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Video Game / The Crystal Key

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The Crystal Key is a first-person Adventure Game, developed by Earthlight and published by DreamCatcher Interactive in 2000. A loose sequel, The Crystal Key 2, was released 4 years later by The Adventure Company.

The storyline is set in the future, where a warning from the Arkonian race unintentionally reaches your world. They state that they are on the run from the Evil Overlord, Ozgar, leader of the Balial, having only temporarily defeated him in battle. Two days after the signal's appearance, Ozgar has located your planet and begun wreaking havoc upon it using powerful gravity-altering satellites, prompting your people to send you off in an experimental hypership to locate the source of the Arkonian signal. The player begins the game having crash-landed on an unknown planet and must explore the world, find a crystal key and portal which would help the player defeat Ozgar and bring peace to the galaxy.

The sequel puts you in the shoes of the protagonist's son, Call Lifeson, who, after the events of the first game, lives in peace with his family on their home planet Evany for some time. However, at some point, one by one, the people of Evany start acting strange. They suddenly stop doing their normal tasks, stare at nothing, and sometimes even work like automatons, extracting the planet's resources and loading them into offworld freighters. The Lifesons were spared this fate, until one day, when Call's parents vanished. On that day, an Arkonian portable portal appears along with its user, Athera, who asks Call to come with her. But two Balial soldiers capture her and vanish through another portal, with only her tablet and the Key left behind.

Both games contain examples of:

  • Aliens Speaking English: Played straight with pretty much every character you meet, though there is writing in certain locations that is clearly not our own language, aside from having a base-10 number system. Subverted at one point in the first game, though, when you can get a CD that can translate Ozgar's language.
  • Apocalyptic Log: The holographic journals in the first game, and Athera's tablet in the second.
  • Dilating Door:
    • In the first game, some of the doors in Ozgar's ship and its shuttles open this way, made of curved spikes that rotate outward when opening.
    • Shown as a clue in the Balaial prison in the second game. Getting the healing water to Evany requires opening a huge iris door over the portal.
  • Featureless Protagonist:
    • Played straight in the first game - to the point that the only noise your character makes, in one of the bad endings, sounds far from human.
    • Averted in the second game, as Call is seen in 3rd person in a few cutscenes, and has actual dialogue.
  • Human Aliens: The Arkonians and people of Evany play this straight.
  • The Call Knows Where You Live: In the first game, the Arkonian distress signal arrives just days before Ozgar attacks your planet; in the second, the Balial find and kidnap Athera on Evany just after she meets you.
  • The Guards Must Be Crazy: In the first game, the guard who threw you into the prison cell on Ozgar's ship apparently didn't stick around to notice you escaping. In the second, Call always seems to avoid being seen by any of the security guards in the Balial prison world, including one scene where a guard briefly opens Athera's cell and never notices Call's presence.

The Crystal Key contains examples of:

