Super Crossfire HD review
A Space Invaders variant in which you could switch your roving turret between the bottom and the top of the screen, Radiangame’s Crossfire was elegant and polished when it landed on Xbox Live Indie Games last year, but it also lacked a crucial sense of drama. Its alien waves were arranged in clever patterns, but they could be strangely drab to chip away at, while progression was a formless slog, missing the level-to-level momentum that marks out the very best arcade shooters. Now, with an XBLIG sequel already in the bag, Super Crossfire HD arrives on iOS. It’s the same game in terms of mechanics, but when it comes to pacing and excitement, this is a serious improvement.
The controls have made the transition to Apple’s platform with surprising success: swoop your left thumb back and forth to strafe, and tap with your right when you want to warp your craft up and down. With autofiring lasers and a slightly smaller playing field, Crossfire’s that rare game that is a lot more fun to play on a touchscreen than it was with a pad. It looks better than ever, too – your view’s canted to the top or the bottom depending where you’re positioned, while laser blasts send out tight little flares of light as they speed across the sky.
Enemy types are still fairly standard – there are beam enemies, shielded enemies, and warp blockers amongst others – but they’re arranged in devious patterns from the start, and the complexity only increases with each round. You can switch to a burst of more powerful ammo when you’re in trouble – your specials are charged by collecting gems that are released by downed foes – and, when you’re taking a beating, it’s a delight to be able to suddenly turn the tables and drill through an entire screen of attackers in a few seconds.
The game’s persistent upgrades may not be unduly exciting, but reaching one of the mid-level shops – they also double as save points – after battling through a series of particularly vicious waves brings with it a rare sense of satisfaction all the same. This, perhaps, is Super Crossfire HD’s greatest achievement. The controls are excellent and the visuals might be a touch more rakish, but what really matters is that Radiangames has found a hectic pace that lends the blasting a kind of cumulative drama. In doing so, this until now polite series has picked up a bit of an attitude.