Saturday, 26 February 2022

Missed Classic: The Kristal - Lost and Final Rating

 Written by Morpheus Kitami

How I'm feeling right about now

Before I talk about the last parts of The Kristal, I'm going to talk about the part I glossed over, the stage play. At least, what allegedly exists of the stage play. All I know for certain is what Mike Sutin has said about it. I cannot confirm that what he has said is true or not, because as far as I know, no one named Mike Sutin has ever done anything in the world of theater. Nor has his co-author, Rodney Wyatt, ever done anything either. I do know that Wyatt is American though. I know nothing of theater or searching for topics relating to the theater and Sutin claims to be a stage manager, which isn't something that seems to be mentioned in American productions, let alone the kind Sutin was working on.

The play, under the title The Kristal of Konos was originally a comedy musical, which I jokingly guessed correctly. Sutin thought up this play while touring with the original productions of Hair and Jesus Christ Superstar in Spain, 1975/76. Sutin, who was a stage manager and did backdrops for Pink Floyd. It was never produced, nor did any of the soundtrack ever get released. Which, according to Sutin in two different articles, either was the full soundtrack containing Elaine Page [sic] and the entire cast of Hair, or some with Elaine Page [sic] and the cast and musicians of Jesus Christ Superstar.

Two members of the team are famous in their work outside of game design, namely, the astronomer Patrick Moore who narrated the opening movie; And artist David A. Hardy, credited without his initial doing the backgrounds.

I do not lean towards it being true, but it's weird enough to lie about that at least some parts are based in truth. TV or movies it would make sense to lie about, but theatre? Nobody in video games cares about theatre. Sutin was probably a stage manager and the play probably exists. There is no recording, and if it is, it's in Spanish, with the Spanish cast of Jesus Christ Superstar and it sounds like this. I'm pretty sure musicals don't really tour like musicians do, especially in 1976. And there is no chance Elaine Paige is on it, because she was nobody in 1976 and she was also doing some play called The Boyfriend.

In the comments of the last entry, I asked you guys what you wanted me to do from a number of choices, play with a walkthrough, grind, or quit. Walkthrough won...unfortunately. I'll explain why that's unfortunate soon enough. I had a half-complete entry I threw out, so some of this I'm working off memory.

Yes, that's right, here all along

Some things have happened between the last entry and this entry. In order to advance, I need to find a key on the left side of the town square in order to enter a room at Kring's Head. Except the key isn't anywhere on Zapminola. Where is it? You've already seen it, you and I just didn't know it at the time. Turns out this game just emulates poorly, because if you've reloaded a save state you can't walk to the area the key is at. I must have either missed it the first time or quit after the opening cutscene because I just wanted to test if it was working. So this of course means restarting from the beginning, but since at this point, this is The Kristal, that's not a bad thing...entirely.

Nothing ever does, really

The walkthrough tells me to do a bunch of stuff, not in any real order, and doesn't really explain how or why I should do any of this. For instance, the armless dude should be donated to twice, to get a pommel/sphere. Dunno how you're supposed to figure it out. I should tell the princess "It's a secret" because I need the ring she gives me. At least the latter one has an explanation, it's cliche. No idea why I'm supposed to donate twice to some random NPC, but that is this game for you. Two side notes, I spend some considerable time trying to find Bloop, because he disappeared; Flow, that is the drug from the subtle stand-in for South America, causes Dancis to lose psychic points and teleport back to the point he started at.

I have several questions

Buy some food, one of which is a banana-like fruit that tastes like goat cheese. Donate to the princess's gift wedding fund. Donate to everyone, actually, money is mostly worthless. Which is a problem since you don't know that until you probably don't ever want to play the game again. I don't know how much you actually need to win the game.

Behold, a screen few have ever seen

Takes a bit to figure out how to use the key, but I'm in. Some heatpro tablets, five of them, more than enough to explore the lava planets. And a radio, whereupon approaching the game tells me that Reginald the Red has kidnapped Princess Feydle Deydle. He's a bad pirate, unlike me, Dancis Frake. As if I know what the difference is.

This is actually all I need to do on Zapminola, as there is nothing left I can really do here, outside of paying for those pills. The walkthrough suggests I do that, but I don't care for losing any psychic points yet. I can ask my friends for some skringles by asking for credit. I'm not sure if I need to do that, for obvious reasons. This is the only way to get money outside of the starting amount and the bonus the King gives me.

