- Manufacturer: COLOR DREAMS
Machine: Nintendo Entertainment
- Graphics 6
- Playability 9
- Overall 7
One of my all-time favorite computer games was a cave-exploring arcade contest called Boulder Dash (see the interview with its creator, Chris Gray, on page 98.). Its combination of charming graphics, clever sound effects and addicting game play made it an instant hit. It even won a software award or two. Now for the NES, we have Crystal Mines, a game similar to Boulder Dash, although lacking much of that earlier game's charm.
In Crystal Mines you control a robot whose job is to search through mazes, gathering crystals and destroying creatures. In each maze a predetermined number of crystals must be obtained, after which a doorway to the next maze opens. Although completing a maze requires strategy, a timer ticks steadily downward, forcing speedy decisions. No dilly-dallying allowed here!
You'll face obstacles, of course, including various types of boulders, dirt, rock and mud. Boulders, like most objects, come in several types: soft boulders can be destroyed with your energy gun; hard boulders are vulnerable only to bombs; impervious boulders are indestructible; and explosive boulders turn into bombs if touched by energy or an explosion. All boulders may be pushed by your robot, either to move them or to drop them on unwary creatures. Great caution must be used, however, to avoid being clobbered by a boulder yourself.
In the higher levels, obstacles become more treacherous. You'll face radioactive rocks that reflect your energy blasts and kill you with radioactivity; mud that ever so slowly expands, metamorphosing into dirt, hard mud or lava; and lava, which, like mud, grows and changes.
Enemies such as rock creatures, mud creatures, lava creatures and gas creatures also occupy the mazes. Like the boulders and other obstacles, enemies have different strengths and weaknesses. Some can be shot; others must be destroyed using more creative methods, such as dropping boulders or placing bombs.
As you dig through the mines, you'll uncover special items. The rapid-fire icon increases the number of energy blasts you can fire at one time. The range-increase icon gives your weapon a longer range of fire. Bomb icons add bombs to your inventory. Gold bags add to your score.
Some icons offer creature protection, explosion protection, mud/lava protection or radiation protection. In addition, you may find a clock that briefly stops time, a freeze-robot icon that temporarily paralyzes your robot (avoid that one) or a 1-Up.
Each level (there are over 80) is a puzzle requiring thought and strategy to complete. If you venture blindly forward, you'll soon run into such problems as releasing more creatures than you can handle at one time or surrounding crystals with impervious boulders. You may even trap your robot. In situations like these, the self-destruct sequence, which restarts the level, comes in mighty handy.
If you liked Boulder Dash (available only on personal computers), you'll get a kick out of Crystal Mines. It's not as addicting as its predecessor, but it's definitely a worthwhile investment.