I was nervous as I began to play Radiangames Crossfire 2. On the one hand, the first Radiangames Crossfire is easily one of the best arcade-style games I've played in ages right up there with Pac-Man Championship Edition. On the other hand, that leaves some pretty high expectations for the sequel. And while I'm not completely sure that Crossfire 2 lives up to all of my hopes and dreams, it's still a mighty fine arcade shooter that stands on its own rather than in the shadow of its predecessor.
So first, let's go through the basics. Radiangames Crossfire 2 is probably most analogous to the classic Space Invaders, with your ship shooting up at alien ships that seem perfectly content to fly back and forth across the screen. What elevates it from homage to amazing is that with the press of a button you can flip your ship to either the top or bottom of the screen. Enemy patterns are designed around this fact, and will force you to swap constantly as you dodge bullets and attack shielded enemies from behind. Crossfire 2 ups the ante yet again by also making your ship upgradeable to customize your experience. There are a wide variety of upgrades available, ranging from spread shots to movement speed and even upgrading your ability to collect particles that charge a super laser weapon. The upgrade screen pops up every two levels with a few more attribute points to allocate, and picking the right set of upgrades for your play style is absolutely crucial.
Now, these upgrades greatly change the pace of Crossfire 2 compared to the first game. The pace feels slower, or to put it a kinder way, more deliberate. One of the aspects of the first Crossfire that I found so appealing was the zen-like trance I would slip into while getting wrapped in the frantic gameplay. But with upgrade screens pausing the gameplay every two waves, I never got sucked in quite the same way. That's not necessarily a bad thing, as the upgrades make the gameplay much more compelling, it's just different. It also makes the game much easier since your health is restored at every upgrade screen.
There's quite a lot to do in Crossfire 2. Once you've fought your way through Crossfire 2's 60 waves of Conquest mode you unlock Conquest Plus. Essentially, it's an additional 60 waves offering a remix of enemy patters that picks up right where the difficulty level of Conquest mode left off. And if 120 levels weren't enough for you, there's also Score Attack mode, an infinite survival mode that brings the gameplay much closer to the frantic pace of the first Crossfire. Upgrades are only available every 10 levels rather than ever two, so picking which attributes to advance is a more strategic decision.
It's a good thing that Crossfire 2 is just an arcade-styled game and not actually in arcades, because I would go broke packing it with quarters. The pacing is different from the Crossfire I first fell in love with, but it holds its own appeal. And on top of the new additions, Score Attack mode still offers the classic Crossfire feel, making Crossfire 2 the best of both worlds. I went in hoping and expecting more of the same, and came out with something unexpected, and something even better.
Radiangames Crossfire 2 is available on the Xbox 360 through the Xbox Indie Games section of the marketplace.