Game stats: Crystal Caves HD
Release date: October 15, 2020 (Original release: October 23, 1991)
Developer: Emberheart Games
Publisher: Apogee Software
Official Trailer: Trailer on YouTube
Buy it here: Steam |
More info on original game: page | Wikipedia | Mobygames | Crystal Caves Fan Site

Update: This review has been edited to correct information regarding Apogee Software.

Crystal Caves, originally published by Apogee Software in 1991, was a EGA platforming game that is fondly remembered by many who played it. The game was widely distributed via the "Apogee model", a shareware model where the first game in the series was given away for free, but you needed to register to receive the full series, in this case three games. With delightful EGA sprite graphics, memorable sound effects, and tricky (let's face it, sometimes a bit frustrating) level design, Crystal Caves was a great game for its time. Unfortunately it may have been overshadowed by other games that appeared around the same time, like the first Commander Keen game.

Now, nearly 30 years after its original release on October 23, 1991, Crystal Caves HD has been released. Published by Apogee Software itself and developed by Emberheart Games, Crystal Caves HD is a fantastic remake which retains the gameplay and charm of the original while adding some much appreciated features and quality of life improvements that smooth out a few rough edges of the original.

The story of the game revolves around protagonist's Mylo Steamwitz capitalist dreams to get rich, via various get-rick-quick schemes. However, he needs to finance his business ventures, so he needs to collect as many crystals as possible. Thus, down into the caves he must delve, avoiding any number of obstacles (some of them instant deaths) and collecting every gem on each level before exiting the exit door. Every. Gem. You can't miss one, or you won't be allowed to exit!

The description on the Steam page reads as follows:

Return to the underground classic world of treasures and traps in the HD remake of Crystal Caves! Guide Mylo through puzzles and arcade challenges of your favorite episodes, then explore the whole new Episode loaded with all new puzzles, enemies, challenges, hazards and help Mylo get back home!

New features in the HD version include:

  • All three original episodes plus an all new fourth episode, each containing many levels
  • Upgraded graphics using refined sprites and a larger color palette, but keeping the look and feel of the original
  • Brand new musical soundtrack (the original had no music)
  • Level editor to make your own levels, share them online, and compete in levels created by other players
  • Achievements that you can earn
  • Leaderboard for high scores (with other players around the world as well)
  • Refined controls and gameplay mechanics
  • Difficulty levels
Comparison animation: Original vs HD
Video courtesy

Comparison side-by-side: Original vs HD

Gameplay: The original game was great, but the HD version refines and improves upon it. There are some subtle changes that improve the experience, such as the way that jumping and hitting Mylo's head on something no longer stops his forward momentum. (This is something that Kris Asic mentioned in his video about Crystal Caves pre-HD version as something he hoped would be fixed, and it was!) Essentially, if you remember the original game fondly, you will likely love the HD remake. All of the original levels are there, plus a new fourth episode, which seems even tougher than the originals. Speaking of the difficulty, some people won't like hearing this, but I've been playing Crystal Caves HD on "easy" mode, and so I appreciate the new easy and hard difficulty options. (Hey, I have MUCH less free time now that I did when I was a teenager, and frankly now I play games to relax not for a challenge!)

Graphics & music: In addition to the new graphics (which are mostly 1:1 redrawings/recolorings of the originals) there is also new music. The original game had new music, so having some tunes in the background is a nice feature. The music sounds 8-bit while the game itself looks 16-bit (to use console gaming terms) so maybe my brain is experiencing a bit of cognitive dissonance to play a game that "looks SNES" but "sounds NES" and so for me, the music doesn't exactly fit the gameplay. Just to be clear, there's nothing wrong with the music. It's well done, it's just not my personal preference for this game.

Level editor: The level editor will definitely be a hit with many fans, and although I haven't created any of my own yet, there are plenty available to download online. Playing and sharing is easy to do from within the program itself. The editor provides all the tools necessary to craft your own levels just like those included in the game.

VERDICT: Overall it's great fun and recommended for fans of retrogaming, whether you experienced the game back in the 90's or not. It's currently available from both Steam and so you can grab it wherever you prefer to buy your games. Let's hope we see some more modern remakes of classic games!

$ Buy on Steam   $ Buy on


Bonus tip for reading this far: There's a fantastic old fan site for the original game that includes maps of the levels (for the first three episodes) plus tons more info, check it out here: The Perilous Crystal Caves Website.

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