A few months ago we reviewed Alien Crisis, a unique take on the castle defense genre where you control a lumbering lug named Russell, who shoots at aliens that swarm from the right side of the screen. Crystal Alliance plays very similarly, but with four characters instead of one, and a cartoonish art style that reminded us of the show Samurai Jack. Still, we didn’t enjoy Crystal Alliance nearly as much as Alien Crisis.
That’s because while Alien Crisis had elegant controls that let you focus on the action, Crystal Alliance has a clunky system for moving your defenders. You have to pick up and move each character up or down to a different row, so they can shoot at a line of bad guys directly in front of them. Often in the heat of battle, you’ll place the characters in the wrong row, which costs you time (especially since they’re dizzy for a few moments after moving) and can lead to unnecessary frustration.
Come join the party!
Each character has a different specialty: You’ve got a gunner, sniper, and two magic users who cast fire and ice spells. The sniper is by far the most useful, because she can pick off enemies in different rows without moving, and you can tap the fire button for a “quick reload” similar to the one seen Gears of War.
Each enemy also has a different weakness to match the heroes’ abilities. Some have tougher armor which can only be penetrated by sniper fire, and others are susceptible to fire or ice spells. As you play through the game’s dozen levels, you’ll slowly be introduced to these foes one by one.
Beam me up, Scotty.
And when we say slowly, we mean it. The pace of this game is sadly snooze-inducing, and any intensity from commanding the battles is lost by the poor controls and questionable gameplay mechanics. Since you’ll have to go back and replay earlier levels to gain enough gold to upgrade your characters fully, the enjoyment level steadily drops until you’re glad it’s finally over.
While we appreciate the game’s challenge mode, which offers a significant number of special scenarios focusing on the different characters and enemies, it’s still not enough to overcome major weak points in the gameplay. Crystal Alliance looks nice, but it’s just too dull to make much of an impression. Stick with Russell and the much better action of Alien Crisis instead.