Crystal Castles (video game)

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Crystal Castles
Crystal castles poster.png
North American trade flyer
Developer(s) Atari, Inc
Publisher(s) Atari, Inc
Designer(s) Project Leader: Scott Fuller
Programmer: Franz X. Lanzinger
Hardware: Sam Lee
Platform(s) Arcade
Release date(s) 1983
Genre(s) Action
Mode(s) Up to 2 players, alternating turns
Cabinet Standard and cocktail
CPU M6502 (@ 1.25 MHz)
Sound POKEY x 2 (@ 1.25 MHz)
Display Raster, 256×232, horizontal orientation, palette colors 32

Crystal Castles is an arcade game released by Atari, Inc. in 1983.[1] The player controls a cartoon bear named Bentley Bear, who has to collect gems located throughout trimetric-projected rendered castles while avoiding enemies out to get him as well as the gems.

Crystal Castles is notable for being one of the first arcade action games with an actual ending, whereas most games of the time either continued indefinitely, ended in what was termed a "kill screen" or simply just restarted from the first level,[2] and to contain advance warp zones.


Screenshot of the original arcade version of Crystal Castles
Screenshot of the Commodore 64 version

Crystal Castles has nine levels with four castles each, and a tenth level which features a single castle — the clearing of which ends the game. Each of the 37 trimetric-projected castles consists of a maze of hallways filled with gems and bonus objects, and also includes stairs, elevators and tunnels that the player can use as shortcuts. The three-letter initials of the player with the highest score are used to form the first level's castle structure. When all gems in a castle have been collected, the player moves on to the next castle. The player can also skip some castles and acquire additional lives and points by using secret warps activated by making Bentley Bear jump at special locations.

A trackball and "jump" button are used for controlling Bentley Bear's motions. Gems are collected by simply walking over them, and a bonus is given upon collection of the last gem. While collecting gems, there are a number of enemies that try to stop Bentley and/or collect the gems for themselves. With two exceptions, if touched by the enemies he will lose one of his lives. Any gems collected by the enemies also result in a lower obtainable score for that screen. Likewise, if the last available gem is collected by the enemy, the player also loses the last gem bonus.

Enemies can be avoided by use of the maze and its constructs, or by making Bentley jump over opponents with the jump button, in some cases also allowing him to stun them. Some types of enemies will track Bentley's movements in certain ways, while others move at random. If Bentley is touched, he "cries out" in a distinctive manner with the use of a cartoonish word balloons. If 3 or more lives remain, he says "BYE!"; if 2 lives still remain, the quotation is "OH NO!"; if 1 life is left, it is "OUCH!"; and finally, for the last lost life (which ends the game), he says "#?!", so as to imitate an obscenity.

At the beginning of every maze, gems are worth 1 point each; this value increases by 1 for every gem Bentley picks up, to a maximum of 99. Each maze also randomly includes a hat or honey pot, which serve the dual purpose of awarding points and providing Bentley with the ability to defeat specific enemies. The hat is worth 500 points and will make Bentley invulnerable for a few seconds and allow him to eliminate Berthilda the witch, who appears in the last maze of each level. The honey pot is worth 1,000 points, and picking it up can delay the landing of a swarm of bees.

Other villains present in the game include: "Nasty Trees" which become more ornery as levels progress, a ghost that will usually appear in the Hidden Spiral levels, dancing skeletons, "Gem Eaters" who Bentley Bear can defeat if he catches them while eating a gem, and also the devilish "Crystal Balls" creatures that in later levels tend to follow Bentley Bear persistently as he collects gems. The Nasty Trees and Crystal Balls can also pick up gems.

Crystal Castles contains two notable easter eggs. Jumping 100 times or more in the southeast corner of level 1‒1 and clearing the maze of all gems will make ATARI appear on level 1‒2.[3] On level 5‒4, if the player kills Berthilda and goes to the corner of the area where she was and jumps, "FXL" will appear in the southeast corner of the screen. These are the initials for Franz X. Lanzinger, a designer of Crystal Castles.


Crystal Castles was the first game to use the Leta chip, a custom trackball controller chip designed by Scott Fuller. Bentley Bear's original name was 'Braveheart Bear' in the game's prototypes.[4][5]


Crystal Castles has been ported to the following home computers and video game consoles:

  • Apple II – Simpler graphics, but gameplay is similar to the original.
  • TRS-80 – as Crystle Castles [6]
  • Atari 2600 – Because of the technical limitations of the Atari 2600, the game was simplified.
  • Atari 8-bit – Graphically better than the 2600 version, the mazes actually resemble the arcade. The game finally released as an XE cartridge, which is very rare.
  • Atari ST – Although the ST would have been capable of a graphically near-perfect port, all graphics have been repainted, making it look quite different from the arcade version. Gameplay is about the same as the original except for the difficulty level, which is lower than that of the arcade original.
  • Commodore 64 – Simpler graphics, but the gameplay is quite close to the original. There are actually two versions: one by Atarisoft that wasn't released at the time but purchased by US Gold and released in Europe in 1986; and one by Thundervision in the US in 1985.
  • BBC Micro / Acorn Electron – Good graphics, close to the original.
  • ZX Spectrum – Two-color graphics in the main gameplay area due to the Spectrum's attribute clash problems.
  • Amstrad CPC – Four-color graphics using the Amstrad's medium-resolution screen mode.
  • PC and Dreamcast – Arcade version as part of the Atari Anniversary Edition game.
  • Windows, Xbox, and PlayStation 2 – (both in arcade and Atari 2600 format) as part of Atari: 80 Classic Games in One! (2003) and Atari Anthology (2004).
  • Xbox 360 and Windows – (Arcade format) as part of Game Room (2010).
  • IOS/Android Crystal Castles was released as an IAP for the app Atari's Greatest Hits.

In addition, certain ports use dimetric projection, as opposed to the arcade version's original trimetric projection, to display environments.


Bentley Bear is a playable character in the game Atari Karts for the Atari Jaguar.

Bentley and Crystal Castles are referenced by Lupe Fiasco in his song "Audubon Ballroom" on his 2012 album Food and Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album, Pt. 1. Bentley makes a cameo appearance in the 2012 film Wreck-It Ralph. He can be seen at "Game Central Station" and at the "Fix-It Felix" 30th Anniversary Party.

As of 2013, there is a Side Scroller / Platform homebrew game available for the Atari 7800 using the characters from Crystal Castles named "Bentley Bear's Crystal Quest", which has the Witch stealing 5 precious jewels (after plotting for 30 years) that Bentley has to retrieve.


  1. ^ "The International Aracade Museum". Retrieved 19 February 2015. 
  2. ^ "Atari Video Games". Retrieved 27 June 2010. 
  3. ^ "Crystal Castles Easter Eggs". Easter Egg Archive. Retrieved 27 June 2010. 
  5. ^ "Digital Press Easter Eggs". Digital Press. Retrieved 2011-02-28. 
  6. ^ Crystle Castles on TRS-80

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