweaked a bit. Bentley
looks very fat and pixilated for some reason, while the Nasty
Trees are very wide (almost twice as wide as they should be).
Why these two characters were drawn so oddly is unknown, but
the rest of the game looks excellent, so I guess one could
overlook Bentley's beer belly...
The sound effects are average, mostly consisting of
a few appropriate beeps for when Bentley grabs a gem or jumps over
an enemy or dies. The music between levels is pretty good,
but some is still missing due to the programmer leaving Atari
before the game was finished. Sound effects and music are
often one of the last things to be finished before a game was
Some time in 1988, Atari decided that Crystal
Castles would make a great release for the XE line. They
originally tried to get programmer Paul Metz to finish the game up
after Bill Janhke left Atari, but he declined. So
Atari hired some other programmer to finish up the nearly
completed game. Not only did the programmer finish adding
the missing music and sounds, but he also made a few tweaks to the
- The XE version changes screen and gem colors like the
arcade game, the 400/800 version stays red and blue
- The XE version has better graphics for the Nasty Trees,
Bees, Bentley, the Magic Hat, and Honey Pot
- The XE version uses a flashing graphic for when Bentley
grabs the magic hat, while the 400/800 version uses a strange
'Squished Bentley' graphic
- The XE version has attract mode (demo)
- The XE version is around 30-40% slower than the 400/800
version. It is unknown if this is a result of the extra
graphics masking or just an intentional move to make the game
- The XE version has high score support
- The XE has more music
- The 400/800 has different/incomplete sound effects, such
as the death sound that plays when Bentley gets an extra life
- The 400/800 version starts with 7 lives while the XE
starts with 3
- The XE version has a ghost effect when Bentley goes behind
things. The 400/800 version just shows a darker graphic
- The XE version shows Bentley saying "Oh No!" when he dies
and flying off the screen. The 400/800 version just has
Bentley standing still while the death sound is played.
Unfortunately all this extra tweaking increased the
memory requirements from 16K to 64K (making it unplayable on the
400/800,, and 600XL). Why these minor changes required an
extra 48K is unknown, but the programmer may have simply used all
the memory they could to implement the changes. Remember
that the XEGS came with 64K standard.
Crystal Castles was one of the few lost 84
prototypes that actually ended up getting released.
Unfortunately the XE release is very rare, making it out of
the reach of most gamers. Thankfully the original prototype
has been found is now available for everyone to play in all its
original glory on any computer in the 8-bit line.
A prototype box can be seen in this
picture (first row, eigth box)
||Crystal HCS 6/1/84
||Late stage beta.
||Nearly complete, needs minor
to 8-Bit Software