Let’s skip the story behind the small independent studio, Radian Games and focus on what we have here: Super Crossfire for the PC and Mac.
Initially featured as a special and exclusive item of the Indie Royale’s New Year Bundle, Super Crossfire is a traditional 2D shooter (shmup, STG or shoot ‘em up) that draws inspiration from some of the oldest titles of the genre, most prominently from the eternal Space Invaders and its wave-based approach and movement restricted to the X axis. But you can stop the comparisons right there.
As tempting as it may be to stick the “retro” tag to this game, I need to stress that this is NOT a retro game. Super Crossfire is clearly a modern shooter, with modern controls and a modern public in mind. The game understands current trends for shooting games and doesn’t literally send you back to the ‘70s.
The graphics are sharp yet simple, vibrant and shiny: a festival of fireworks and lights that hopefully isn’t too taxing for the computer resources, even in older machines. The controls are responsive: I used a wired keyboard+mouse and a 360 pad. There was no input lag, something crucial for shmups. Moreover, the ship lacks inertia, and this is good news since it allows for the precise dodging needed to avoid the increased bullet counts.
Several configuration options and resolutions are available from the initial startup screen, as well as the option to turn VSync on and off. There is plenty of content for both the shump fan and those not familiar with the genre. However, it all boils down to the right mindset. Someone who hates this kind of games is not going to like Super Crossfire at all. But I must say it does an excellent job at introducing people to the joy of 2D gaming.
There are also many score goals and challenges (achievements) for those who fancy that kind of stuff. Some are incredibly hard (clearing the entire game in one life, also known as 1LC, a 1 Life Clear), some are quite accessible. Leaderboards are also present so you can brag about your scores and challenge you friends to beat them.
The game comes with a small store that unlocks different upgrades for your ship, including better scoring capabilities, as well as in-game content like a harder difficulty mode (Ace mode, which applies a 3x multiplier on your score as compensation) and an Extra Campaign, called the Dark Chapters. You earn these special points by progressing through the waves and doing your best to clear them fast and without taking hits. Unlocking achievements will also provide you an extra income.
You start off with the main campaign, which is composed by 5 chapters of 30 waves each and an epilogue. You need to clear each chapter to unlock it and start playing from there or you can invest those well-earned points for an early unlock if the curiosity is starting to drive you mad. This is a welcomed feature that helps newbies unlock later stages to check what they are going to face. After a while you’ll be able to purchase the Dark Chapters, which provide an even greater challenge.
The most prominent game mechanic of Super Crossfire is the ability to travel to the other side of the screen, breaking the fixed X axis by letting you play at the upper side of the screen. With an upgrade, you can clear all the bullets present in the path of your ship, introducing a very interesting strategic component to this mechanic, which is key to your success. Some enemies come with shields so you need to engage them from the other side. Others will start firing the moment you shoot them so transporting could allow you to clear a lot of bullets and open a gap to take on harder foe, like those blockers that prevent you from jumping to the opposite direction! And what’s the best of this mechanic? You are doing all this in milliseconds while trying not to get blown to bits!
Special bonuses are applied for clearing the waves without dying and as fast as you can. If you clear all 30 waves of a chapter without getting hit, you are awarded a Perfect Bonus. Small flying saucers will show up periodically during the waves. If you destroy those, they’ll release three kinds of special power-ups: a temporary shield, a button that slows down enemies and an extra bomb.
Super Crossfire also features a pretty neat upgrade system that lets you improve your ship (only for the session and not permanently, unlike the effects of the special unlocks) as the waves get more and more complicated, adding an extra layer of complexity. Every 5 waves all the damage received by your ship is repaired (which is also a crucial strategic factor and another welcomed mechanic to help people not familiar with the genre!) and you’ll get three upgrade points, which you can save for later or use right there. The system is highly customizable and allows for plenty of experimentation. Will you go for a safer approach and take full weapon power and lives? Will you stock up bombs and increase your ship speed to speed-bomb waves? Will you re-configure the ship entirely each time you get to upgrade? Or will you let it auto-fill to see what happens?
This is what shmups are about. Doses of ultra-action packed in a small amount of time, always open for replay, always ready to save the day of the busy men and women. The customization system is a neat mechanic that adds a much-needed twist to this kind of shooter and is never obtrusive.
Finally, the game features a decent selection of electronic melodies that include a pitch bender to give the impression of a greater amount of tracks as you play through. The music does its job but it’s nothing all that memorable. It has a “badass” feeling on it but it’s far from the grandiosity of, for example, Franciso Cerda’s songs for Jamestown or the infamous on-acid compositions by ZUNTATA for the Darius series.
Conclusion – Is It Worth Your Money?
At an asking price of $5, it’s really hard to say no. Knowing the developer is now actively supporting the game and trying to cover all the issues presented by the users, go ahead and buy it right now! Radian Games arriving to the PC/Mac has to be one of the successes of this starting 2012 in regards of independent studios. Keep an eye on them!
Super Crossfire Technical Summary:
- Time Played – 15 hours
- Widescreen Support – Yes
- 5.1 Audio – No
- Bugs – None
- DRM – None
- Control Scheme – Keyboard/Mouse, Gamepad (Xbox 360 USB Game Pad)
- System Specs – AMD Athlon X2 3600+, 2GB RAM, GeForce 220GT 1GB RAM.
- Game Acquisition Method – Purchased through the Indie Royale New Year Bundle
- Availability – Desura
- Demo – No