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Video Game / Crystal Caves

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One day, I'll be rich enough to afford the cure for my decolorizing skin condition!
A 1991 side-scrolling Platform Game (or rather, a series thereof) by Apogee Software (now 3D Realms), Crystal Caves features the unlucky space trader Mylo Steamwitz as he searches mines of the Altairian system for crystals so that he can invest into several get-rich-quick schemes. On his way, of course, he runs into countless monsters, hazards, locked doors, power-ups and other standard platforming fare. The goal on each level is to collect all the crystals and get to the exit.

The game was actually released as three separate episodes, each one featuring new levels and some minor changes in graphics. The first one was made available for free as a teaser, while the next two were available for purchase. The game is still sold on the 3D Realms website. It uses the same engine as Secret Agent.

In September 2020, Apogee announced Crystal Caves HD, a full remake of the original game with updated graphics, a level editor, a brand new fourth episode, and various other new features and bug fixes, for Steam and

Not to be confused with Crystal Castles.

This game provides examples of:

  • The Alleged Car: Mylo's spaceship, "Millenium Kiwi", has a faulty steering system. The intro to every episode except the last has Mylo comically trying, and failing, to fly it in a straight line.
  • Alliterative Title: Crystal Caves.
  • Artistic License – Physics:
    • Some levels have "low gravity". This does not mean that you fall more slowly or that you can jump higher. Instead, shooting your pistol causes you to recoil backwards. When standing on the ground, the difference between normal and low gravity could be explained by noting that the amount of friction is proportional to your weight. However, the same difference occurs in midair.
    • Some levels have inverse gravity, which means you fall up. Others have a timed pickup that reverse gravity temporarily.
  • Attackable Pickup: Some of the levels have five eggs scattered throughout. Shooting an egg instead of picking it up turns it into a letter. If all five letters are collected, the player receives a large score bonus. (The uncracked eggs are worth 1000 points each, while the individual letters are just 100 points each without the bonus for all five.)
  • BFG: Your pistol fires rockets.
  • Blackout Basement: Several levels in the series are like this, though they tend to come with a light-switch somewhere. One of them has inverted gravity to confuse you even more. In Crystal Caves HD, you can get an achievement by completing a dark level without turning on the light.
  • Collision Damage: All the enemies, as usual in platformers, harm you by touch. Two enemies (a pink snake and a green... hopping cactus thing) leave behind corpses that harm you on touch.
  • Drugs Are Bad: The shareware episode has a sign reading "Winners Don't Do Drugs" on the overworld map.
  • Earth-Shattering Kaboom: In the intro to episode 3, Mylo, tired of colliding with a (very much Earth-like) planet on his way to the Altairian mines, blows it up into two pieces. Let's hope nobody actually lived on that planet...
  • Explosive Decompression: There is one air generator on each level; if you shoot it, the vacuum rushes in and Mylo inflates like a balloon before exploding.
    You hit an air generator! The vacuum rushes in.
  • Forced Tutorial: Explanatory text boxes appear every time you come upon something new (a lever, a switch, a powerup). In the original DOS release, this happens even if you've just restored an old game!
  • Get-Rich-Quick Scheme: Mylo's motivation throughout the DOS release. He's apparently famous enough for falling for these that this has earned him an entry in the Galactic Encyclopedia, according to the Story screen.
  • Global Currency Exception: Or galactic currency, as the case may be. In the HD remake's 4th episode, when Mylo is stranded in the Delta Quadrant, he finds that the money from his final business venture is no good there. To buy passage home, he needs to root around in an abandoned mining colony for more crystals.
  • Go for the Eye: One of the recurring enemies is a monster with two huge eyes sticking out of both sides of his body. You have to shoot each of its eyes twice (when they're open), then its body three times to defeat it.
  • Graphics-Induced Super-Deformed: On his in-game sprite, Mylo Steamwitz's head is about half of his body, and his arms apparently reach all the way to the ground.
  • Gravity Screw: Some levels have "low gravity" (which actually just makes you slide backwards whenever you shoot), a couple have reversed gravity, and some levels include a timed pickup for temporary reversed gravity. The God Mode cheat code also allows you to reverse gravity whenever you want.
  • Guerrilla Boulders: Some levels have the sign "Falling Rocks"—while you're there, rocks will keep falling down the screen at random locations, hurting you if you get hit. They stop falling once you are near the top of the level.