Yes, we both have zero health

Let's talk about the fighting mini-game, once and for all. Last time I mentioned I discovered something about the system. That is, the enemy will slowly go backward as long as you don't do anything. Thus, you can slowly inch towards the second half of the screen safely. There doesn't seem to be a good way of actually dealing damage to the guy, since what you want to do is bait him with a kick or something before slashing him at the throat or legs. And I do believe that you can't use the same attack over and over again, that the game prevents you from doing this. Because sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't.

The first time I actually won it took about 40 minutes. (there was some use of save states towards the end so I wouldn't have to start the fight completely over) Even if you are good at this, you have to win some 30-40 fights in order to arrive at Magno and then do one more fight. At least in theory. This is literally grinding. Even though most fights don't reach 40 minutes, we're still talking somewhere between 5-40 minutes a fight. Keep in mind if you lose a fight at any point you have to go through the Akes again, fight that guy again and fight to regain the strength you lost. Because you need 100 strength and 35 psychic to get past the death trap at Magno. At no point do you get better at the fighting beyond experience. This is hardly an adventure game, more a fighting game with some adventure and shooting bits stuck on.

Now, allow me to regale you with my trips across the universe.

(Unfortunately, I missed taking a screenshot of this and apparently there is some point at which the game makes the fights easier, because going back was awful. So just imagine a screenshot of the last place, but with a message on-screen saying "This is your reward for going with the flow. - Nedroid")

Scenic Meruvia. I fought one pirate and one alien, who imaginatively shouted at me "Have at you Frake! You drog!". The duo were guarding two chests, of which only one contains something. I need to use the medallion I got to get the item contained within, increasing my psychic by 5 points. The item? Chocolate skringles and this message. Outside of the first three places every other location is just one long scrolling screen, with pirates and an item, maybe. If you go top to bottom this is the first planet of its kind, FYI.

Call me crazy, but I don't think this is the best place to ambush people

Warm Larvia, where you need heatpro pills to survive. You want to prepare that beforehand because you're on the clock when you get down here. For some reason a pirate and an alien have decided that this is the perfect place to initiate a sword duel. I'm starting to feel like the game is cheating in these sword fights. Wait, starting to? I'm also either hallucinating or the game has a bunch of really soft sounds going on. Its also pointless, because there's nothing here. I'm confused.

I wouldn't mind living here...minus the heat...the aliens...maybe not then...

Skipping ahead to hot Feltina, where more aliens are waiting in ambush. There's no indication that you pressed the button to use the heatpro pills until you're either not dead or in a game over screen. Now, I've never managed any stage plays, but I'm pretty sure you have a gulping sound effect if you can't use text at all. Fortunately, only one alien is between me and the item, the legendary Sword of the Spheres, which looks like it was randomly thrown on the ground. Like all legendary swords. I have to use the sphere/pommel to get it. So...is it better?

It seems like it

Industrial Kraan. The two aliens go down much faster than before and seem to be stupider. I can actually just keep stabbing the guy with down-right while at the left corner and win. It's not fun now, but I can actually finish a fight in a reasonable amount of time now. My reward here? A book that says "Posession of the spell-scroll will ring Malvalla's bell."

The title of my next death metal album contest is going poorly

Myst-like Darn. Of all the locations here, I would most like to play an adventure game here, but all of them seem like good locations for an adventure game.

There's something very satisfying about landing a kick in this game

After the customary two fights, I get a triangle with a dull blue stone in it.

Did I mention that now I actually know what Grimm is now, and nobody bothered to tell me outside of the bad guy?

Finally, I reach Glysta, where Lotarr, MASTER OF CONFUSION, tells me to fall for an obvious trap by offering me the Kristal or Princess Faydle, since he doesn't need either of them. I can get them by heading to his base. Now, if I actuallly believed that, I would dump the princess and take the Kristal, because this royal family isn't long for the galaxy if I can get just as many skringles from my friend as I can from the king for saving the universe.

If it's a large pebble, how do I know that it's this thing?

Anyway, Gylsta, this is one of the actually important planets. The psychisorber here is a vital part of the game. Dunno if it's for the action aspect or the adventure aspect. Assuming you would call it an adventure aspect. I'm starting to feel like it isn't, after 6 hours of swordfighting.

