This is one of those very few games which completely defies categorisation. There is a little bit of everything in The Kristal - it is a shoot-'em-up, a combat game, and an adventure. You are Dancis Frake, a space pirate. Proud owner of a yellow jumpsuit and one second-hand twin cannon space galleon.
Your mission is to retrieve the eponymous Kristal, a magical artefact that holds together the powers of harmony in the universe. Unfortunately it has been stashed away in a secret chamber by Malvalla, Gru of Grus (who thought of these names?), allowing Chaos to go on a bit of a beano. Worse still it is about to fall into even more dangerous hands...
Even the scenario to this game is a little bit out of the ordinary, and you will need to pay attention to it if you are going to succeed in your quest. A notepad and pen is advisable if your memory is less than acute. Do not worry, however, this is not going to be one of those irritating adventures you will find yourself wandering around aimlessly because you did not talk to the goldfish on the opening screen (Oi! KC). The Kristal has been constructed with a great deal of forethought, and conversation with the other characters is as near to real interaction as is possible.
You begin the game by waking up on the planet Meltoca, a million desks away from your home (and I assure you that is no walk around the park). Poor old Dancis has not got a clue how he came to be standing in a park on a completely different planet; so you had better go and find out hadn't you?
Meltoca consists of a substantial series of screens. You are at liberty to wander around and occasionally take a stroll through the scenery. To say very much more would be to spoil the impact of the superbly drawn backdrops. Suffice to say that, more than anything else, The Kristal has a character all of its own. Not surprising considering the fact that it is an adaptation of a musical written by the principal programmer, Mike Sutin, back in 1976.
This is not the work of a sprout and it shows. There are plenty of clues in Meltoca, and plenty of information can be gleaned from talking to the various characters which wander around the park and town. Skringles are the intergalactic currency here and they can be earned, spent and even ponced off the occasional acquaintance. It is a good idea to gain these along with driks (time), strength and physic points.
Once you have found the spaceport and you have got itchy, travelling feet, Dancis can board his ship. Select your destination from the cryptic symbols on the screen before you and you are off into hypnospace at warp factor ten. On the other side you will encounter the dreaded Akes - not as in Prawn Vindaloo, but as in space reptile. There is the shooting segment of the game. To either side you have a good old-fashioned cannon - none of this new-fangled laser beam stuff - so hang back and blast the approaching Akes before they blast you. The galleon's shield is displayed on a coat of arms hung on the wall, which seems a nice touch.
Some of the planets you can visit are considerably bigger than others. Some rival Meltoca, others - drawn by the famous S.F. artist David Hardy - are much smaller, but scroll smoothly all the way. At some point you are bound to encounter an Ake or a guard intent on a rumble. Dancis is not forced to fight, but a decent swashbuckler can result in a substantial increase in strength. If you lose, you won't die, but your strength will be reduced accordingly.
The swordfights take place on a different screen with a different backdrop for each planet. Designed by Neill Glancy, a black belt in Katnagari, the moves reflect those of the Korean marial art. As such it stands up as a combat game of quite considerable subtlety on its own.
The Kristal is more than just three good games in one. It is unified by a design which makes it a serious gameplaying challenge and a riveting spectacle. The flavour of the game is bizarrely camp, which may not appeal those who prefer their action with a five o'clock shadow, and some of the backdrops look like they were a job lot from a provincial pantomime. Nevertheless, it has an idiosyncratic charm all of its own. Who else would get Patrick Moore to do a voice over to the intro sequence? This just might be something completely different you are looking for.