LGR – The Kristal – DOS PC Game Review

LGR – The Kristal – DOS PC Game Review


[theme music plays] [shotgun, roar] [sips]
Aahhh! [typing] [music ends] Sometimes you look at a game’s box art and think, “What in the holy mother of crap?” Today is one of those glorious times. This is The Kristal, released by Cinemaware in the USA in 1989. And…wow! This is just awesome on a level that’s normally only reserved for
amazingly awful, low-budget slasher films. You’ve got a damsel in distress, the back of some pseudo-Roman guard guy, and this muscle-bound Keanu Reeves imposter whose clothes disturbingly
seem painted onto his body. And that’s just the obvious!
The cover gets better the more you look at it. This is just a static photo.
These people aren’t moving. But just from this you can tell they couldn’t act their way out of a furniture outlet commercial. But The Kristal wasn’t always like this. The game was actually released
first in the UK and the rest of Europe through Addictive Games and Prism Leisure. Over there, it had simplistic but
comparatively acceptable box art, simply stating the name of
the game in a very stylized font and what one could only assume is…the Kristal. It also had sales-blurby quotes
from different magazines, stating just how awesome the game was and that it was “the biggest game ever,” whatever that means. Yet here in America,
we get the girl, the swords, the steroid-abusing Theodore Logan. Just another example of box
art being amusingly changed to something belittling for American game buyers. And by that, I mean adolescent males,
but I’m getting off track here. Since Addictive and Prism Leisure didn’t
exactly have a presence here in the U.S., The Kristal was instead released over here by Cinemaware, a company known for their amazing
movie-like experience in games, most notably Defender of the Crown. In fact, it even states on the box spine that it is a Cinemaware Interactive Movie, as well as implying the same
thing on the back of the box with popcorn and film strips. But I’m here to tell you this is an outright lie because this game has practically
nothing to do with Cinemaware or their normal movie-like gaming experiences. Nope! In The Kristal, you become Dancis Frake. [sighs]
Dancis Frake, a swashbuckling space pirate, in an epic quest to retrieve the Kristal of Konos. It’s actually based on an original play, or so the sales blurb states. I have to wonder how
original the play actually was, considering the antagonist is a
dyslexic’s Francis Drake, but whatever. In fact, I could not find any
information on the play at all, except for its relation to this game. It sounds like the thing was
never actually performed anywhere, but instead the script was modified to fit
into the construct of a computer game. But whatever, let’s just get right
into the DOS port of The Kristal. It comes on six 5.25-inch floppy disks, with one labeled “Speech,”
which is somewhat odd since there is no sound card support. You get a manual, which covers the game basics, but it’s written for the Amiga
and Atari ST users of the game, so a lot of the information is completely wrong. You’ll just need to read the DOS
addendum for PC-specific information. There are several different graphics modes available, but I’m going to be showing the VGA mode. On starting the game, you’re greeted with a lie, followed by the name of the game,
as well as the team that developed it, Fissionship Software. Ha ha! “Fissionchip.” “Fish and chips.” Okay, I– Alright. I’m rolling my eyes profusely,
just so you know. It also starts displaying the credits for the game, which is at least somewhat amusing, thanking everyone involved in the game’s creation, along with the likes of
George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, Robin Hood, Errol Flynn, and even the universal subconscious. Then a well-drawn screen with the Kristal
from the European box art pops up, along with quite a surprise from the PC speaker. ANNOUNCER: Millions of galaxies, 200 million suns, the membrane web of deep space. On the edge of a galaxy, are a cluster of provincial planets which revolve in a figure of eight around the twin suns Kree and Ma. The largest and central planet of the cluster is Meltoca, governed by Kring Nata, Lord of the One Way. Nata rules the people of Melvalla, the capital city. The date: the 7th Deck of the Lem of Kree. Earth time: 5053. LGR: So I guess that’s
what the speech disk was for. You know, it’s actually some of the better
PC speaker speech that I’ve heard in a game, other than it being too
friggin’ quiet to hear clearly, at least on most internal speakers, even those with volume control. Next, you’re dropped right into the game in a bemused state, in Novalla Park on the planet Meltoca. How you’re aware of this, I’m not really sure, especially since it implies you’re practically hungover. I guess Dancis Frake is just blessed with the gift of instant Google-like knowledge. And speaking of Sir Frake, is it just me, or does he look like Gallagher wearing a slightly homoerotic Wolverine costume? Beyond the shocking realization
that you have to play as this character, the first thing you’ll notice is that this is a multiscreen adventure game, sorta kinda in the vein of Monkey Island and other LucasArts and
Sierra adventure games. You control Wolver-Gallagher
here with the arrow keys. But instead of typing or selecting game actions, you are presented with context-sensitive situations and a text parser accessed by pressing F1. For instance, the first thing
you’ll come across is this…plant sporting a pair of giant, luscious lips, right next to some other giant plant thing that appears to have Jolly Green
Giant penises hanging off of it. To top this situation off, the lips plants is apparently
sexually attracted to you. Press F1 and you can see
just how attracted it is to you, and you can type in whatever you’d like to say to the large labium. Like asking for its name, asking…what it is, or teasing its libido. This is the main way in which
you’ll interact with the game. I guess there’s some sort of serious
ladder of importance going on where you’re the very bottom rung or perhaps even the dirt on the ground, because you can only speak when spoken to and never, ever any other time. You mostly just go left to right and see if anything starts talking, but you can also move in
and out of the foreground. You’ll notice this bar at
the bottom of the screen, and this is where your
vital information is shown. Skringles, which is your money, Strength, which is your…strength, and Psychic, which is your… mind power or something. It’s not really clear what Strength
and Psychic points are for, because augmenting them doesn’t
seem to affect the gameplay, and it doesn’t mention anything
about what they do in the manual. You also have this blank box on the screen, which will show any nearby
items that can be picked up, as well as this floppy disk, which shows what disk needs to be inserted. So if the game is installed to the hard drive, this icon is 100% useless. And though it’s not shown,
you can also save and load your game by pressing F8 and F4 keys, respectively, although, needlessly, you
only have one save slot. You can also press F1 to
switch to your inventory bar, showing any items you may have. You can examine items and use
them just like you would expect. On this first planet, you
have several areas to explore. Although it’s not really clear what in the world you’re supposed
to be doing in any of them. Like many adventure games,
it’s all about trial and error. But because this one is in
such a nonsensical universe, and you have no goals given to you, it’s somewhat frustrating
right from the get-go. I just wandered around for awhile, talking to people, giving alms to the poor, buying fruit to boost my nonexistent strength, and trying to find out what the “flow” is that everybody keeps
saying I should go with. On asking, apparently
nobody has any idea. There’s kind of a “Hitchhiker’s
Guide to the Galaxy” vibe going on, which at least keeps
things somewhat amusing. And that’s about the best
thing about this game because the design of these
areas just pisses me off. I mean, how was I supposed to
know I could walk through THIS? HOW is this an entrance? And it’s not a secret area.