  • Abandon Ship: Played word-for-word by one of Ozgar's ships having crash-landed on the forest colony, shown in his species' language on a display inside. Later, at the end of the game, you have to type this same phrase into his mothership's systems, to sound the alarms and force him out of his room.
  • Abandoned Laboratory: There's one on the desert world, having long since been ransacked and fired upon by Ozgar's troops.
  • Alternate Number System: Subverted. At one point you have to decipher alien numerals, but they're in a base-10 system like ours. This system seems to be shared both with the Arkonians and Balial.
  • A Winner Is You: While the bad endings are fully animated cutscenes, winning the game just results in a single image congratulating your efforts.
  • Bag of Holding: Your inventory is an astronaut backpack that tips open to show its contents.
  • Beautiful Void: The Colony planets you explore in-game are ripe in detail and places to explore, but not a single being is in sight. The only area that averts this is Ozgar's mothership, where he and his guards are still running around. Justified since these planets were all evacuated by the Arkonians prior to the events of the game.
  • Beeping Computer: The ambience of your ship at the beginning of the game.
  • Big Electric Switch: You have to pull three of these at once to restart an Arkonian power station.
  • Cardboard Prison: The prison cell on Ozgar's ship happens to have a maintenance panel inside the cell, allowing you to override the lock from within if you brought the right gadget.
  • Colonel Badass: Not explained in this game, but the sequel pegs you as "Colonel Lifeson". The fact that you single-handedly destroy Ozgar at the end of the game makes this trope stand.
  • Cool Car: A 6-wheel heavy duty vehicle that can cross the desert at insanely high speeds.
  • Cool Gate: Taking a page from Stargate, these simple arches, when activated by the key, provide direct transport between the Arkonian colony planets. They recently perfected the ability to design portable portals as well, from small remote-controlled ones you can carry around - and which go with you when used, to huge rods mounted on spaceships, which they used to temporarily deter Ozgar.
  • Cool Key: The translucent blue Crystal Key. It's used to interface with portal devices made by the Arkonians, and each plane added to it, which you'll eventually collect, contains coordinates for one of the various colony worlds. Including their sun.
  • Creation Sequence: One segment in the desert world involves placing a rock into a machine that results in a loud, dramatic manufacturing sequence... only to end with the production of a single golden coin.
  • Dismantled MacGuffin: The Arkonians removed most of the pieces of the key and scattered them amid the different colony worlds, so as to hide it from Ozgar.
  • Enter Solution Here: A particularly evil example stands out in this game. You begin looking at the control panel of your spaceship, with the coordinates of your current location displayed on it. About halfway through, you need to hijack an alien ship, and you're expected to enter in the same coordinates and land next to your original ship. If you didn't already write the coordinates down, you'd better save and restart the game.
    • The same example is repeated when you have to use your portable portal to return to Ozgar's ship at the end of the game. Its coordinates were shown on the alien ship's nav panel, next to where your starting coordinates were to be entered.
  • Evil Overlord / Galactic Conqueror: Ozgar fits this to a T.
  • Faster-Than-Light Travel: You use your world's first faster-than-light spacecraft to reach the Arkonian signal's point of origin, and Ozgar's people have already developed FTL drives for their ships.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: It's not all that visible in the few seconds you're able to see it, but Word of God claims that Ozgar stole a certain famous painting and keeps it in his living quarters.
