June 11, 2012 1 Comment
Imagine Crystal Skies as Sonic The Hedgehog with all the crappy parts of the game removed. And by that, I mean it’s just the Chaos Emerald stages. Of course, those aren’t too far off from the 1989 Tatio arcade game Cameltry, also known as Labyrinth if you owned a Nintendo DS, On the Ball if you owned a Super Nintendo, or “never heard of it” if you’ve never heard of it.
Full disclosure here: while I try to be rough and tough Kairi Vice, destroyer of awful games and all around bad ass gamer, in real life I’m not exactly the most capable individual. I’m epileptic, and I’m also prone to motion sickness. For the most part, games don’t effect me all that much when it comes to these things. I’ve only had two seizures as the result of playing games for this site, and only one game gave me motion sickness. Well, now it’s two. Results will not be typical (I asked around and it only effected me), so don’t take this as me saying not to try out Crystal Skies. The game is actually really fun. At least in the opening ten or so stages. And then it goes on the rag and starts to poison your goldfish. Metaphorically speaking, of course.
You play as a dead fish that has been flushed down the toilet, hence the spinning. Unlike Cameltry, you don’t rotate the stage. It rotates automatically. Instead, you control the fish. I figured this would spell disaster for controlling the game, but actually I thought the platforming was done really well. There is a learning curve to dealing with the gravity issues, but controls are smooth enough that you slip into the game like it’s a comfortable pair of jeans. The object is to navigate twenty sprawling stages in search of coins and keys. I guess those were flushed down the toilet too. You know, when I make unnecessary purchases, my father accuses me of flushing money down the toilet, and I usually respond to that by flushing his keys down the toilet, so I’m starting to think this game might be based on my recently deceased goldfish, Gary. I’m starting to wonder if developers StarQuail hid a camera in my house as revenge for my Astroman review. I guess if their next game involves a girl named Cathy spending an hour brandishing a fly swatter and inventing new curse words against the house fly that keeps buzz-bombing her, I’ll have my answer.
Once you have the target amount of coins, you have to locate the stage’s exit. There is no time limit, thank Christ, so you’re free to explore levels in search of loot and move about gingerly if the situation calls for it. You get ten hit points in each stage, which felt a little patronizing early on. There’s hearts all over the place, and thus I never really came close to dying. However, the levels grow increasingly large, the mazes become more complex, and the amount of traps grows to, quite frankly outlandish amounts. About ten levels in and Crystal Skies is practically a punisher. Mind you, the transition is not out of nowhere. The game’s difficulty seems to ramp up at the right pace. I just wonder if twenty levels was too much here. By level 12, I was on my fourth play session with Crystal Skies, which has a pretty cool “save anywhere” feature that I wish more XBLIGs had. Unfortunately, the game’s new-found sense of digital hatred combined with my nausea finally got the best of me and I couldn’t press on any further. Too many deaths caused by bad luck. Ultimately, you’re at the mercy of traps you can’t possibly avoid, blind jumps, and lack of direction. Or moments where you try to work your way up a corridor, but you don’t make it through fast enough and fall all the way back through when the rotation reaches the point where you can’t continue moving forward. I almost wish this game had a wall jump.
This leaves me with an odd predicament. I’m not a fan of games so difficult that they’re demoralizing, and Crystal Skies does become that. On the other hand, I really had fun with the first ten levels. The fact that the game legitimately gave me motion sickness and I still wanted to play it should speak volumes of how much fun can be had here. I just wish the developer had toned down the absolute extreme difficulty later on. On the other-other hand, I have given a seal of approval to a few games that were so hard that I couldn’t finish them, such as Mr. Gravity, so I suppose I can here as well. When Crystal Skies is good, it’s really fun, and fun is all that has ever mattered to me. Well, that and not barfing, which is why I didn’t keep trying. If I hadn’t gotten dizzy, I would have kept trying. Actually, it’s probably a good thing I did get dizzy. If I had kept trying, at the rate the difficulty was increasing I would have ended up with a broken TV and a bandaged hand.
80 Microsoft Points said “if this is about stuff that has been flushed down the toilet, why isn’t the water a brownish-yellow?” in the making of this review.