4.0 Very Good
0.0 Your Mom
Funkmaster V Reviews
7800 Rank: 2nd Best Overall
2nd Best Homebrew
The Number of Different Terrains in this Title is Impressive
Massive Game, Impressive Depth, Incredible Sense of Adventure
Power Up System is Confusing
Look! My 1st Wife!
Overview: Bentley Bear's Crystal Quest is a completely original homebrew game from the mind of Pac Man Plus (Bob Decrescenzo) and his motley crew of programming pals.
And... it's a bit of a departure from Bob's normal wheelhouse. Bob is known in the programming community as a fella that makes amazing ports of odd/ underdog arcade games, and also these incredible Pac Man ports that everyone goes ga-ga for. Initially, he didn't want to make a spiritual successor to Crystal Castles, he was wanting to make Pitfall 3. Then, after horsing around with an idea of running Sega's Wonderboy on the 7800, he had another paradigm shift. A user on the Atari Age message board suggested that there needs to be a better platformer on the Prosystem using Atari mascots, and a light bulb went off. Bentley Bear (the hero from Crystal Castles) is probably "most Nintendo-y" mascot in the Atari library and the enemies in Bentley's universe are actually much more interesting than Koopas, Gumbas, and other racistly named animals. So Bentley Bear it was. But this isn't just Super Mario with an Atari paint job. There are some substantial differences. There's no jumping on someone's head and squishing them into coins stupidity here, Bentley's offense is pure bullet play, baby. Some might be inclined to say this is a shooter as much as it is a platformer, because Bentley can chuck some gems, boy. Rapid fire, unlimited ammo style. My favorite part of Super Mario was collecting the fire flower and then blasting away at enemies like a fool. So... there's lots of that here FOR FREE. There's a lot to unpack with Crystal Quest, so let's get to it.
Graphics: Though the graphics in BBCQ are pretty amazing, they could be the weakest facet of the title. The avatar of Bentley Bear is pretty large and colorful: he's a chubby little dude with some major ups. What's with the video game fascination of fat platformer mascots that can jump 4 stories in the sky? I'll have to think about the psychology on that later. When Bentley loses a life, some sort of cartoon bubble comes out of his mouth saying different messages... but I can't make out what it says on my TV. The enemies are unique and varied... and there's quite a few different types. The swarm of bees, the most logical adversaries of a honey eating bear, look kinda like a blob of dancing brown grapes. Some color schemes are loud, and sometimes power ups like the invincibility wizard cap wash out over later backgrounds... but these are nit picking a-hole things to say about a game that is so colorful and alive. I should spend time praising the flawless scrolling of the screens, the lack of flicker, the detailed main boss Broomhilda, and the impressive terrains. From the forest, to the desert, to a castle, to the sky, to caverns, to lava screens and beyond... this is quite a visual ride.
Sound: This game may actually more impressive than Ballblazer in the audio department. There's nice little touches abound, but the music is where the game shines. A slew of nursery rhyme and familiar public domain songs will dance out from your speakers like dancing gum drops and shimmering sugar plums. I don't know why I just typed that, but the music makes me feel like that's happening somewhere in a nicer neighborhood. You'll see.
Gameplay: The system may have been dead for 20 plus years, but we finally have a game that really makes use of the unique 7800 Pro-Line Controllers in a specific way. The Wii and WiiU obviously had unique control systems for many of their games, and I feel like this title approaches that precipice. I know some people hate... OK... MOST people hate the Atari 7800 standard joystick... but I always liked how unconventional it was. But until now, there was really no need for a design like that. Besides moving Bentley's fat ass around with the joystick, you have four additional input commands: running, shooting, jumping and super jumping. When you have only two buttons, this can be a problem. So these different abilities can be pulled off with joystick and button combinations. If you play this game and you are having a hard time making Bentley jump high, you need to hold the run button down and then jump. Then good lord, that guys soars. It takes some getting used to it, but once I did, I felt like I had excellent control over his jumps. I could steer that dude over 15 school buses like Evel Knievel and have him land on a dime. I never felt this mastery of control playing Mario. But, if you hate the scheme, you can flip the difficult switches and play with an Atari 2600 stick. See? Bob really does love you.
Originality: Scrapyard Dog... complete with urban blighted back drops, the ridiculous game-ending picture puzzle, humongous pianos in dumpsters and Louie's huge nose may be a more original platformer than Crystal Quest, but its nowhere near as good. If you have played a 1980's or 1990's platformer, you will not be thrown for a loop playing this one. It is derivative, but that's OK. Sometimes that's a very good thing. In this case, being ubiquitous means that it's fun and has wide appeal. Bentley has better jumping controls and more firepower than most platform heroes, so there's some different flavors here to lap up.
Value: There's an insane amount of levels to traverse here, and the game is not easy. To help you out, there are power-ups, hidden warp pipes, and hidden 1up's scattered along the landscape. The power ups stack on each other, and you can become more and more powerful as you collect those power up gems, but you have to be careful. Sometimes you can pick up a gem that will cut your power in half. This caveat is confusing, and I still don't understand it fully. It's not a game breaker. It seems that if you get at least ONE power up, you can handle most enemies pretty easily. The enemies and terrains are varied. Zombies need to be hit in the head to be destroyed. Knights have literal shields that block and armor to absorb damage, certain weird looking "flying thingys?" hover and wait for their opportunity to strike with blinding speed. You gotta approach each cluster of bad guys carefully, because... oh yeah... Bentley Bear may be a tough guy, but he has a glass jaw. All enemies have to do is touch him and he's kaput. He even doesn't like touching forest bushes and rocks. If he can't touch those things, where is he supposed to poop, then?
Overall: Crystal Quest is so deep for a 7800 game, I feel like there's a million things to tell you about. In short, this game is a must have for any Atari 7800 collector. Let's put it this way: I DO NOT LIKE PLATFORMERS and I like this game. I've spent hours playing it, learned how to cheat, and then beat the mother. AND... if you beat the game and get bored, there's a hidden world to discover with 8 new levels inside. But at the end of the day, I like BBCQ because of the shooting with the unlimited ammo element to the game. It's made for people like me: guys who suck at platform jumping and wished the hero packed an Uzi. It's 2 parts Contra, 5 parts Mario, and 1 part ex-wife. Yeah... that trick at the end of each level. Kill her quick, don't listen to her words, never fall in love with her and never introduce her to your brother. SKANK-AZZ
*** My hour long interview with Bob Decrescenzo is located below. In it, we talk at length about the development of Bentley Bear's Crystal Quest