This week I’ve delved into a bit of mindless, arcade action with the relatively new twin stick shooter entitled ‘Demon’s Crystals’. This is a game where you take control of four demons who need to consume power crystals in order to restore peace to the world.
There are three modes in which you can play. ‘Arcade mode’ is the main single player campaign where you storm through 36 levels in sequence including 4 bosses, ‘Multiplayer’ offers a variety of local co-op or deathmatch options to play with friends, and finally ‘Survival’ where you can play any level of your choice endlessly with the aim of scoring as well as you can. In arcade mode you have a choice of three difficulty settings with unlimited lives, however in survival you only get one life and it appears to be locked on a high level of difficulty.
There are four young female demons to choose from, and although they all look a little different astatically this is purely cosmetic. They all control and shoot in exactly the same way. Each demon is characterised by a specific colour which will also match the colour of their bullets. This makes gameplay much less confusing in multiplayer where things can get a little hectic.
By shooting monsters each character will gain experience and level up. Unfortunately the only stat this appears to effect is the characters maximum health. This is very useful if you begin to encounter tougher stages as you can backtrack to easier ones and grind for more health, however it would have been nice to see this levelling system improve other stats such as bullet strength, weapon variety, speed or additional abilities.
Each stage is essentially a small arena that you can run around freely while shooting the various monsters that spawn in, and collect crystals that scatter all over the floor. To beat a stage you have to complete one to three waves against a time limit before you can progress. A wave will either consist of having to defeat a certain number of enemies, collect a certain number of gems, or a combination of both.
One thing that this game could have really benefitted from is a little magnetism or gravitation between the player and the crystals as you need to be standing in a near pixel perfect position to collect them. This can be a pain while you are trying to dodge and shoot. If the crystals just slightly edged towards the player while close enough then they could just run through clusters of them without having to kill the pace and fiddle around. It’s a minor gripe but I thought it was worth mentioning.
In addition to crystals, stages also contain some destroyable structures which can be used as temporary shielding, turret enemies which are stationary and will fire bullets until you destroy them (these often only stun them as they frequently respawn), and a few stages hazards such as spike traps that you must avoid at all costs.
Enemies you encounter are largely the sort of stock creatures you’d expect from a gothic style action game. Skeletons, Zombies, Bats, you name it, they are here. There were a few enemy designs that I found entertaining such as jester style characters which add a splash of variety. The bosses were much larger and have their own unique attack patterns. It’s a shame that there were so few bosses and they appeared as infrequently as they did, as these can really help to break up the repetition of the core game play.
One of the most fun aspects of this game is the abundance of different power ups. By default your regular weapon is a straight shooting machine gun, however every time you pick up a power up (which appear very frequently) your attack pattern will change allowing you to shoot in multiple direction with numerous different effects. These only last for a limited time so it pays to grab them whenever you see them. In addition to different weapons there are also screen clearing attacks, items that grant you more time, and mushrooms that temporarily make you grow a lot larger allowing you to stomp on enemies rather than shoot them.
The controls are really simple, unfortunately this also reflects one of this game’s biggest flaws. As you would expect from a twin stick shooter you move with the left stick and fire with the right, unfortunately these are all that the controls do and reflect the lack of variety when it comes to character abilities. There is no dashing, running, dodging, diving, selection of weapons, melee attacks, nothing. There is no depth to the characters or variety in the gameplay throughout.
The style of the graphics is rather unique. The 3D models are pretty primitive by today’s standards and reflect the look of something you’d expect to see in the PS1 / Sega Saturn era. Having said that, a lot of the models emanate with a highly saturated neon glow. These glowing light effects are what add atmosphere and vibrancy to the screen, rather than the models or textures themselves. It’s an interesting look.
The assets used do seem a little inconsistent. For example, there is a disparity in art styles between the more eastern modelled protagonists vs. the more western, goofy, Halloween style enemies. I wouldn’t be surprised if these assets were either purchased, commissioned or obtained from various different artists or sources.
The music consists of a gothic horror soundtrack with foreboding instruments such as strings, brass, and harpsichords. The quality of the music is pretty decent and doesn’t sound too synthesised, although to be honest I’m not blown away with the compositions. It’s atmospheric, but nothing to write home about.
Although this game seems very stable and well built, I do have a few issues with the game play itself. My biggest gripe is the lack of variety in both objectives and character abilities. What starts off as fun, bullet hell, arcade action quickly becomes repetitious and rather boring. It kept my attention for a short period and it is fun in quick bursts, but it’s not a game you can easily lose a weekend playing. This being the case, it is rather cheap so if you do want something that’s easy to pick up and blast away then maybe this is the title for you.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Sony Playstation 4 code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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