Now, as shocking as it is, we have actually now seen everything in this game outside of endgame sections. I draw your attention to the claim that its the "biggest game ever". It's not the biggest game ever, since there exist hundreds of space simulations. Is this the biggest adventure game released until 1989? Doubtful, if you claim this as one, then Captain Blood is definitely one too, and that's bigger. Time Zone is much bigger, but if you don't count text adventures, then I would say even the original King's Quest is bigger. This is like upper 20s of screens, maybe 30s, whereas I'm pretty sure most of the bigger graphical adventures exceed this easily. Even if you count that some screens here scroll. There's more actual content in those than here, repeating the same swordfight 30-100 times.

Only, wait a minute, I'm back on Meruvia, and there isn't anyone here. I check another, and another. No one's there. There's no one left anywhere that isn't a lava planet, and I'm not about to check the lava planets again. It's surprisingly peaceful...and without sound in the background, feels like I'm playing the alpha of the game. At some point here, an event where I follow a ship through a wormhole is supposed to happen, that's what the ring is for. That's not happening either. So...I'm stuck.

Final Time: 10 hours 40 minutes

I am reminded of words I read when I first came across this blog, and saw that I too, could be a reviewer here. "It isn't all fun and games, it requires dedication." I'm mincing that, but the sentiment stands. Of all the games I have played for this blog, including the ones that never got as far as one entry, this has felt the most like actual work. I hope I don't end up covering another game like this one.

For that reason I actually avoided playing this. I actively dreaded playing this. Like, I can stand bad graphic adventure games, and I could probably stand if it was a bad text adventure or even a bad action-adventure game. But this? Whatever this is? I just can't stand it.

Money is surprisingly not a pain in the butt to deal with. With the fifty skringles you get by default and getting a loan from a friend, you get more than enough to buy every item in the game and donate to every character who is asking for a donation. Of course, the issue is that you don't really know that you have to donate to one character twice unless you accidentally donate to him twice or just decide to randomly donate to one guy twice.

Everytime after the first these scenes resulted in an absolute victory, with little effort on my part

The space combat mini-game is the kind of thing that would have only been impressive in 1980. It's just so simple. There's nothing to it. Enemies float around, shooting at you sometimes, and you try to kill them. Do this three times and the game advances. It's not a challenge, it's not fun, it's just busywork. Further issue is that if you don't find the planet and thus enemies right away, you'll spend a bit turning around trying to find where they are. There's no indication of where those dudes are. You get the option to adjust your speed with the fire button and up or down on the joystick, but it's pointless. It doesn't affect how quickly you get to the planet, only killing enemies does that. It just causes an annoyance when firing at them akes.

I don't really need to say why the fighting game aspect stinks, do I? Funny thing is, since every fighting game before Street Fighter 2 is hideously outdated, there's not much point in that either.

I don't think the concept of the game itself is flawed, that is play as a space pirate, stab people, shoot people, and then do adventure game things. You don't need to have Wing Commander meets Soul Calibur meets KGB, you need 2/3 of them to be fun and the other to just be forgettable. You can afford one aspect being forgettable, since the other two work, it comes off as intended. If two are forgettable, you might as well not have bothered. If one is awful, it's worse than if there was nothing at all. The balance is too much towards the boring space combat and way too much towards the tedious swordfighting.

Puzzles and Solvability:

There are indeed puzzles in this game, but the whole thing feels weird. Most of the puzzles are either incredibly simple or nonsensical. Why do I need to use the medallion to get chocolate skringles? I guess the deal with Princess Feydle Beydle is clever, but the rest of it is just endless slog. For a game that seems to be sold entirely on that adventure game aspect, its not doing it very much or very well.

1

Interface and Inventory:

As I think back on my experiences with this game, is there anything here that actually works? Moving around is plagued by slowdown. Conversations type out slowly. You even have to wait for them to talk to you, which is annoying if you had to walk past them before. There is no feedback on the inventory system and the key placement is the absolute worst possible choice. F2 picks up an item and F3 teleports back to the ship...or is it the other way around? No seriously, you don't know if you've used any of the pill items unless it has an obvious effect. How about a sound effect there? Space combat controls poorly. The swordfighting is the smoothest part of the experience, but that's the swordfighting. It still has issues, some of the moves don't properly work all the time, and there are some moves you have to perform by hitting U-UR or D-DR or something like that, as opposed to the eight moves in each direction the game tells you. Speaking of which a joystick would have made this experience even worse.

