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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:

  • Alliterative Title
  • 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.)
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  • 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.
  • Collision Damage: All the enemies, as usual in platformers. Two enemies 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.
  • Explosive Decompression: There is one air generator on each level; if you shoot it, the vacuum rushes in and Mylo immediately explodes.
  • Floating Platforms: Which can be switched on and off.
  • Forced Tutorial: The text boxes which appear every time you come upon something new (a lever, a switch, a powerup). Even if you've just restored an old game!
  • Get-Rich-Quick Scheme: Mylo's motivation in all three games. He's apparently famous enough for falling for these that this earned him an entry in the Galactic Encyclopedia.
  • 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, 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.
  • Hearts Are Health: Your Life Meter is made out of these.
  • Inexplicable Treasure Chests: Scattered around, can be opened for score if you find a key.
  • Invincibility Power-Up: The very rare red mushroom.
  • Invisible Block: As usual, they show up when you bump them from below.
  • Jump Physics: You always jump a fixed distance, and can steer freely in mid-air.
  • Level Goal: Represented by rather complex-looking, big mechanical doors.
  • Locked Door: Each level has one which is unlocked by collecting all the crystals in said level. Some levels have additional locked doors which must be opened with keys before the final door can be unlocked.
  • No-Damage Run: You get a reward after finishing a level if you pull it off.
  • Poison Mushroom: The green mushroom kills you instantly when you touch it.
  • Segmented Serpent: A green snake-like enemy.
  • Shareware: As with many other DOS games of the time, the first episode is free as a teaser.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Some levels have falling crates with the text "ACME" on them. This refers to Acme Corporation (and especially their anvils) in Looney Tunes.
    • One level has a sign which reads "Kilroy was here."
    • 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, resembles the classic warp pipes from Super Mario Bros.
    • The subtitle for Episode I, "Troubles with Twibbles", is a reference to the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "The Trouble with Tribbles".
  • Side View
  • Spelling Bonus: The letters in the eggs (see Attackable Pickup above).
  • Stalactite Spite: Some of the stalactites fall with a loud sound effect as you pass underneath.
  • 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 crystals are the size of Mylo. How can he carry tens of them is anyone's guess.
  • Underground Level: All of them!
  • 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.