• Graphics
  • Playability
  • Lastability
FormatBBC Micro
DeveloperStephen Smith
PublisherRetro Software
Price£2.50 (cassette)
£3.50 (disk)

Main review

David Bowie asked if there was life on Mars and, despite various attempts to survey the planet including Beagle 2 and the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter failing to find anything of note, the answer is apparently a resounding yes – so NASA, the ESA, SETI and a few other agencies with acronyms and government funding have got quite a bit of explaining to do! These Martians, who are endowed with large eyes and a slightly goofy grin, have large heads that look as though they’ve been in a serious accident involving a falling piano which evolved atop a worryingly scrawny body with equally spindly limbs, presumably due to the lower gravity of Mars.

The protagonist of The Krystal Connection knows all about Martians; not only is he one of them, he’s also the bravest warrior they have on hand so, when the energy-producing piece of bling that drives the entire planet’s life support system is pilfered by those good for nothing humans and taken back to their planet Mud or whatever it’s called, he’s the one bundled into a spaceship to fetch it back before everybody dies.

For reasons that’ll probably only be understood by people who write storylines for video games, rather than being sensible and placing the precious Power Krystal in an impregnable underground vault surrounded by an army of well-equipped and heavily armed minions, the humans have instead chosen to stash it somewhere amongst the fossils and relics dotted around an archaeological dig – the idea that other worlds might have their own equivalent of Indiana Jones or Lara Croft having totally failed to cross their minds. So, along with recovering the stolen Krystal, there’s lots of cool human stuff just lying about the place for a brave Martian to gather which is necessary to complete each area.


The dig site isn’t harmless however, since lethal security robots patrol the walkways to protect the artefacts from light-fingered passers by. Our Martian hero does have the option of temporarily immobilising one of these guardians by placing what appears to be a mechanical trap on the ground which springs up to form a cage when triggered by a passing automaton – the bars can’t hold for long, but it’s enough time to safely sneak around an otherwise hazardous drone in order to grab a few goodies. Thankfully the drones are also on the dense side, simply heading towards the Martian’s position if he’s in their direct line of sight to the point where they’ll regularly find themselves standing and staring soullessly at him from the far side of a chasm.

The Krystal Connection was originally developed during the 1980’s by programmer Steven Smith but, despite contracts being exchanged with Melbourne House, it remained unpublished – this release is based on the most complete version of the code after a few issues with the BBC Master hardware were patched and a level password system bolted into place. Whilst the colours chosen for some of the twelve screens are slightly overpowering and the difficulty hiccups somewhat in a few places, the puzzles in The Krystal Connection are well thought out and it’s an interesting combination of puzzle and platform action.