31
Mar
13

Crystal Caves for DOS

Crystal Caves Title screen

Crystal Caves Title screen

Crystal Caves is a simple puzzle platform game released by Apogee back in 1991. It was made at a time when many games by Apogee had EGA graphics whilst many others had moved onto the popular VGA cards. Back then people didn’t upgrade their machines as often, so there were still many older 286 and older machines running EGA cards.

The Hub level

The Hub level

The graphics in Crystal Caves are in EGA, and aren’t the prettiest around. The sprites are animated quite nicely, but require a 286 at least for the game to work smoothly. This would have made it difficult for anyone using an older 8088/8086 based machine to play the game smoothly. Given that many 286 machines could support VGA graphics via an upgrade, they could have used VGA without limiting themselves to people with the latest hardware.

A Level with lots of blue

A Level with lots of blue

The sound comes in the form of PC speaker, it sounds ok but is a bit reminiscent of game and watch style sound. The game doesn’t support any sound card unfortunately, as support for an ad lib based sound card would make it sound much better.

Girders!

Girders!

Like many Apogee games of the time the game excels in game play rather than technical prowess. You play the part of Mylo Steamwitz who is gathering crystals to save up money to buy the Twibble farm that he has been dreaming of owning. The game has some nice original elements including the ability to play the levels (known as caves in game) in any order you like and a hub level from which you choose which level to play.

Hammer Time!

Hammer Time!

Each level has a number of hazards to avoid that come in many forms. There are enemies that roam the levels, spikes stationary guns that shoot at you. You have a gun that you can use to shoot some of the monsters, but others you need to simply avoid. Care must be taken when shooting to make sure you don’t hit the air supply in a level, otherwise you die rather explosively. To exit a level you must first collect all the gems, and then make it too the exit airlock. This frequently requires you to use switches to open doors or activate elevators.

Under the Gun

Under the Gun

It certainly isn’t an action packed platformer like Duke Nukem which was released around the same time. But it certainly has some moments when you need to think about what you’re going to do next, and there is some challenging platform jumping to be had. There are 16 levels per episode and they vary in difficulty, some are very hard whilst others are easier, but not easy to complete. The game play makes up for the graphics and sound not using better hardware, and I had fun playing. I can see why some people consider it to be one of the classic Apogee platform games.

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