The Xbox Live Indie Games channel isn’t exactly known for consistent high quality releases. There are great games on the service, but there’s even more junk. The radiangames series is one of the few reliable sources of excellence on XBLIG, and now the developer has brought the same brand of retro inspired shooters to iOS with Super Crossfire. And the winning steak continues.
Super Crossfire is probably best described as an evolution of the Space Invaders formula. Your little spaceship moves from left to right along the bottom of the screen while enemies move about above. The twist is that by tapping on the screen you can cause your ship to flip, moving from the bottom edge to the top edge. Since your ship fires automatically, you’re only really in charge of the movement, going from left to right and up and down.
The controls are intuitive and are a great solution to the age old problem of creating an accurate shooter with a touch screen interface. But while the controls are simple, the rest of the game is much more complex. As you progress through the five chapters, taking on wave after wave of enemies, the intensity and difficulty ratchet up at a very satisfying pace. You’ll come across enemies with different behaviors that need to be killed in different ways, and there are of course power-ups that you can grab by flipping directly through them (though this can be tricky at times).
Get caught up in the… cross-fi-ah.
Even better, though, is the upgrade system. As you defeat enemies, tiny gems will appear that you can gather to improve your ship at various intervals. You can do everything from make the ship faster to increase the power, speed, and spread of your weapon’s fire. There’s a wide range of tweaks that can be made and then upgraded further, giving you plenty of options for how you want to customize your ship. And if something doesn’t work and you die, you can go back and reassign gems, testing out a different strategy. The gems also let you unlock chapters early and purchase additional bonus features like a music player.
The neon-infused visuals and thumping electronic soundtrack are in keeping with the radiangames aesthetic, which gives the game a sort of Space Invaders meets Geometry Wars look. There’s also a nifty tilt effect when you flip from one end of the screen to the next that not only looks cool but improves your perspective on the level. The game also runs very fast and smoothly, despite the frequently hectic on-screen action, even on older devices (we played on an iPhone 3GS).
Super Crossfire has pretty much everything a great shooter needs, with responsive controls, fast paced and challenging action, and an addictive upgrade system that lets you customize your experience. It may look retro, but Super Crossfire feels fresh, modern, and fun.