  • Glass-Shattering Sound: Used in a puzzle where you have to use a high-pitched sound emitted by a dead radio station to shatter the glass holding the final piece of the Key.
  • Green Hill Zone: The planet where you crash-landed at the start of the game.
  • Guide Dang It!: Getting into a building on Suralon requires a screwdriver, which is found on the shuttle that brought you there. Missing it results in a lot of backtracking, as the shuttle autopilots itself back to where it started when you get off it.
  • Holographic Disguise: One puzzle involves throwing rocks into a group of puddles and, seeing which one doesn't make a splash, then shorting out a projected hologram covering up a secret underground lab. Later, when you come back with a screwdriver, you can also take the projector with you.
  • Hologram: Used as journals by the Arkonians.
  • Hurl It into the Sun: In a roundabout way. The way to defeat Ozgar is to program your portable portal to link to the colony system's sun, then using a holographic projector and setting off the ship's alarms to trick Ozgar into going there, thus burning him alive.
  • Invisible Writing: Laying a scroll out in sunlight coming through a window reveals a hidden part of the gatehouse's floor plan, and a set of alien symbols required to access it.
  • The Lost Woods: One of the colonies contains an enormous, dark forest terrain, complete with Noisy Nature, and only a pair of crashed spaceships to provide variety.
  • Mothership: Ozgar resides on one, which stays in orbit around your world during the game.
  • Mundane Utility: The only reason the Arkonians ever made a piece of the Key that links to their sun is, according to a facility on Suralon, for the purposes of incinerating the trash they collected from the colonies.
  • Multiple Endings: Screw up the trap against Ozgar, and he'll send his minions out to shoot you dead. You can also get a game over from forgetting to bring a crucial item aboard the ship, or stand in Ozgar's path as he's coming down the hall.
  • No Name Given: None of the Arkonian colonies have official names, leaving fans to make up their own in walkthroughs. Same case for the people in the holographic diaries, some of which are only named in the manual.
  • Non-Standard Game Over: If you enter the Abandon Ship code before setting up the trap, a guard shoots you immediately, without provocation from Ozgar.
  • Permanently Missable Content: Averted for the most part, but forgetting to grab a multitool before being taken aboard Ozgar's mothership results in a game over, since you need it to escape your prison cell.
  • Press X to Die: If you select the sun using the Key and go there.
  • Psychic Powers: Ozgar can kill people with his mind, and summon his guards by thought. The former is demonstrated on one of his guards through a window into the bridge, and both can be enforced on you in some of the bad endings.
  • Shout-Out: The game is heavily inspired by Star Wars, with clear examples ranging from Ozgar's Death Star-inspired mothership, to an Arkonian submarine that looks strikingly like the Slave I.
  • Shiny-Looking Spaceships: A crashed Arkonian ship on one of the colonies looks like this, with bright colors and curved surfaces all over, contrasting with your ship and the blocky, industrial design of Ozgar's crafts.
  • Single-Biome Planet: Implied, as none of the colony planets seem to have continents or oceans.
  • Suddenly Voiced: In some of the bad endings, you can hear Ozgar summon his guards by telepathically saying, "Guards... there is an intruder." This is the only time he ever speaks in the entire game.
  • Sunken City: Played almost completely straight when Ozgar used his gravity-amplifying satellites to do this to the Arkonian capital city of Suralon. The exception is that a portion of it still protrudes from the water, enough for a shuttle to land on.
  • Super Wheelchair: Ozgar's hovering wheelchair.
  • Warp Whistle: Once you get the portable portal, you can use it from your inventory to visit any of the planets at will. And Ozgar's ship, if you remembered the coordinates.

