The seven-minute indie slash-em-up.
Usually when I think of indie arcade games, it’s the mountain of Japanese 2D shooters. While I love the genre, there’s only so much bullet-dodging I can take. My wish is that more indie-developers would pursue other arcade genres, like action-platformers, or racing games. I could play Daytona USA clones forever. Croixleur is a hack & slash that is published by Nyu Media, and developed by Souvenir Circ. This is the type of game where you can play for only a few minutes, and still have a good time.
The story of this game is as follows: hold down the right trigger on your Xbox 360 pad, and skip everything. You’re playing as Lucrezia, who hopes to win The Adjuvant Trial. If she accomplishes this feat, her Aristocratic faction will rule the nation. Afterwards maybe she’ll take baths with her best friend/rival Francesca again. I didn’t make that last part up. Why couldn’t we just have a nice simple intro, without the creepy undertones? If this is an arcade game, just show some scrolling text and maybe a few pictures, something to get pumped up about. Instead all I’m thinking is: “If I beat this game, please don’t show me a picture of the girls in a bath”.
Lucrezia, aside from being a bit strange, is quite handy with a weapon. Along with a basic combo, Luc is capable of dashing. This makes for an effective getaway, or even an aggressive counter. Dashing at the right moment will deflect an enemy’s attack. Also, depending on her equipped weapon, she can perform special moves. These are highly-damaging, but require a moment to perform. The other interesting aspect about these moves, is that they’re tied to Luc’s currently equipped weapons. New ones can be unlocked, by progressing through story mode. Also, excessive fighting and dashing will drain Lucrezia’s MP, so she must take occasional breaks. It’s important to conserve yourself whenever possible, so you can fly around the stage and quickly wipe out adversaries.
Essentially, the story mode is wave-based. If you ever played arcade games like Robotron 2084, Asteroids, and so on you have an idea of what to expect. The tower consists of a series of identical rooms. Enemies teleport in, you kill them, repeat this process until the room is clear. Sometimes you can choose your next stage, but the differences are minimal. The monsters you’ll have to deal with include grunts that attack at close-range, grunty-wizards that shoot lighning bolts, and flying grunties. Aside from a few bosses, this is the entire enemy roster. The lack of enemy-variety, makes repeat trips through story-mode very dull. In fact, the only real challenge in this mode, is the final boss. Francesca herself has all of Luc’s moves, and she also has armor. It takes a few hits to stun her, giving her more than enough opportunity to punish you for trying to mount an offensive. If you lose to her, or to anyone else in the tower, you have to start over. Needless to say, I tend to cheap Fran out by spamming Luc’s invincible whirlwind move. I don’t expect a fair fight from a final boss, but I’ll still hit the panic button when everything is on the line.
The story mode is the weakest part of this game. Thankfully, there are two other modes available. Score Attack mode gives you three minutes, and a high-score is the goal. Surprisingly, quite a lot can happen in these three minutes. Towards the end, you’ll be feeling like you’re in Dynasty Warriors game, but you don’t have the moves to match. Instead, you have to chip away at the grunt-army. Once there’s enough space , you can perform some more powerful moves. Another important aspect, is that you need to do all this without breaking your chain. This chain is built up by destroying grunts, and collecting their coins, all without taking damage. Endless mode gives you all the time in the world to get that high-score. Problem is, you’re unlikely to survive for more than five minutes. All you can do is make the most of it, and take out as many of those grunts as possible.
There are a number of minor, but still frustrating issues I have with Croixleur. In some rare cases, special moves don’t really have the effect they should. One such weapon; causes Lucrezia to strike the ground and create a shockwave. This shockwave, actually doesn’t damage enemies. Instead you have to be totally on target, or else it’ll whiff entirely. The camera; also has a soft lock-on button, which snaps to the nearest enemy. Typically it’s used to find those few remaining enemies in story mode. It can also be used to track the crowd, that’s chasing after Luc. Sometimes this camera button locks on to a minor enemy off to the side, this is a little disorienting. Even a little disorientation can be fatal in this game. Croixleur has something known as a “wall”, which is a staple of arcade games. . Essentially, this wall keeps less-skilled players out, so they only make so much progress. Robotron 2084 is a fantastic example of this, as it takes a lot of practice, just to survive for more than five minutes. Unfortunately for this game, there aren’t enough options, for players to get over this wall. Lucrezia has an impressive skill-set, but most of her moves are either too limited or too slow, to make a deep enough cut in the grunt army. Even a few slight changes, could have made for a much better game.
Altogether, Croixleur has a solid premise, but it doesn’t quite have the balance or design to last for more than an hour or two. The mark of a good arcade game, is that its quality and challenge endures for decades. This game however, makes too many poor design-decisions. While they’re unnoticeable early on, over time they make themselves known. This becomes frustrating, when you’re trying to reach that next plateau. If you’re looking for stylish action, or the kind of challenge you’d only find in an arcade, then look elsewhere. In small enough doses, Croixleur can be pretty enjoyable.