Tuesday, February 07, 2012

not the Caves, the Crypts

Crypts of Chaos was a D&D dungeon crawl that works on the Atari 2600.  You played a pixel (roughly half the size of the square you played in Adventure) that wandered around a maze ganking monsters and swiping their treasure. 

Like Jamie Mal, I felt that it wasn't very good, but it was D&D-like and playable on an Atari.  That was enough to get me onboard when I was a kid.  The ability to choose between your sword (unlimited charges, short range), wand (limited charges, long range) and magic ring (totally kickass, very limited uses) plus the array of monsters that shalumped down the screen at you made for fun times.  I particularly liked the skull guy pictured above and the one-eyed blob.  Each monster had its own sound effect and the blob's theme really communicated its alien intelligence, cool and unsympathetic.

But what I really wanted to talk about today was the cartridge/box art.  Scroll back up and check it out for a bit if you can't see it right now.  Click for the bigger version if you'd like.  Here are a few observations:
  • The sorceress is clearly meant to evoke Princess Leia from the opening scenes of Star Wars.  In the memories of my youth D&D and a galaxy far, far away are inextricably intertwined, so you know I gotta aprove of this.
  • Note that the ring on her finger is highlighted.  Given the importance of the magic ring in the game, this is one of those rare examples of the artist actually understanding and presenting the game rather than just knocking out a generic fantasy scene and calling it a day.
  • You'd think with Princess Leia right there in the scene that the dude behind her would be a Luke Skywalker stand-in.  Wrong!  He's actually Prince Erik Greystone, the dashing hero played by Jeff Conaway in the D&D-inspired TV series Wizards and Warriors
    Ran just one season.  Featured Julia Duffy
    as yet another princess named Ariel.
    Seriously, it's this dude.  The hair, the white clothes with gold armor, even the friggin' boots are the same.
  • Note how the princess is carrying a torch and so is the wizard coming up on the party in the distance behind them.  I'm getting better at insisting that the PCs are well-lit (heh) but I often forget to return the favor when it comes to NPCs lurking about the dungeon.
  • Dig the skull/bat detailing on that column and the lovely vaulted ceilings.  There's always room for more architectural features in a dungeon crawl.
  • Also extremely cool: the windows in the dungeon wall just above and below the extended right arm of the sorceress.  They look fairly small.  Dungeons should have more places you can see but can't quite reach (barring gaseous form, diminution, sending the halfling by himself, etc).  It drives players nuts.


  1. "(roughly half the size of the square you played in Adventure)"

    So you played a halfling in this game?

  2. I see the The Law of 2600 holding true: The awesome of the game cover art is inversely proportional to the awesome of the on-screen experience.

  3. Anonymous5:39 PM

    They ever release Wizards and Warriors?

  4. Isn't there a rule about dungeon dwellers have succumbed to the powers of chaos and evil not needing light to navigate the dungeon? I have a dull itching in the back of my brain reminding me of this silly rule from an aborted attempt at returning to the redbox for a game.

  5. OD&D grants infravision to all dungeon inhabitants. I was think more along the lines of NPC parties also looting the dungeon.

  6. Anonymous8:17 PM

    Is the princess lifting a torch, or is that the wand to go with the ring in her other hand and the prince's sword?

  7. I immediately got that Princess Leia vibe as soon as I saw the picture on the box. All that was needed was R2D2 in front of her as she's loading the Death Star plans.

  8. Wizards and Warriors was great. I remember reading an article in TV Guide around the time it was on the air in which the show's creator mentioned its inspiration (D&D). If only it had lasted a few more more seasons. (If only they would release its one season...)

  9. Actually, my interpretation was that the princess is holding a magic wand -- so that the three things highlighted in the foreground are sword, wand, and ring. (Never had the game, just going off your image.)