Updated on August 1st, at 6:47: We've changed the name of the review, to reflect the fact that Radiangames had to rename Super Crossfire to Super Crossfighter for legal reasons. The rest of the text is unchanged.
Crossfire’s debut on the Xbox Live Indie Games service marked developer Radiangames out as a talent to watch, even if, after several follow-ups released under the same brand, it ended up as the weakest in the fledgling series.
If the original was fun but timid, Super Crossfire more than warrants the additional adjective in its title. It’s bolder, brighter, ballsier, and all the better for it.
It’s a 2D shooter with visual style not a million miles away from neon glow of Geometry Wars, though its mechanics echo the classic Space Invaders.
You simply need to destroy increasingly tough waves of aliens, though these aren’t the relatively passive extraterrestrials of Taito's classic – they’ll pepper you with projectiles almost from the off. Defeat them all and you’ll move onto the next round.
Familiar stuff, then, but there's a twist: at any time you can instantly move from the bottom of the screen to the top. The perspective shifts accordingly, producing a neat visual effect that makes switching all the more satisfying. Soon you’ll be rapidly flicking up, then down, and racking up high scores.
It helps that the controls are so intuitive and responsive. You simply glide your finger left and right across the bottom of the screen to move in that direction. The ship’s movement is perfectly calibrated – capturing that sweet spot between skittishness and inertia.
A simple tap anywhere within the field of play allows you to warp from top to bottom and back again, while there’s a button on the bottom-right that can be tapped to activate your special weapon, which is powered by gems dropped by fallen enemies. This fires a salvo of shield-destroying laser beams to take out those pesky armoured invaders.
Power-ups are gained from shooting ships that – much like Space Invaders’s flying saucers - scroll across the top before disappearing.
Simply dashingOnce you destroy these prize-bearing ships you have to go and collect the power-ups they drop. This is a neat little design quirk that not only presents its own hazards during retrieval but also offers you the choice of when you collect it, if at all. After all, you may already have a power-up you don’t particularly want replacing.
Blast through enough waves and you’ll reach a shop that allows you to buy upgrades for your ship - increasing everything from health, speed, and armour to firing rate, shot spread, and gem magnetism.
Super Crossfire’s only real flaw is that enemy design isn’t particularly memorable, and that its moment-to-moment gameplay rarely changes from the time you start the game to when you turn it off.
But it’s a testament to its quality that even when the going gets really tough – and the difficulty ramps up fairly quickly – you won’t want to quit. Expertly retuned for portable play, Super Crossfire is such an improvement over its XBLIG predecessor that we're already eagerly anticipating Radiangames’s next console-to-iOS port.
Want more? Check out our growing collection of Super Crossfighter (Formerly Super Crossfire) articles!