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With mainstream gameplay becoming all the more complex and immersive especially when the gaming community now demands bigger worlds and storylines from their gaming experience, it’s kind of nice to sometimes take a step back and play something with more casual appeal. That is essentially what we get with Demon’s Crystals, the latest offering from Byte4Games and publisher BadLand Indie.
An arcade styled twin-stick shooter, the game has you playing as one of four color co-ordinated–not to mention anime styled–Urican demons who, having always been at the top of the food chain, are forced into battle when the crystals that provide their power are suddenly taken by a trio of powerful beings. They who in turn have spun the local population into their destructive minions. Now you’re forced to battle through a seemingly endless horde of enemies to reclaim the crystal and restore the balance back to what it once was.
True this might not be the deepest of plots but then it really doesn’t have to be, for what we get here is a dose of frenzied shoot ’em up action reminiscent of the likes of Smash TV, as you battle through each arena to collect the required amount of crystals or defeat the target amount of enemies. Armed with what essentially feels like a magical chain-gun, there are numerous pickups which can be found in each arena that will not only provide you for a limited time with a selection of fun upgrades, such as scatterguns and rocket launchers, but also power up’s like the wing boots that enable increased movement and the mushrooms, which makes your character super-sized and able to walk around squashing your enemies.
The controls are easy to pick up and play with the game using the usual twin-stick shooter controls, where one stick controls your character’s movement while the other aims. At the same time, the controls take the unique path of using an auto-fire option, which is started and stopped by pressing down on the stick. Chances are you’ll click on the fire option and turn the screen into the jungle clearing sequence from Predator while no doubt–if your anything like me–spouting favourite action one-liners.
It should be noted though that I did however find during the play-test for this review that the shoot button was on occasion prone to glitches so that despite pressing the fire start button it failed to register. Equally frustrating is the lack of any kind of control diagram to tell you what the fire button even is. Yes the controls might be limited with the main buttons on the controller being rendered obsolete by the games controls, but it still would have been handy to have the reference guide.
At first appearance, it can seem like a grind to essentially keep doing the same thing from arena to arena, but the steady difficultly curve and great variety of enemies makes this certainly a fun grind and more so if you have a buddy or three to play alongside. To this extent, the game certainly makes for a fun party title with support for up to four players at one time. Combined with the pick up and play simplicity, it makes this a great title even for non-gamers, while providing the same kind of frantic fun we got from Castle Crashers.
While you are given the choice of playing as any of the four characters, they all play the same even though the profile pictures might give you the impression that they might come with different weapons or skills which really isn’t the case. All this breaks down to is picking either the character you most like the look of or more generally your favourite coloured Urican demon. You can however level up your character over the course of the game, but just don’t expect any individualisation even though the the game really doesn’t need it.
Other than the main arcade mode there is also a multiplayer option which comes with the usual modes for those who’d rather shoot at their friends than enemy hordes and it’s certainly fun enough, though lacking the depths to make it more than a passing distraction from the main game, which certainly benefits from teaming up with three friends to unleash hell on the enemy hordes. For the lone gamers there is also a survival mode which essentially does what we’ve come to expect from this mode. Sadly at the time of writing there is no online multiplayer mode with the only online interaction coming from the online leaderboards.
Available currently at a rock bottom price, which makes it only the more surprising that we get a game so playable let alone one so stunning to look at as the screen explodes in firework flashes of magical gunfire and exploding enemies. As such, this is a game worth picking up for those times when you want some throw away gaming or party title. It might even convince your other half that all the time you spend in your virtual worlds isn’t as big a waste of time as non-gamers tend to think. Whatever your situation, this is one worth checking out.
Game description: Demon's Crystal is a 2016 fast and frantic, twin-stick shoot-em up that makes up for its limited plotting with enjoyable gameplay with a strong multiplayer element.