1

Story and Setting:

In a true space setting it is an absolute necessity that conversations have words that we do not already understand. "Ighus the Yandite told me that the Sfram Drive needs 26 more Hjgks before Ghin ignition happens again and we can escape from the Randians." I don't know if this is actually an official concept or not in sci-fi and fantasy, but information overload is a real thing. Further this worldbuilding feels rather pointless in a game where the story is of very little importance.

I think this story would have been much more interesting as a play. Some of the things in the game I've mentioned, like the King giving us 25 skringles or donating to everyone, would have been a better concept in something I was watching rather than playing. It can't be any worse, at any rate.

1

Sound and Graphics:

The Kristal is disturbingly silent for an Amiga game. Outside of the intro, there are only a handful of sound effects that ever play. They don't even play properly all the time.

Graphically The Kristal is at its best. Backgrounds are gorgeous, both in concept and execution. Animation is smooth and Dancis has a very nice swagger to him. This is why the game hurts as much as it does. Because each of those planets look cool, and I would like to explore more. But no, we only get a single screen where we spend 90% of the time fighting some loser who thinks he's going to gut me. I want to be on these planets. LET ME BE ON THESE PLANETS!

5

Environment and Atmosphere:

Like I said, there's some good effort put into making these places look good. Like they'll be fun places to be in, to explore. But past that, there's nothing you can do with anything. It might as well be two colors, the ground and the wall, for all I can do here. The world is silent except for the odd sound of violence. It is not a pleasant feeling, it is a dark one. Like it was left unfinished, or done by people who had no access to anyone with musical talent. Which is an interesting to thing to say about this game, yeah? This is not a game whose atmosphere benefits from silence.

1

Dialog and Acting:

In all versions of the game there is an opening narration by astronomer Patrick Moore, who does a good job with what he's given, introducing the setting. But the problem is it feels like nonsense. Characters talk nonsense, and you're supposed to be able to glean any information from what they say in order to figure out just what it is that's going on. Which leads into that big selling point, being able to talk to these people. As I mentioned before, they're really on the lookout for a few key words and then they respond to that. If there aren't any of those key words, they spout nonsense.

Here's the issue, those key words are rarely obvious. You will sometimes get prompts for those words, usually from food sellers, but its all very cryptic. The manual's information is confusing in this regard. You can ask people for a loan, but it sounds like a joke and it doesn't tell you how to ask for one. You buy and donate money typing the number, but this isn't told to you. It's all unnecessarily hidden.

1

1+1+1+1+1+5/0.6=16.6 or 17. But wait, we're not about to let this game get off just like this! We have to deduct points. -1 for glitchyness. -1 for the swordfighting, because I can't just deduct all the points. -1 for not really being an adventure game. That's 14.

The closest was Laukku who snuck in at the end with a still optimistic 23. Probably because the intro section did not involve me spending hours doing swordfighting. We'll also give a few CAPs to Andy Panthro for guessing that I would be frustrated with this game and some to ShaddamIVth for guessing that I would give it the maximum amount of deductions. As usual, the CAPs will be distributed with the next mainline game played and rated.

Would I recommend this? Obviously not. I can't say I recommend a bare-bones adventure game combined with boring space combat and tedious swordfighting, especially one that's very buggy in an emulator. But apparently I'm wrong. I haven't had two different people say the game was great on anything I've ever covered before. Nevertheless, modern opinions are mixed, but more praising the concept and graphics than the actual gameplay. Very few mentions of what they liked about that. Period reviews range from glorified ads of the game to proper beatdowns of the concept. Curiously a lot of the reviews describe things that aren't true or we don't know. Dragon mentions it having impressive interactivity; Games Machine describes it as faithful to the stage musical (HOW DO WE KNOW!?) and that its positives are the characters and objects that move around.

Curiously, we have statements that arcade fans won't enjoy this because it's too intelligent. Multiple magazines said this. (that is when people aren't calling it the best arcade adventure of all time) Meanwhile, Computer Gaming World and ACE criticized the arcade sections for being too hard for adventurers. It's nice to see I'm not the only one who thought that.

However, I must agree with Info magazine's statement that it sets a new standard for interactive adventures.

