Cratermaze started out life as a Doraemon game but presumably because the franchise wasn't known so well in its native Japan then Hudson thought that changing the sprites might make it make it more attractive to the American audience. So basically you play a little chubby dude who floats into each level using his jetpack.
As the games title betrays the action takes place in a series of mazes. Not that they are so complex that you will get lost, they are more akin to the mazes you might find in Pac Man. For some unexplained reason your quest is to collect a predetermined number of treasure chests. Once the quota is reached you can then pick up a key and open the door to escape to the next stage.
Getting in your way are some slow moving baddies. They aren’t really very difficult to evade but if you find yourself in a tight spot then you can create a hole in the ground in the hope they will fall into it and be destroyed. You can walk over holes you dig in normal mode, however things are a lot trickier when playing on the harder setting as you can fall into your own holes.
There are a variety of power-ups you can obtain along the way such as skates to make you faster, ray guns, bubble guns, shovels so you can dig multiple holes at once. Later stages feature warps to take you elsewhere in the maze and trampolines to bounce yourself out of danger. It all adds a bit of variety and strategy to the later stages.
The visuals are nice and the music is a nice boppy tune so there are no complaints in this department. The gameplay does get repetitive after a little while; the mazes seem to go on forever without end! On the normal setting the game isn’t very difficult, in fact the computer AI is so stupid you’ll probably find yourself whizzing through the first half an hour without losing a life.
There are similarities in this game to Bomberman ’93 on the Turbografx, except Bomberman is a far deeper game and offers an excellent multiplayer mode. It’s not to say that Cratermaze isn’t enjoyable, if you want a game you can just pick up and play for a few stages at a time you could do much worse than this.