The Crystal Key 2 contains examples of:

  • Aborted Arc: Shortly after bringing you to Meribah, Naoo is prevented from leaving due to his ship not being up to safety codes. He bribes the port authority to overlook it later, but then someone steals his side thrusters. Despite that a place to get vehicle parts exists, this side plot is never addressed again.
  • Adventure Archaeologist: Naoo, professor of Archaeology and History. Being the first character you meet, he gratefully brings you to the main setting of the game in his shuttle.
  • Artifact Title: While the Key does exist and a fair chunk of the backstory does carry over from the first game, the only time it's ever used is during the prologue on Evany. Once you step through the portal to Meribah, you basically enter a whole other type of game entirely.
  • Auto-Doc: The Medbot in the Meribah spaceport, although it's busted. When an injured person needs it, all you can do is bring an item it's holding to the victim.
  • Backtracking: This game is steeped in it, especially in the Nehli tree zone, since your jetpack is limited to fixed areas throughout the game.
  • Continuity Nod: In one entry of her journal, Athera found your father's crashed ship and traced it back to Evany. Another mentions a trip she took to Suralon; apparently it's still sunken, and now also home to dozens of sea birds.
  • Cool Boat: A fish-shaped submarine that serves as your transport to and from the Merari palace.
  • Damsel in Distress: One set piece of the game involves rescuing Athera from the Balial prison, and she's scared out of her mind because she fears she may be next in line to get exposed to the hypnotic trance. When you come back to rescue her after managing to knock out a guard, her fears were proved true, but the Merari had a way to revive her.
  • Desert Punk: Half of Meribah is like this, ranging from a Tattooine-like Marketplace to a large clay house with a secret tap to Merik's miracle fountain. Bonus points that some people say it's mid-summer in-game.
  • Disconnected Side Area:
    • The Causeway near the spaceport. Despite being accessible from the beginning, the only way to reach the top of it involves creating a bioportal near the end of the game.
    • The cave containing Merik's fountain. The player can glimpse it through a window beneath the desert house, but the actual way in isn't shown until the Merari Palace.
  • Find the Cure!: To the strange sickness that infected several Arkonian colonists and your people. The fact that your family was not infected is what drew Athera to you at the beginning of the game.
  • Fish People: The Merari, amphibious beings who reside in an undersea palace. They eventually helped in the creation of Meribah and supported its people in a war against the Balial. Because of this legend, they are your lead to saving Evany, as well.
  • Good Fortune from God: Merik the Warrior was given the power to create a special fountain that gives life. Later, the Ruler of the Far Realm also bestows a gift upon you, which lets you truly see the cause behind the Belial trance.
  • Healing Spring: Used as a plot point. First demonstrated at the desert house to revive the plants in its garden, then revealed later on that it can reverse the hypnotic trance that Evany's people are stuck in. Dr. Jakar tried to find a scientific reason for how it worked, but came up empty in the end.
  • Island Base: Dr. Jakar's private island, as a non-evil variant. Has a complicated security system just to reach the front door, and the house's interior has a Frank Lloyd Wright-style to it.
  • Jerkass: Roy is none too happy having crashed his ship, and takes out his anger on you when you first meet him. However, he does warm up to you over time as you help him out.
  • Jet Pack: Call can get one for free from a space supply shop in exchange for helping a wounded man. It becomes your main mode of transportation for the rest of the game.
  • Meaningful Name: The Balial, Ozgar's race, sounds like the word "Belial", related to Satan. Very fitting for a world-conquering empire.
  • Mind Rape: Athera reveals how the mysterious Balial trance works: The Balial troops strap unsuspecting victims into a chair, then unleash an invisible beetle that "captures [their] soul" and leaves them as an Empty Shell. Your gift from the Ruler of the Far Realm allows you to see these beetles and the string-like nodes used to capture them for this process.
  • Mushroom House: The Nehli people of Meribah live build their houses from enormous mushrooms that grow on the branches of enormous Monolith Trees.
  • Organic Technology: Some of Meribah's machines seem to exhibit this trope, but the most prominent is the Bio-portal, utilizing bacteria to create distant portals in midair when given proper coordinates.
  • No Time to Explain: Athera says this word for word in the introduction before she quickly gets kidnapped.
  • Psycho Electric Eel: The Tarru Eel, which is also territorial to the point that it attacks another of its kind to protect its territory. Call has to trick one into attacking a reflection of itself so he can recharge a submarine with its electricity.
  • Red Sky, Take Warning: The prologue on Evany shows the place during a hellish-looking sunset, complete with dark clouds. It gets cleared up at the end of the game.
  • Retcon: The first game was set up to imply that Colonel Lifeson came from Earth. The second game explains that it was actually the planet Evany.
  • Songs in the Key of Lock: There's a 4-note tune you have to play on a flute to call down the lift that takes you up into the Nehli trees. And because your jetpack can't launch from anywhere but the bottom of the tree, you have to do this every time you come here.
  • Sugar Bowl: Everyone on Meribah is willing to let you "borrow" things or provide information to you at any time.
  • The Maker: The Ruler of the Far Realm, often discussed in dialogue from several characters. Call finally witnesses this being when he drinks from the special fountain.
  • Travel Montage: Whenever you use the jetpack or boat, a transition plays in an Indy-style sequence of traveling across the country, along with a shot of your destination fading into view as you get there.
  • Tree Top Town: The Monolith Trees, home to the Nehli, take this up to eleven, with the factor that they tower so high that the mushrooms that grow on their branches are big enough to live in, and there are giant, squirrel-like creatures called Yamax that people can ride between the trees. Legends say that Merik's fountain was the cause of this.