So...Obitus. The only reason why I played this game. Suddenly not feeling real eager to play that. I did test all of the versions of that ahead of time, and it suffers from technical issues on Amiga as well. Except in this case I have yet to get past the intro. The DOS version lacks music, and I don't really want to cover the SNES version primarily, so I may play an entirely different game first. Probably one that's actually an adventure game.

12 comments:

  1. holy .. is this the lowest ranked game so far ?

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    1. No: https://advgamer.blogspot.com/2020/04/missed-classic-85-drive-in-adventure.html

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  2. I think this is the best time to make a suggestion for this blog: maybe you could avoid half-adventures like this one, Veil of Darkness or Quest for Glory. Maybve you could also avoid games clearly aimed towards children, such as the Putt Putt ones. And maybe you could also ignore amateur-level graphic adventures, such as Dare to Dream, and maybe text adventures too. I don't know, maybe just play... professional-level graphic adventures without RPG elements? There seem to be more than enough of them. The guy who was playing Veil of Darkness has been 6 months without sending updates for a reason: adventures mixed with RPG suck. I would only include the Inca and Star Trek games as exceptions, as the space combat is secondary and mostly beatable (except for the last mission in the first Star Trek).

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    1. There is a selection process for the blog, but we like to cover as much as possible. Things like Quest for Glory are good ones to cover, for example, they're "professional-level" after all, and made by one of the biggest and best known adventure game companies of all time!

      Everyone here is a volunteer and chooses what they write about, and there's lots of interesting and fun text adventures and lesser known games out there.

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    2. Veil of Darkness is a gem, I played that game tons of times from start to finish.

      Why the reviewer is missing though, no idea. Hope he is doing fine, and returns soon to continue the adventure

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    3. I get what you're saying Anonymous, but your suggestion wouldn't mean much in the cases you have an issue with. Kristal is described as an adventure game practically everywhere, that it isn't much of one isn't apparent until one is already deep in the game. Veil of Darkness isn't a RPG, and even if it was I understand that the player of that also runs the RPGconsoler blog. Like a lot of people I suspect he hasn't had much free time.
      While I do have free time, ultimately I can only play games released before 1993, and ones that haven't already been covered. The only ones that I know of that fit that criteria and the ones you mention are not in English. Well, there is Personal Nightmare, but I don't feel like playing a horror game when there are four of them on the upcoming main game list and it isn't October.

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    4. Notably, The Art of Point-and-Click Adventure Games initially left Quest for Glory out, on the grounds that it was an RPG. Unfortunately, the companion book, The Art of Role-Playing Games, left Quest for Glory out because it was an adventure game. Eventually they added it to the adventure game book.

      So which is it? Originally we heard that RPG players would never play an adventure game, and vice versa. Instead, we hear constantly from players of both persuasions that they love Quest for Glory and Hero-U.

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  3. It does sound deserving of such a low score! A frustrating experience that I'm sure you'll be glad to leave behind.

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  4. Didn't know this game existed, but it reminded me of the Starstruck comic books by Elaine Lee and Michael Kaluta, which is also camp science fiction and based on a stage play by Lee from the late 70s. The difference being Starstruck is a masterpiece. Which makes it extra frustrating that here they squandered the potential of the weird concepts and the beautiful backgrounds on such a lousy game. Great and funny review, though, so it wasn't all for nothing!

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    1. Starstruck does sound like this, but good. Even better, the stage production was actually done and we can hear the music. As far as we know for The Kristal, there might not have ever been a stage play. If it weren't absurd, I might be tempted to think that this was intended as a knockoff of that.

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  5. They really are interesting backgrounds! The whole thing reminds me a lot of the science fiction short stories that had great cover art but then turn out to be about sentient broccoli farms.

    The space combat feels like it was left in purely so they could get the "space galleon" feel and had no other way to do it.

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  6. I spent about 15 minutes playing Obitus, and I will not be covering it in any detail. After getting the game to work, I was in an adventure-style section, but that was it, adventure-style. In the time I spent playing it the closest thing I had to a puzzle was figuring out which door to use a key on. You can talk to people, but they just tell you things. Most of my time in it was shooting arrows at people and walking around. Its an action game masquerading as either an adventure game or a RPG, take your pick.
    I am admittedly slightly butthurt about it. Because I went out of my way to play this game and it was for nothing. I even got a copy of the unreleased sequel to Obitus as a sort of followup. Funnily enough these were the only major projects of Giulio Zicchi, he was the lead programmer, and all ran badly. That's even why the followup got canceled.

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