Crystal Quest Featuring Bentley Bear is a platforming game similar in feel and style to Adventure Island or Wonder Boy. The Atari 7800 has desperately needed platformers in the vein of Super Mario Bros since 1986, and even with this glaring hole in the library, homebrew developers have been slow to fill it. I don't blame anybody but Atari for the under representation of this genre, but it does feel a little odd that nothing was really released until 2014 to fill the gap. So, does Crystal Quest do more than fill a gap in the 7800 library? Lets dig in and find out!
I think the best place to start is with the graphics, and these are fairly impressive for the 7800 Prosystem. The title screen looks fantastic, and most of the level design and backgrounds look pretty good as well. I do find the color choices a little bland later in the game, and I think the 5th world is kind of an odd style choice, but overall the graphics satisfy and excels! Bentley Bear is a nice rotund little hero similar to a plumber we all know and love, and he animates well. All the enemies have a distinctive look and may be familiar to those of use who enjoyed the various releases of Crystal Castles in the past. And the end level bosses are nice and large, and appropriately intimidating to look at! I would've liked some more variety in the end world bosses, but I do like what we get.
NOOOO THEIR SLOWLY GOING TO WALK INTO ME! HELP!
It's so nice to hear a 7800 game that sounds as good as it looks. This game is filled with classical tunes and they all sound well thanks to the provided Pokey sound chip. I enjoy booting up the first world and hearing the familiar "hello mother...hello father" tune that you may (or may not) be familiar with. Most Prosystem games have a short melody or tune that plays during key moments, or maybe a song or two that plays through out the entire game. But Crystal Quest has many full songs, sound effects, and yes even the familiar jingles from picking up power ups. This game has to be a 10 out of 10 in the sounds department, especially when compared to most other 7800 games not named Ballblazer or Rikki & Vikki!
Graphics are nice and varied, and the sound is top notch, so lets find out if Bentley drops the ball in the gameplay department. In short, the answer is no, the game plays pretty good. To get more in depth, this game shares a lot from Adventure Island and not so much with Super Mario Bros. I've had a handful of people describe this game as the 7800s Mario, so I thought I should make this distinction here. You do not have mushroom style power ups or rings to act as a safety net. It's almost always one hit kills through the entire adventure. You can pick up a party hat for a few seconds of invincibility, but that's about the only saving grace you will get. But your not totally defenseless! At the beginning of the game and after you loose a life you can pick up a white crystal for rapid fire shooting against your enemies. Some will die from a single hit, others from multiple. You can later pick up red crystals that are equal to 2 hits, and green crystals that double your current crystal power until your death. Upgrading your crystals help a ton and are a must for defeating the bosses!
THIS IS ONE TOUGH WITCH!
But before we get to the bosses, lets go over the rest of gameplay. The enemies start out mindlessly walking towards you, or walking towards you and jumping over obstacles. But its not long before some hover out of reach, flying down when directly overhead to catch you off guard, or dart towards you from the edge of the screen. The enemies are done pretty well, with my only complaint being that the floating heads and floating balls can occasionally feel cheap when they float out of nowhere to steal a life. But that doesn't happen too often. The platforming never reaches truly difficult levels, but I'll go over that a little more towards the end. The boss battles are definitely going to rob you of a lot of lives to start, but by the second boss you should learn how to cheese this witch. She still manages to stay difficult by firing projectiles and eventually breaking herself into smaller versions. If it wasn't for the difficult and varied boss battles, I would've said that this game is almost TOO easy!
So does this game have flaws at all? Well yes, and there are a few head scratchers for me. As I said before, the later levels start to look a little bland in my opinion and the design of the final world is a let down. Each world also contains an odd level where a few platforms scroll with the background. This caught me off guard at first and feels out of place to me. I'm not sure what the programmer was going for here, but I can't help but to feel he missed the mark. Luckily you'll encounter only 5 or so of these levels out of the 40 levels in the game. My only other complaint is the occasional cheap death from an enemy flying onto the screen out of nowhere. But none of this spoils the experience and can be excused given how good the rest of the experience is.
So Crystal Quest featuring Bentley Bear is a great Adventure Island or Wonder Boy style platformer for the Atari 7800 Prosystem. It's not perfect, but it is more than enough to dethrone Scrapyard Dog from the 7800 platformer throne. To be fair, it sat on the throne by default, but Crystal Quest earns its place at the top of the library. If you own your 7800 strictly for the fantastic arcade ports, than this one might not be up your alley. But for the rest of us who love the console and want to see great games released on it, than this is going to be a must own. AtariAge is currently out of stock, but I got word from Albert that he has a Pokey chip alternative tested and ready to go, and a new batch of cartridges should hit the store in a few months. So save your cash and pick this one up as soon as it comes back into the store!
CRYSTAL QUEST FEATURING BENTLEY BEAR IS A SOLID GAME!
Graphics: 8 out of 10
Four of the Five worlds look great, and only a handful of levels lean towards the bland end of the color spectrum. The animations and characters all look fantastic!
Sound: 10 out of 10
When you compare this to the rest of the 7800 library, then I would have to say that only Rikki & Vikki have it topped. Great work!
Gameplay: 8 out of 10
Even though it leans a bit on the easy end, there is still good level design, enemies, and challenges here. A few of the levels fall flat for me, but they are far and few.
Fun: 9 out of 10
I played through this game twice for this review, and I had a lot of fun both times. I got frustrated maybe once or twice, but I had some discovery moments on my second time through.
Value: 7 out of 10
As I said, this one is easy and I beat it all the way through my first time loading it up. But even so, there is some good replay value in discovering everything this game has to offer.
Overall:8.5 out of 10 GREAT!
I think most of us 7800 kids would've died for a game like this back in the day, and I'm glad it came out. Get your copy as soon as you can!
Edited by Silver Back