Friday, June 16, 2006

Crusaders of Space 2 Review

Crusaders of Space 2, developed by Adept Studios and published by Alawar Entertainment.
The Good: Numerous upgrade options, decent graphics for the genre, fast pace
The Not So Good: Progress saved infrequently, upgrades don’t happen often enough, not exciting until upgrades are prevalent, irrelevant and campy storyline, continuous fire gameplay
What say you? An arcade shooter where the innovations are offset by the annoyances: 5/8

Ah, arcade space shooting. Blowing up countless swarms of alien ships has been the goal of both gamers and Ronald Reagan since Space Invaders hit the scene back in the 1970s. A mix of skill and luck, these games hold a special place in the hearts of fans of arcade action. Crusaders of Space 2 hopes to continue this grand tradition of shooting stuff and sorting out the pieces of burning metal later. Will Crusaders of Space 2 offer enough innovation to the genre to make it stand out against the swarm of other games almost exactly like it?

Compared to the original game, the graphics of Crusaders of Space 2 are significantly better and actually stack up well against most games in this genre. The backgrounds are fairly detailed, the ships look good, and the glowing fire of enemy artillery litters the screen. The explosions are a little too modest, however, as the trend recently has been more towards over-the-top than subtle. Crusaders of Space 2 has a hint of 3-D in its graphical palate, and the overall result is an above average arcade shooter in terms of appearance. The game does feature the “classic” (meaning “yuck”) requisite techno background music that must be present in all arcade shooters, but you can always turn the sound down (I know I did!).

Crusaders of Space 2 features a single player campaign with a totally forgettable and mostly painful storyline that most users will click past. Apparently the main character wants to make babies with this chick…I don’t know. The game consists of five episodes of around 10 levels each where you hold down fire and let your arsenal loose. The game only saves your progress halfway through an episode. I’m afraid to quit because I’m not exactly sure when the game saves your progress. That should never happen in any game. Crusaders of Space 2 is different from most arcade shooters in that it is not one shot, one kill, for either you or the enemies. Each ship (including your own) has a health bar and it takes more than one shot to defeat each enemy. Crusaders of Space 2 features the usual mix of bonuses that fall from defeated enemies: additional health, armor, or points, double scores, invulnerability, and the like. You can get bonuses for your bullets (fire, ice, and poison) that deal more damage, but two different bullet bonuses can’t be stacked (no “poison fire,” for example). You can also gain rockets that can be launched using the right mouse button, although these should be saved for the episode-ending boss. The levels of Crusaders of Space 2 are very short, sometimes less than a minute long. I like shorter levels in a game such as this, but this also means that the game will be over more quickly (although there are 120 levels). There is no penalty for just holding down fire during the entire game; this not only takes some of the challenge away, but results in a game where the main goal is just to avoid the enemy fire. You do get rated for accuracy, but this may or may not give a bonus to your overall score (the game never says). The enemy ships consist of both stationary guns and obstacles to quickly moving ships that fly around the landscape. The game also features the ever-more-prevalent upgrades, where you can improve your armor, bonus duration, and power of weapons. The game also allows you to unlock Matrix-style time freezing and health regeneration. These upgrades are neat and also allow for different strategic decisions, but they occur at seemingly random times. It doesn’t seem to be tied to score (possibly at the end of set levels, again, the game does not say), but in any event, it happens so infrequently that it’s almost a negligible addition to the game.

For every good thing that Crusaders of Space 2 does, it seems to do one thing that puzzles me. The game is fast paced, but only consists of constantly firing. Missiles are a good, powerful weapon, but you don’t know when you’ll receive replacements, so you end up saving them for the bosses. Bonuses are interesting, but don’t stack up for truly explosive combinations. Upgrades are a fine addition, but don’t happen often enough. There are 120 levels, but you are unsure of when the game decides to save your hard-earned progress. The game’s above average graphics aren’t enough to save it from being just average. Crusaders of Space 2 has some interesting ideas and potentially engrossing gameplay that’s hindered by some bothersome decisions in game design.