Crystal Key, The Download (1999 Adventure Game)

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Playing The Crystal Key reinforces what a lonely place space is. In this game, you don't really interact with anybody, just with holograms, right up until the end.

Of course, many puzzle games share this feature, including The 7th Guest, 11th Hour, and another game by Dreamcatcher, The Legend of Lotus Spring. However, in this game, the beautiful, almost mournful music combines with the lack of characters to interact with to end up making you feel very lonely indeed.

You start on a new world that is incredibly earthlike. Each world has a 360 degree view that players can view by clicking and dragging the mouse in the appropriate direction. Their objective on this first world is to find the crystal key, and learn more about the Arkonians whose message the Earth intercepted.

At each world you will travel to, players will find another piece to add to the key they already have. Each new piece allows players to unlock further worlds, until they come face to face with Ozgar himself and find a way to defeat him.

Players will find the worlds in the game beautiful, but very dark and moodily lit. In fact, the dark areas of the game can cause you to miss clues, so you will probably want to set your screen somewhat lighter so as not to miss them.

My biggest problem with the game (past the "mood lighting" problems) is that the level of puzzle difficulty is wildly erratic. Some puzzles have easily identifiable clues, while others (such as how to get into Ozgar's ship) seemed unnecessarily difficult and cryptic. I even solved one (how to get into the underground room in the temple) purely by chance and on the first try.

Some of the other difficulties I had with this game involved identifying objects. The shelf in the side room of the temple appeared like a switch or a lever at first glance, even after I had lightened my screen. I kept clicking on it and wondering why it wasn't moving.

In the balance, players who enjoy puzzles will find this game intriguing, even engrossing. Indeed, this game is all puzzles, right up until the end (I consider defeating Ozgar a sort of puzzle in this context).

However, this is not the sort of game you will be playing over and over again. Like many puzzle games, once you have solved a particular puzzle, there is no real reason to go back and do it again, as it is much less satisfying the second time around. Even the splendid location visuals are unlikely to bring you back as you will spend a great deal of time in each place, enough time that you are likely to be sick of the view by the time you find a way to leave.

For graphics, puzzles and mood, this game rates highly, but it does have enough problems to affect playability slightly. If you enjoy puzzle games and solving puzzles, this game will give you plenty to keep you occupied. If you aren't that good at puzzles, you will probably be better off saving your money, and if puzzles make you break out in hives, you'd be better off watching a puzzle-loving friend play it.

Graphics: The graphics are stunning, but the lighting can be too dark in many of the places where you will be solving puzzles. Adjust your screen brightness accordingly.

Sound: The music is beautiful and slightly mournful. It also stays in tbe background where it belongs.

Enjoyment: People who love puzzles will find this game intriguing and quite a challenge.

Replay Value: Once you have solved the game's puzzles, there is little to no reason to replay, as nothing changes.

 

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