In the second of a regular series on Antstream Arcade, we take a peek back at a specific retro game from 1983, a long 40 years ago! Welcome to another of our retro games that is ageing radiantly in Fab At Forty!

The Lowdown

Game: Crystal Castles

Developer: Atari

Publisher: Atari

Platform: Arcade

Genre: Maze action

About Crystal Castles

Crystal Castles is the tale of Bentley Bear, trapped inside a series of the eponymous isometric castles. The only way Bentley can escape his prison is by collecting the gems located throughout each screen. Unfortunately for this brave bear, a set of dangerous foes are also after the gems and will kill Bentley should they come into contact with him. Nasty trees, skeletons and Gem Eaters are the chief opponents in Crystal Castles. Some castles also feature a honey pot – Bentley loves honey! – collect these quickly, or our furry hero will also have a deadly swarm of bees to contend with. Fortunately, a magic hat appears on most levels, and the enemies cannot walk past it. If Bentley collects the hat, it grants him temporary invulnerability. Some stages also contain Berthilda The Witch’s cauldron – watch out for the flying crone whenever it’s on screen!

Playing Crystal Castles

While it may, from first viewing, appear to be a mere Pac Man clone, Crystal Castles has considerably more depth than the Namco classic – literally! Each isometric screen contains a labyrinthine set of twisting and raised paths, and while the core concept – collect dots and avoid enemies – is the same, Bentley Bear can jump over his opponents, temporarily stunning them. Simple to play and seemingly easy at first, Crystal Castles is the perfect maze arcade game and as fun today as it was 40 years ago.

Crystal Castles Trivia

  • Bentley Bear originally went by the name of Braveheart Bear until it was wisely changed.
  • Crystal Castles’ creator, Franz Xavier Lanzinger, was heavily influenced by the artist Escher.
  • The original arcade machine utilised a backlit trackball rather than a joystick, one of the first video games to do so.
  • Crystal Castles’ first level cunningly includes the initials of the current high scorer within its map design.
  • Crystal Castles has a definite ending, unlike many arcade games of the time. Defeat level 37, and the game reluctantly declares, ‘I give up: you win’.
  • Do you recognise that jaunty tune at the end of each level? That’s because it’s an excerpt from Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker Suite!

Crystal Castles: The First Five Castles

Castle One: Ball Wave

Three slow-moving balls chase Bentley Bear around the first screen. There are up to 79 gems to collect and a useful hidden path around the back of the castle. Get the gems, Bentley Bear!

Castle Two: Tree Wave

Four trees pursue Bentley Bear in level two, and they’re considerably nippier than the balls of level one! This is a more straightforward maze, but it contains many more gems: 159.

Castle Three: Doomsdome

The Doomsdome includes the first lift, which Bentley Bear uses to reach a hidden cache of gems. It’s also the first appearance of the Gem Eaters, who, as the name suggests, love to munch on gems.

Castle Four: Berthilda’s Castle

Things start to get tricky as Bentley Bear arrives at Berthilda’s Castle. Multiple levels, a very long lift ride and Berthilda herself make the first three castles seem like a walk in the park.

Castle Five: Hidden Ramp

Both Gem Eaters and Trees pester Bentley Bear in the first castle of part two. Again, there are multiple levels, winding staircases, hidden passages, and ramps.

Crystal Castles Then And Now

With the Pac Man craze subsiding by 1983, Crystal Castles arrived to a muted reception, especially considering the impending video game crash in the United States. An Atari 2600 port quickly followed (and is also available to play on Antstream Arcade) before US Gold brought several more home versions to the UK. “A faithful copy of the arcade original, completely playable and totally addictive,” declared Computer & Video Games magazine in its December 1986 issue. Today, Crystal Castles is revered as a true classic of the Golden Age Of Arcade Games – celebrate its glory by playing it, for free, on Antstream Arcade. While you’re at it, why not head over to our friends Seven Squared and grab yourself a supremely cool Crystal Castles t-shirt?

To keep up with its high score table and more, check out Crystal Castles on Antstream Arcade, with our new premium subscription available for just £1 per month! For gaming news, new games, challenges and more, head over to our Discord channel: Watch out for another Fab At Forty game soon!

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This blog primarily written by Graeme Mason covers retro gaming and offerings of Antstream - and can be checked out at it's original published location of