It’s pretty vital to the game. I don’t know. I can understand
some hidden items here and there, but many of them are just
too randomly placed for me. This is only hindered further
by the awkward controls because half the time you
need to be pixel-perfect or else you won’t walk into the foreground. It’s not even clear what these
items you pick up are, either, so I have no idea if I need them, or if I do, what function
they could possibly have. It gives you a list of the items in the manual,
but it doesn’t tell you what they are. And even with the in-game descriptions,
I have no idea what these things really do. Eventually, you’ll get used to the
idea of searching every tiny area to see if there’s something there, but then you’ll come across new areas that
look like there should be something there, and there’s nothing at all! Grrr! Are these chests or something? Should I be able to get to them, but I’m just not pressing up at the right spot? What’s going ON?! Once you feel that you’ve run out
of options on a certain planet, which is probably going to be pretty quickly, you can enter the teleportation room which leads to a spaceport. Here you have the option
to travel to other planets and there are ten in all. On the way to your destination, you’ll run into some unexplained resistance. I have no idea what these things are and I was never told. You just have to play the
role of a cosmic bug zapper and shoot the little freaks
before your ship’s shields run out. This section of the game really bogs everything down. I think it was supposed to be fun,
but it’s only a nuisance, since the controls are sluggish, and it’s unclear if aiming even helps. At least the interior of the ship is amusing, and it fits the whole space pirate idea with flags and cannons and swords and armor placed about. And when you kill the final creature in a wave, Dancis turns around to break the fourth wall by giving you a thumbs up for a split second, just to remind you that, yes,
the game does have character. That’s about as subtle of a hint
as a hammer to the balls. Eventually, you’ll reach your destination but there’s no telling if
that’s a good or a bad thing, since you have no idea where
you’re going or what’s on the planet until you arrive. Like the first planet I land on, I’m then told I’ve been cremated. Well that’s pleasant. WHY was I cremated? I dunno, I guess it was too hot. Another planet looks like I’ve been dropped into an H.R. Giger painting while being electrocuted. And most of the other planets will drop
you right next to some aggressive punk with a sword who instantly challenges you to a duel. This is the last major aspect of the game, and wow, is it bad. I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised. Again, I think this was supposed
to be a fun addition to the game. You fight by pressing the directional keys at certain angles, and then pressing Space. The problem is that the game
only lets you use one move and then you have to move onto
the next one or nothing will happen. You can keep pressing the same
combination over and over, like stabbing or kicking, and,
yes, you’ll see the animation, but only the first time you
perform the action will count. Anything after that will just miss your opponent. You have to constantly switch
moves for anything to happen at all, and even then it never feels like you’re
actually in control of what’s going on. I feel like I’m fighting like one of
the puppets in “Team America.” It’s just spastic, random
and completely useless. Sid Meier’s Pirates!, this ain’t. If you win, you get to explore the new
area, which is usually pretty small. Maybe you’ll find an item. Maybe you won’t. Screw this! So, is The Kristal any good? I’m sorry, but no. At first, I was actually enjoying the game because of its classic adventure game elements. It’s one of those where you have to try
everything you can think of and then some. You have to take notes, make maps, manipulate other characters and
solve basic puzzles with obscure items. And the bizarre universe the game is set in with occasionally witty dialogue is awesome in that campy, old-school, sci-fi fashion. But no matter how far I got, I always ended up hitting what seemed
like an unnecessary road block which just made me want to quit
the game and crap on the floppies. And even a walkthrough only helps so much because a lot of the game
seems to be somewhat random and based on skill which is
based on a broken system. It’s like the game is trying to get under your skin with its awful controls, awful fighting, and ill-conceived items interaction
and abundant ambiguity. I tried to like The Kristal, but it felt like trying to like a rotten pizza. Sure, somebody put a lot
of work into making it, you can see where there was
some inspiration when designing it, and even has some little
bits around the edges that could possibly be a bit tasty. But it’s still no good for
consumption by any normal human. [music plays to the end]