Space Crüesader

Sometimes a game comes along that really surprises me.  I thought nothing of Space Crüesader.  The generic name coupled with the tired twin-stick shooter genre seemed to doom the game before I even booted it up.  Imagine my surprise when I discovered its one of the better games to come out in months.  I feel ashamed that I could be so prejudice.  I swear, I’m not really like that.  In fact, some of my best friends are twin-stick shooters!

With the market over-saturated with TwickS, anyone attempting one needs a solid hook.  Looking at the cover art for Space Crüesader, I figured the hook was “same old shit, only this one has a mock Atari 2600 box art.”  Wrong.  The hook is actually rescuing stranded ships.  There are six “zones” in the game, which is fancy talk for stages.  In each stage, you have X amount of time to rescue X amount of ships.  To rescue a ship, you have to park on top of it and let a meter fill up.  You have unlimited lives, but if you don’t save all the ships in the time limit, it’s game over.  To the best of my knowledge, it’s an original idea.  Even better: it’s an original idea that makes a mundane genre exciting and fun again.  So many bright ideas end up being video game polio, crippling an otherwise decent title.  Not this time.

TwickS are a common theme in XBLIG because, from what I hear, they’re relatively easy to design.  I haven’t really played any that are horrible.  Even the sperm game.  It sucked because the idea that you were shooting sperm was the only hook to the game.  But as boring as it was, it played well, with good control and clear visuals.  So saying Space Crüesader has good control isn’t unique to it.  By the way, Space Crüesader has nearly perfect control.

You’ll need it too, because the screen is often completely spammed with so much shit that you can barely move.  Most of this comes in the form of asteroids, but there’s also comets, enemy ships, some of which fire heat-seeking missiles at you.  Soon, different enemy ships come in that fly fast, shoot faster, and go after you like they’re on a suicide mission.  While this is going on, the amount of asteroids on the screen grows to absurd levels.

Yea, it's a mess.  For what it's worth, it doesn't look that bad in motion.

Yea, it’s a mess. For what it’s worth, it doesn’t look that bad in motion.

Oh, and there’s a needless background that absolutely wrecks the game sometimes because you can’t fucking see what’s going on.  At best, the options allow you to dull it.  You can’t completely turn it off though, and that sucks because the colors typically match objects such as items, enemy fire, and even some of the smaller asteroids.  There’s no good reason for this.  If it was done for artistic reasons, it’s a bad move, because graphics should never get in the way of gameplay.  Ever.  If it was to increase the challenge, again, bad move.  Challenge is fine, as long as it’s fair.  Making enemy bullets hard, or possibly impossible to spot isn’t fair.  It’s frustrating.  Ultimately, the game would have been more fun without the backgrounds.  If you’re developing for XBLIG, the first question you should ask when adding stuff to make a game challenging is “does this make the game less fun?”  If it does, don’t do it.  Yea, it really is that simple.

There’s a few other problems.  Sometimes the rescue ships are fairly close to the edge of the screen.  Because asteroids fly in randomly, it’s sometimes absolutely impossible to defend yourself against them.  By the time you’re on the third stage, the level is almost completely caked in enemies and asteroids, so it’s bad enough without having stuff fly at you where you don’t have the time or ability to not die from it.  I kind of wish it did things Asteroid-style, where you fly off the edge of one screen and come out the other.  And where the FUCK is hyperspace?  Nobody puts hyperspace in their games anymore.  It’s just faded away, like Steven Seagal.

One final complaint I have is upgrades come too slowly.  You get them by picking up tiny little crystals that scatter around when you shoot asteroids.  The problem is it takes a metric fuck-ton of them before you actually get a boost.  Also, stuff like shields or the plasma canisters don’t spawn enough.  The shield might spawn more and I simply couldn’t see it on the grounds that it blends in too much with the background (that happens), but it really does seem random.  Of course, once you die, you’ve lost all your upgrades.  On later stages, you might as well restart once you die because your standard weapon is way too slow even think about tackling a screen where there’s barely a centimeter of free space on the board.  And there’s no possible way you can hope to collect enough crap to get it back up to full strength.  I’m not exaggerating when I say the screen is completely suffocated with enemies.

See what I mean about the background? It renders even the screenshots incomprehensible. You know, Asteroids didn't need that shit. If you couldn't see what you were doing in Asteroids, would it have been one of the biggest games ever?  I think the answer is no.

See what I mean about the background? It renders even the screenshots incomprehensible. You know, Asteroids didn’t need that shit. If you couldn’t see what you were doing in Asteroids, would it have been one of the biggest games ever? I think the answer is no.

It sounds like I hated the game, but actually, I loved it.  For all the problems it has, and some of those problems are huge, Space Crüesader is one of the best XBLIGs of the year.  I’m disappointed in it because it should have been a top 10 game.  It had all the tools to be such.  An awesome hook, decent graphics, great play control, global leaderboards (though they were as fickle as always on XBLIG thanks to requiring a shitty peer-to-peer system, we really need to picket Microsoft to get them to change this), and a fun co-op mode.  The classy developer even put in an option to remove flashing effects for those with a similar form of epilepsy to my own.  So don’t let any of the bitching above turn you away from this.   Space Crüesader is one of the best titles on Xbox Live Indie Games.  In a just world, it would be a top seller.  Alas, I think the name is too generic to get your average person to click it.  If it was called Boob Boobsader and featured a pair of boobs shooting other boobs, it would be the top trending game on my site and the #1 seller on the marketplace.  Feel free to steal that idea for the sequel.

xboxboxart

I dig the Atari 2600 box art, but wouldn’t it be more fitting in a game that has Atari 2600 style visuals?

Space Crüesader was developed by Unfinity Games

IGC_Approved80 Microsoft Points have a boyfriend that said “bad comparison, because people are happy that Steven Seagal faded away” in the making of this review.  He has a point I suppose. 

Space Crüesader is Chick Approved and ranked on the Indie Gamer Chick Leaderboard.  But it should have been ranked way higher. 

 

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