Kristal, The Download (1989 Amiga Game)

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Most games published by Cinemaware in the '80s used time-honored Hollywood formulas. But not The Kristal. Based on an obscure stage play, it's a LucasArts-style adventure set in a bizarre, under-explained world of beatnik space pirates. Their catch phrase being "go with the flow." As Francis Drake (meant to be confused with the 16th century explorer), players search for the lost Krystal of Kronos in their spaceship, the Golden Hind (don't ask).

Death lurks at every turn in the form of poorly conceived arcade scenes that involve fencing and outer-space dogfights. And by journeying to the wrong planet, players might be killed by a mysterious alien tyrant for no readily apparent reason. The parallax-scrolling graphics are mildly interesting, but not up to Cinemaware's usual artistic standards. The Kristal was published, rather than designed, by the core team at Cinemaware, and it definitely shows.

This is one of those very few games which completely defies categorisation. There's a little bit of everything in The Kristal - its a shoot'em up, a combat game, and an adventure. You are Dancis Frake, space pirate. Proud owner of a yellow jumpsuit and one secondhand twin cannon space galleon. Your mission is to retrieve the eponymous Kristal, a magical artefact which holds together the powers of harmony in the universe. Unfortunately it has been stashed away in a secret chamber by Malvalla, Gru of Grus {who thought of these names?), allowing Chaos to go on a bit of a beano. Worse still it's about to fall into even more dangerous hands....

Even the scenario to this game is a little bit out of the ordinary, and you'll need to pay attention to it if you're going to succeed in your quest. A notepad and pen is advisable if your, memory is less than acute. Don't worry, however, this isn't going to be one of those irritating adventures you'll find yourself wandering around aimlessly because you didn't talk to the goldfish on the opening screen, The Kristal has been constructed with a great deal of forethought, and conversation with the other characters is as near to real interaction as is possible.

You begin the game by waking up on the planet Meltoca, a million deks away from your home (and I assure you that's no walk around the park). Poor old Dancis hasn't got a clue how he came to be standing in a park on a completely different planet; so you had better go and find out hadn't you?

Meltoca consists of a substantial series of screens. You're at liberty to wander around and occasionally take a stroll through the scenery. To say very much more would be to spoil the impact of the superbly drawn backdrops. Suffice to say that, more than anything else The Kristal has a character all of its own. Not surprising considering the fact that it's an adaptation of a musical written by the principal programmer, Mike Sutin, back in 1976. This is not the work of a sprout and it shows.

There are plenty of clues in Meltoca, and plenty of information can be gleaned from talking to the various characters which wander around the park and town. Skringles are the intergalatic currency here and they can be earned, spent and even ponced off the occasional acquaintance. It's a good idea to gain these along with driks (time), strength and psychic points.

Once you've found the spaceport and you've got itchy, travelling feet, Dancis can board his ship. Select your destination from the cryptic symbols on the screen before you and you're off into hypnospace at warp factor ten. On the other side you'll encounter the dreaded Akes -not as in Prawn Vindaloo, but as in space reptile. There is the shooting segment of the game. To either side you have a good old-fashioned cannon - none of this new-fangled laser beam stuff - so hang back and blast the approaching Akes before they blast you. The galleon's shield is displayed on a coat of arms hung on the wall, which seems a nice touch.

Some of the planets you can visit are considerably bigger than others. Some rival Meltoca, others - drawn by the famous S. F. artist David Hardy - are much smaller, but scroll smoothly all the way. At some point you are bound to encounter an Ake or a guard intent on a rumble. Dancis isn't forced to fight, but a decent swashbuckle can result in a substantial increase in strength. If you lose, you won't die, but your strength will be reduced accordingly. The swordfights take place on a different screen with a different backdrop for each planet. Designed by Neill Glancy, a black belt in Katnagari, the moves reflect those of the Korean martial art. As such it stands up as a combat game of quite considerable subtlety on its own.

The Kristal is more than just three good games in one. It is unified by a design which makes it a serious game-playing challenge and a rivet-ting spectacle. The flavour of the game is bizarrely camp, which may not appeal to those who prefer their action with a five o'clock shadow, and some of the backdrops look like they were a job lot from a provincial pantomime. Nevertheless, it has an idiosyncratic charm all its own. Who else would get Patrick Moore to do a voice over to the intro sequence? This just might be the something completely different you're looking for.

You become a pirate named Francis Drake and have to find the fabled Kristal Of Konos and return it to it's rightful resting place. Tons of added side adventures as well.

How to run this game on modern Windows PC?

This game has been set up to work on modern Windows (10/8/7/Vista/XP 64/32-bit) computers without problems. Please choose Download - Easy Setup (4.03 MB).


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