Crystal Castles (video game)

Crystal Castles is an arcade game released by Atari, Inc. in 1983.[2] The player controls Bentley Bear who has to collect gems located throughout trimetric-projected rendered castles while avoiding enemies, some of whom are after the gems as well. Crystal Castles is one of the first arcade action games with an ending, instead of continuing indefinitely, looping, or ending in a kill screen,[3] and to contain advance warp zones.

Crystal Castles
Crystal castles poster.png
North American arcade flyer
Developer(s)Atari, Inc.
Publisher(s)Atari, Inc.
Designer(s)Scott Fuller
Programmer(s)Franz X. Lanzinger
Sam Lee
Artist(s)Barbara Singh
Susan McBride
Dave Ralston
Composer(s)Atari 2600
Robert Vieira
Platform(s)Arcade. Apple II, Atari 2600, Atari 8-bit, Atari ST, Commodore 64, BBC Micro, Acorn Electron, ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC
Late 1983: Apple II
1984: 2600
1985: C64
1986: Electron, Amstrad, Atari ST, BBC, Spectrum
1988: Atari 8-bit
Mode(s)1-2 players, alternating


The first level of the arcade original. The initials of the player with the highest score–FXL here–are built into the castle.

Crystal Castles has nine levels with four castles each, and a tenth level with 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, a tune of the Nutcracker Suite is played, and the player moves to the next castle.

A trackball and jump button control Bentley Bear. Gems are collected by 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. 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 Bentley leaping opponents via 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 and loses a life, he "cries out" in a distinctive manner with the use of a cartoonish speech balloon. If at least 3 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 start of a maze, gems are worth 1 point. This increases by 1 for every gem Bentley collects, up to a maximum of 99. Each maze includes a hat or honey pot, which serve the dual purpose of awarding points and letting Bentley defeat specific enemies. The hat (500 points) makes Bentley briefly invulnerable. The hat also allows him to eliminate Berthilda the witch (3,000), who appears in the last maze of each level. Picking up the honey pot (1,000) can delay the landing of a swarm of bees.[citation needed]

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

The player can skip some castles and acquire additional lives and points by using secret warps activated by making Bentley Bear jump at special locations.

Crystal Castles contains two 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.[4] On level 5‒4, if the player kills Berthilda and goes to the corner of the area where she was and jumps, "FXL" appears in the southeast corner of the screen. These are the initials of programmer Franz X. Lanzinger.


Crystal Castles was the first game with the Leta chip, a custom trackball controller chip designed by Scott Fuller.

Bentley Bear was named Braveheart Bear in the released prototypes, but Atari was decided to change the name when advocates for Native Americans complained.[5][6]


C64 version

Crystal Castles was ported to the Apple II, Atari 2600, Atari 8-bit family, Atari ST, Commodore 64, BBC Micro, Acorn Electron, ZX Spectrum, and Amstrad CPC. The Atari 8-bit version was nearly finished in 1984, but was not released until 1988 as a cartridge in the styling of Atari XEGS games.[7] There are two versions for the C64: a prototype[8] by Atarisoft that wasn't released at the time but purchased by U.S. Gold and released in Europe in 1986; and one by Thundervision in the US in 1985.


Atari manufactured 5,380 Crystal Castles arcade cabinets.[9] In Japan, Game Machine listed Crystal Castles on their December 15, 1983 issue as being the fifth most-successful upright arcade unit of the month.[10] The programmer Franz Lanzinger estimates that the game may have grossed over $100 million in its lifetime.[11]

Computer and Video Games reviewed the Atari VCS version, giving it an 80% rating.[12]


Crystal Castles is included in multiple anthologies, including Atari Anniversary Edition and Atari Vault.

Bentley Bear is a playable character in Atari Karts for the Atari Jaguar. He makes a cameo appearance in the 2012 film Wreck-It Ralph. 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.


  1. ^ "Crystal Castles (Registration Number PA0000185123)". United States Copyright Office. Retrieved 13 June 2021.
  2. ^ "The International Aracade Museum". Retrieved 19 February 2015.
  3. ^ "Atari Video Games". Archived from the original on 28 June 2010. Retrieved 27 June 2010.
  4. ^ "Crystal Castles Easter Eggs". Easter Egg Archive. Retrieved 27 June 2010.
  5. ^ "CRYSTAL CASTLES FUN FACTS". Retrieved 2016-06-27.
  6. ^ "Digital Press Easter Eggs". Digital Press. Retrieved 2011-02-28.
  7. ^ "Atari 400 800 XL XE Crystal Castles". Atari Mania.
  8. ^ "C64 Crystal Castles Prototype". Retrieved 23 October 2016.
  9. ^ "Production Numbers" (PDF). Atari Games. August 31, 1999. Retrieved April 19, 2021.
  10. ^ "Game Machine's Best Hit Games 25 - アップライト, コックピット型TVゲーム機 (Upright/Cockpit Videos)". Game Machine (in Japanese). No. 226. Amusement Press, Inc. 15 December 1983. p. 33.
  11. ^ "Franz Lanzinger" (PDF). Digital Press (52). May–June 2003. p. 12. Retrieved 19 April 2021.CS1 maint: date format (link)
  12. ^ "Complete Games Guide" (PDF). Computer and Video Games (Complete Guide to Consoles): 46–77. 16 October 1989.

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