  • Healthy Green, Harmful Red: Inverted in the first episode: red mushrooms make you stronger, green mushrooms kill you instantly.
  • Hearts Are Health: Your Life Meter is made out of three hearts.
  • Hub Level: All the levels are entered from a large hub level set in the mines. This level contains no hazards, but often requires Mylo to execute skillful jumps and patiently ride elevators to access most of the level entrance doors.
  • Inexplicable Treasure Chests: Brown treasure chests are scattered around in many levels, and can be opened for bonus score if you find a gold key. They are sometimes tucked away in dangerous places.
  • Invincibility Power-Up: The stop sign powerup freezes all enemies in place and makes you immune to all damage. The red mushroom powerup goes one step further, not only making you impervious to damage, but allowing you to destroy all enemies by touch.
  • Invisible Block: Some levels have invisible blocks, gray and overgrown with grass. They appear when you bump them from below, otherwise they don't physically exist.
  • Jump Physics: You always jump a fixed distance, and can steer freely in mid-air, allowing you to do things such as e.g. jumping out of a niche in the wall and flying up into a similar niche directly above.
  • Level Goal: The level goal is represented by large mechanical doors. They can only be entered once you've collected all the crystals.
  • Locked Door: Some levels feature color-coded locked doors which must be opened with levers.
  • Mercy Invincibility: Getting hurt causes Mylo to flash white for a brief instant, during which time he is immune to further damage.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: In Episode Three, Mylo gets the bright idea to make a business deal with a "Mr. Rip Eweoff". It's hardly a surprise when, in the ending, it turns out to be the mother of all bum deals.
  • No-Damage Run: You get a reward of 50,000 bonus points if you finish a level with all your health points intact.
  • Poison Mushroom: The green mushroom kills you instantly when you touch it, with a message about how Mylo has died from eating it.
  • Punny Name: Part of Mylo Steamwitz's name sounds a bit like "lost him wits".
  • Segmented Serpent: One of the enemies is a green creature with an apple-like head and three tail segments trailing behind it. To kill it, you need to shoot it from the front four times, destroying all of its tail segments and finally its head.
  • Shareware: As with many other DOS games of the time, the first episode is free as a teaser.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The first episode, "Troubles with Twibbles", is a homage to the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "The Trouble with Tribbles"—the "Twibble" critters being pretty much identical to the Tribbles from that episode.
    • Mylo's ship, "Millenium Kiwi", is named after the Millenium Falcon, Han Solo's ship from Star Wars.
    • Several levels have signs which read "Kilroy was here."
    • Some levels have falling crates with the text "ACME" on them. This refers to Acme Corporation (and especially their anvils) in Looney Tunes.
    • The sign with the text "Winners don't use drugs." is a reference to a slogan which appears in some arcade games in the U.S.
    • One level in Episode I has green mounds that look suspiciously like the green mounds from Super Mario Bros. 2, and a pipe at the top of the level, complete with a mushroom on it, that resembles the classic warp pipes from Super Mario Bros.
  • Spelling Bonus: Breaking five eggs will reveal, in order, the letters B, O, N, U, S. Collecting all five letters (in any order) results in a large score bonus.
  • Stalactite Spite: Some of the stalactites fall with a loud sound effect as you pass underneath. Others don't, and you can't tell the difference in advance.
  • Traveling-Pipe Bulge: One of the hazards in this game is a pipe that periodically lets out a drop of dangerous-looking liquid. This pipe has a bulge in it as part of its animation when it's about to let out a drop.
  • Treasure Is Bigger in Fiction: The way the crystal pickups are drawn, they appear to be the size of Mylo.
  • Underground Level: All of the levels are set underground, although some levels somehow contain windows to the outside.
  • Unintentionally Unwinnable: In the third episode, one of the levels in the Hub Level is located in an area that you can't jump out of. If you drop down into the area before completing all the other levels, you're stuck. Thankfully, it is possible to leave via cheat codes. The HD remake fixes this by adding a platform.
  • Unwinnable by Design: Some levels require pre-planning or trial and error to get through without getting stuck. This especially applies to levels with the gravity reversing, invincibility, or gun upgrade powerups, all of which last for a limited duration. Thankfully, you can retry any number of times.
  • What Did You Expect When You Named It ____?: Mylo's spaceship is named the "Millenium Kiwi" and, much like the kiwi bird, can barely be said to fly at all.