Now before you say "Oh great, another Breakout clone," consider this: that an original cannot truly be referred to as a "clone," that a classic stands the test of time.
Not that Crystal Hammer was by any means the first game of its type; Arkanoids and Breakout had certainly been around for some time. But in terms of the Amiga, it was the first, or at least first fairly complete, game of its type. And it is a classic. For its time, it was a game of remarkably high caliber, sometimes even rivaling (with all due respect to the Mackey brothers) MegaBall, today's high-end entry in that arena.
I'm sure I need not spend a large amount of time covering the fundamental theory behind such a game; simply, you are given a paddle which you can slide along the bottom of the screen, in an effort to keep a small ball from going past. That ball, in turn, when in its element, goes around knocking aimlessly into things and, ideally, destroying them for points. There are generally a number of boards offering different configurations of "bricks" (or "crystals" in this case).
All games of this type operate on this premise, and yet all of them (or at least all the good ones) add their own unique twist to the formula. Crystal Hammer is no exception to this.
When you first start the game (generally accomplished by booting from its disk), you are presented with a screen that provides such information as who programmed it (Guido Bartels), who did the effects, graphics, and sound, etc., and then at the bottom "Hannover in November 1987." It also tells you that you may continue your game if you accumulate 10,000 points.
Once the initial startup screen disappears (at which point the game has finished loading), onto the screen pops a nicely-done graphical logo for the game, which alternates periodically with the high score/initial list, maintained during run-time only (in other words, full of GIB's when you start up). A very well-done piece of music also plays during this interval (remember, it WAS, after all, 1987).You can then start either a 1- or 2-player game via use of the left or right mouse buttons respectively (2 players simply take turns).
A player is given 4 extra lives to start with, represented by small versions of your paddle in the lower left corner. The boards themselves (and there are 30 of them) are colorful and varied, actually being a repeating sequence of several backgrounds themselves composed of multiple tiled images (this game is easy on memory). Everything is instantaneous, by the way, once the game finishes loading; no waiting between boards, no pauses when beginning a new game.
As already mentioned, the point of this game is to destroy the crystals (there are several different colors), arranged over the background, and more or less octagonal in shape. In the meantime, look out for "worms" that emerge from the top of the screen and slowly make their way to the bottom. You can destroy them with your ball or paddle, and they're worth a good number of points, but they can unexpectedly deflect your ball, annoying if it happens to be speeding along.
There are, of course, Power-Ups, in this case taking the form of falling "pills" (basically rapidly spinning crystals). Only one may be falling at a time. It should be noted that the white crystals never yield "pills;" the others always will if one is not already present on the screen. Various types of "pills" include the following:
Each of these gives you points among different nice powerups. Yes, even the white pill of death is good for points.
Being quite old, this game is naturally very hard to find. I haven't looked in great depth online, but my source was an old disk. For me, this goes back to my days of using my Uncle's A500 (thus the aforementioned monochrome monitor), back in 1987 (goodness, how the years go by...). All I know is he brought some disks over one night, saying "Sorry, no games this time," and then the next day I learned the kind truth.
Being quite old, this game is also not very system-friendly. It's unfortunate, and that alone is what first drew me to MegaBall last year (of course, I've grown quite fond of that game as well now). Let's just say if you have anything better than AmigaDOS 1.3, you're out of luck. Of course, it takes over the machine and leaves no exit route (you can probably forget the hard disk). Again, it's the MultiStart board that lets me even write this review. I don't know if there's a patch to make Crystal Hammer more system-friendly, but if you have this game, it's probably worth looking for.
Also considering the advanced age of Crystal Hammer, I officially ask you, the Amiga community, if anybody either remembers this game, or has any knowledge of the whereabouts of Guido Bartels, the author, and particularly if he has ever done anything else for the Amiga. If we could gather some information on this old game, it could prove quite interesting for a future AM story. So the call goes out! Please let us know if you know anything about this.
I can say from personal experience that I've spent many an hour playing Crystal Hammer. One truly remarkable aspect of it is that not only when it was new, but also by today's standards, the gameplay is very smooth, the graphics are good, and the sound effects truly sound like they belong there.
You may be able to find this game online somewhere, or maybe even in your own disk collection if you go back to the earliest years of the Amiga. If you do, another thing to look for is CHEdit (Crystal Hammer Editor) which allows you to edit the boards. I have left my own distinctive touch upon my own Crystal Hammer disk through use of that program.
Finally, I'd tell you about the ending of the game, but unfortunately, I can't. I've never been able to finish the game! The furthest I've gotten is somewhere in the high 20's, so board 30 continues to elude me. If I was terribly curious, though, I could use CHEdit to rig it with no blocks on any board in order to just breeze through. I suppose I'm still just holding out hope to eventually get there, however. I'm beginning to suspect that, if I ever do beat the game, my Amiga will morph into a 68060/AAA machine with 128mb 32-bit 60ns Fast RAM, 8mb Chip RAM, 64-bit SCSI-III interface, Zorro IV bus, and Amiga OS 4.0 right before my eyes. Hey...you never know.
Crystal HammerArkanoids/Breakout-style game
SYSTEM REQUIREMENTSAmiga, AmigaDOS 1.3 or lower, 1 floppy drive, 1 mouse
Sound system, color monitor