Black Crypt is an Amiga exclusive game, made by the same wizards of Raven Software from Wisconsin who later bestowed upon the lands Heretic and Hexen via id Software. Black Crypt was their first game and it is a deeply polished and insanely complicated puzzle. The game is one of few that uses extra half-brite mode, which doubles the amount of on-screen colors and at times looks simply gorgeous.
Like most dungeon crawlers of the era, including the genre-defining Dungeon Master and the Eye of the Beholder series, Black Crypt is a Dungeons and Dragons inspired fantasy world that inflicts glorious misery to all those that try to play it.
The basic idea is thus: present a system where a small band of characters is thrust into an improbable multi-layered maze to defeat some sort of unspeakably evil lord. That lord will have created this Dante’s circle of hell precisely for you to try and beat. Frankly, most won’t make it very far. In some ways it’s almost a weird form of sadism on the developer’s part.
Imagine the following, as it is pretty typical of most levels:
You enter a vast system of identical looking rock hallways. In each catacomb there will be tiny little switches on some bricks that may open or move walls elsewhere. Sometimes they may even teleport you to entirely new locations. Sometimes they might need to be flipped in a very specific order with other switches found nearby (with no rhyme or reason to the number required). In some regards what’s called a “puzzle” harkens to the text adventure games of the early 80s that would require gamers to try using objects in completely improbable usage combinations.
All the while being attacked by various powerful magical beasts.
The further you go, there is also a delicate balancing act of inventory management. And, seemingly unique to Black Crypt and Dungeon Master, a somewhat annoying need to find food and water (half-way through the game this game mechanic is negated by a Sustenance spell, but it sucks to worry about getting a drink of water while you’re wandering around trying to solve a painful puzzle).
When I first tried Black Crypt a year ago, I failed miserably. I didn’t have the time nor the mental constitution to devote what this game requires - complete and utter devotion.
The game requires LOTS of saving around every corner and luckily comes with five save slots.
The manual is worth a close read, and the 2nd half of the book has detailed maps of every level. I absolutely used them, and nearly made my manual a ragged piece of thin paper by the time I was done. I can’t imagine playing this game without using them. It’s simply too intentionally cruel. Even with the manual I had to step away from this game on a few occasions and simply take a break. I’m pretty sure I gained a healthy dose of new white hairs before all was said and done.
But don’t get me wrong. The game is fantastic and a crown jewel in Amiga gaming. You just have to know what you’re getting into before you decide to take the plunge.
The game didn’t innovate that much or add tons to the genre, but everything it does do it does extremely well. It is quite possible that it may be the first dungeon crawler to introduce an underwater level, however. (And the water effect is very cool.)
In most cases, when you kill monsters they do not re-spawn. If you clear a level it is pretty much monster-free, which is nice since you're spending most of your time trying to unlock the secrets of the dungeon. To that end, the dungeon itself is it most difficult and terrifying "monster" in the game. It's absolutely insidious and merciless - quite possibly the most difficult of any dungeon crawler of the era.
If you do beat the game it has an ending sequence which is almost a beautiful photo slideshow of all of the foes you bested along the way. It is quite pleasing to watch and has some very groovy music you only get to hear if you make it that far as part of the reward.
Odd and Ends, and some mild ‘spoilers’:
Before even starting, go to the game’s options screen and modify your keyboard keys for movement. I decided to use my number keypad. You can make yours behave however you wish. I did mine like this:
8: step forward
5: step backward
6: strafe right
4: strafe left
9: turn right
7: turn left
I’m right-handed and this allowed me to use my left hand for movement and my right hand to point and click on the user interface, which does take a bit of getting used to - particularly how to cycle through and use your cleric, mage and druid character’s spells.
When you have items equipped in your character’s right hand, this is their main weapon (fighters can sometimes use two weapons simultaneously if a weapon doesn’t require 2 hands). Some magical weapons can cast spells if you right-click on your character while the item is being held in their right hand. In some rare cases this feature is key to solving a level (I’m looking at you, Medusa).
When you start the game you have four characters and their classes are predetermined. You get to decide how to distribute their stats, however.
I recommend the following:
20 STR for ALL characters (helps to carry items)
20 CON for all if possible
20 WIS for Cleric
20 INT for MU
20 WIS for DRUID
To defeat the 2-headed ogre on Level 2 you need to find the Ogreblade. You have to run past the ogre and find a switch on a wall (to the right) which will teleport you to a different part of the level. After scouring it completely you should uncover the magical sword. Once you get to the ogre, strafe left, turn to face him and attack. Immediately strafe left again, turn, and attack. After about 10 times you’ll defeat him. He will change his rotational direction at least once. Then you’ll strafe right, turn and attack, and so on. It can be absolutely nerve-wracking - and thrilling! - when you finally defeat him.
Don’t get too cocky, though. There are 28 levels (some small, some incredibly huge). The dungeon itself is far far worse than any of the bosses or monsters you’ll ultimately have to beat, with the possible exception being the ‘medusa’ which is a giant flying skull that has snakes shoot out of its head.
I never once used a bow and arrow with any of my characters. It makes the most sense to equip them with your back row (the mage and druid). But I never needed them. The same holds true for throwing daggers as well.
If you ever find a potion of invincibility - don’t use it! Save it for the final battle with Esteroth Paingiver if you make it that far. It makes the final boss battle stress-free and easy, assuming you’ve put the four artifacts in the hands of your four characters at the end.
This game was played on an Amiga 2000 running 1.3. It was played off the hard drive via the game's hard drive installation option via original disks. The Amiga 2000 is running at 40Mhz and has 16MB RAM + 2MB Chip, however Black Crypt only requires 1MB fast RAM to play. It could be played off four disks, but hard drive play is recommended. There is no copy protection. Please find the ADF downloads elsewhere on this page if you want to give Black Crypt a shot.
If you look closely at the golden bracelets on the legs of the Ram Lord on the box cover, you'll see the very early Electronic Arts logo etched into them (cube, sphere, pyramid).
Back of the Box:
THE DARK LORD HAS EMERGED.
Decaying flesh hangs like war banners from the torsos of a shambling skeletal army, their eyes gleaming in blackened sockets like embers in the ashes of an evil sacrifice. Estoroth, master of death, has sent these undead battalions on a hideous mission of vengeance. They are to seek out the decendants of those who banished him from Astera long ago and destroy them in an indescribable ways. Now you must assemble a band of adventures to recover the lost relics that sent Estoroth into exile. Only their combined power the waking nightmare once again in THE BLACK CRYPT.
- Brilliant 64 color extra-half brite graphics
- Digitized sound effects and a musical score
- Intelligent Monsters - each creature will charge, flee and even ambush your own party!
- Complete Auto-Mapping feature!
- 20 twisted levels of mutinous monsters and treacherous traps!
- Over 50 fully animated spells and spell effects
- Developed on the Amiga for the Amiga