Once you've seen Konami create racing games, music games, and dating sims, it comes as no surprise that they would try their hand at anything and everything. So naturally, they threw themselves at the light-gun shooter genre with Crypt Killer, or "Henry Explorers" in Japan. I guess that's a loose Henry 'Indiana' Jones reference, or they just liked the big green tank engine the best. While this game is soaked in horror clichés and tropes, it still greatly underplays the horror theme to the point where it devolves into tongue-in-cheek campiness. Thankfully, with a difficulty level this high, the game remains frightening, although for a different reason.
Crypt Killer combines three-dimensional locations with two-dimensional sprites, creating an effect not unlike traditional first-person shooters such as Doom, Blood, or Duke Nukem 3D. While this does slightly affect the quality of the immersive effect nowadays (having aged only marginally well), it does mean that the game runs at a great solid unfaltering framerate and still packs a large amount of detail into its spaces. The environments are all textured and creatively laid out, and the enemies look the part. Overall it marries well, and I'm glad Konami took this approach rather than use primitive 3D models which would have lessened the effect considerably.
The main focus of the game is search for the special treasure hidden behind the "fatal door". To open the door, you must collect the two "eyes of guidance". These are dropped by the game's various creative bosses, whether that boss be Medusa, a floating Egyptian mask, a fire-breathing dragon, or one of three others. On your journey to find the eyes of guidance, you are led on by a spirit who takes the form of a floating head. His name is Galazon, the spirit of travel, who appears to mock you whenever it is time to choose a different path.
Up to three players, or two in the console versions, travel through each stage attempting to kill as many monsters as possible, to achieve the highest score. There are many temples, crypts, and caves to venture through, each offering different layout, design, and selection of enemies. You can select the stages in any order you like, but the order you pick them in also affects which ending you get. This is because the "eye of guidance" that you receive after a boss battle is either red or blue, and the colour combination decides the ending.
Galazon looks like Michael Stipe... no, Bruce Willis... no, he's definitely Heston Blumenthal...
During the game, you can get power-ups that turn the tables in your favour. However, they only last for a fleeting moment. When they're gone, they're gone. The console versions added bombs, which obliterate everything on screen. They are not much of a help, because the difficulty level is harder. Also, you are unable to set your continues to anything higher than 3, which I believe makes the game impossible. The arcade version, of course, allows you a limitless number of credits, granted that those come at the expense of your own coinage.
In terms of horror, this game barely even registers. Despite this, the quality of the game is more than enough of a reason to warrant a play-through. For those who like their original arcade shooters, such as Time Crisis, Point Blank, or House of the Dead (or games further back such as T2: The Arcade Game or Revolution X), then playing this is a serious must.
If you are a collector of horror games, Crypt Killer is deserving of a place in your collection. Given that both console versions are fairly uncommon, it is a fun collector's item to track down and obtain. That said, Hell Night (a.k.a. Evil Night) is much more of a horror game, and another Konami light-gun shooter to track down and give a go.
I feel like spoiling Crypt Killer's biggest surprise. Shall I do that? Okay, I'm so doing that. What bewildered me the most was the Behind-The-Scenes ending, which needs to be seen to be believed. Turns out the whole game was simply you, a director, filming a movie. You even get to see the in-game enemies with their masks off, and they are simply actors in suits.
It's a curious one, Crypt Killer. I would definitely recommend one play, no matter what, but only serious shooter fans should stick with it all the way to the end.