Crossfire is Space Invaders with flanking – which proves, if nothing else, that radiangames has refined its skills in terms of the elevator pitch. One squeeze of the trigger is all it takes to shift your craft from the bottom of the screen to the top as you face off against shifting ranks of shimmering aliens ready to unleash bullet hell. Is it enough to make old ideas new again? Not quite.
Radiangames certainly builds on its simple concept in a clear-headed fashion. After a breezy race through a cluster of easy waves, you’ll be introduced to enemies that will rotate to shoot up the screen as well as down, enemies who course through the sky, protected by armoured underbellies, and enemies whose scouring lasers beams make certain sectors of the play area entirely uninhabitable until they’ve been first sidestepped and then removed. Crossfire’s generous, too, rewarding you with orbs that provide ammo for special secondary weapons, dragging power-ups into the middle of the screen for you to zip through and collect, and even offering local two-player co-op and a range of much harder levels once you’ve burnt through the initial batch.
It’s a confident package for an Xbox Live Indie Games developer, but it’s still not entirely convincing. The neon presentation is yet another depressing co-opting of Geometry Wars’ aesthetic, which neither uninspired unit design or a tendency to over-indulge in particle effects can render charismatic, while enemy gunfire tends to be so chaotic and heavy as to remove the Ikaruga-styled pleasures of threading yourself nimbly between the curtains of bullets before firing off a single perfect shot of your own. Crossfire’s central conceit tempts you with the promise of an almost surgical approach to combat, yet while there’s the odd wave where alien placement encourages such a thoughtful strategy, too many descend into an endless barrage of glittering death, where it’s easier to simply favour attrition over tactics. The result is, ultimately, something of a well-intentioned slog.
Radiangames’ latest might tartly announce that “You Are Not Ready” if you try to attempt the more challenging Turbo Mode before you’ve unlocked it, but that’s one of the rarer moments of genuine personality in a title that struggles to build on its own interesting concepts with much in the way of style. A promising template in need of smarter execution, Crossfire ultimately serves to suggest that we need a new word – preferably German – to sum up the feeling that, while it’s a nice idea, it’s a pity Treasure didn’t get there first.