It only took Luke Schneider two attempts to make one of the greatest arcade shooters in recent history. His first game, JoyJoy, showed some potential with its float-about 2D action, upgradeable weapons and ferocious shapes, but now with Crossfire (not to be confused with the ultimate tabletop game of doom), Schneider shows that simplicity with a novel twist is all you need to make a fun and addicting game.
So far in the Radiangames’ series, the backdrop appears to be an anomalous void where everything is flat, radiant and colorful. In Crossfire, the universe is boxed-in once again, except instead of enjoying the free travel of JoyJoy, your ship (equipped with an adequate laser gun) can only hug the top and bottom of the screen. As you slide along the periphery of the screen, enemies appear from the center and creep along in a Space Invaders-like manner. Just when you think you can avoid them by teleporting to the top, most of them will adapt to your new position, hurling a new blast of lasers your way. This element is not only unique in its execution, but it’s a lot of fun and very challenging in the later waves.
At the beginning of the game, you’re introduced to small groups of units that pose little-to-no threat. A few zaps here. Two blasts there. Nothing a squadron rookie couldn’t handle. But once you mix in the more complex enemies, you’re up for some tantalizing obstacle courses: almost like a rollercoaster ride, except you constantly have to decide which track will keep you on the rails (and shoot down flying enemies at the same time). The later waves may get difficult, but it’s not so much that it’s overwhelming or frustrating. It’s all about your skill level, your ability to move around the space and create missile trajectories when an enemy is too dangerous to get close to. If you’re willing to do the math, your moves can be as precise and you want them to be, so it’s that much rewarding when you begin to master the space.
To give you a better fighting chance with the neon horde, there are a handful of power-ups sparsely scattered throughout the game. They can be found in hovering luminous UFOs and blockades embedded within enemy toons. Some of these power-ups can increase your movement speed and projectile rate, while others can slow down time. While the slow-down can help you win a wave in no time, the other power-ups are more subtle in assisting your virtual-battle efforts.
There is also the faster blaster. That is not the official name, but it’s appropriate for the sake of this review. Whenever you kill the efferent minions, tiny purple orbs will emit from them towards the top and bottom of the screen. If you float close enough to the orbs, they’ll absorb into your ship and suddenly you have ammo for a deadlier, faster weapon. While the ammo is extremely limited, the amount of deadly force you can unleash on the swarm is enough to finish a wave within seconds. But don’t waste it on just anything; the faster blaster can help you against units with more intricate attacks. As the game progresses, you’ll soon owe your life to the faster blaster, and that’s not a bad thing at all.
Crossfire’s difficulty lends itself to a greater replay value, though there are less play options than JoyJoy. Once you defeat certain waves, you’ll be able to start at those points straight from the menu. This will help you work towards the megawave, which seems nearly impossible to obtain, considering how tedious Wave 48 is. And when you’re finished, the Turbo mode is unlocked—which is conceivably faster-paced.
If this game was released in the arcade decades ago, its popularity would be tenfold. Schneider wouldn’t have to deal with trying to get it on the Xbox Live Indie platform. Instead, Microsoft would be begging for a license to release it on XBLA and more. But the reality is that Crossfire is an immensely underrated game, and it can provide hours and hours of challenge and fun. For a mere three dollars, this game serves a lot of quality and longevity. Did I mention the soundtrack has some of the best techno music out there? Well it does, and that’s the icing on what may be the best Xbox Live Indie Game of the year.
Crossfire was provided for review by Radiangames. It is available for 240 MS points ($3)