Coming from the purveyors of short games with incredibly easy achievements, eastasiasoft, is a new shoot ‘em up, created by those at Pieslice Productions. Crisis Wing was first released on Steam a year ago, but now hits Xbox, promising a rock hard 1990’s style shooting experience. The question I hope to address in this review is whether it brings anything new to the table, or whether it should have stayed on Steam. Let’s clamber into a space fighter and try and find out…
In proper shoot ‘em up style, the story is of no importance. Or, in the instance of Crisis Wing, no existence! Literally, within 30 seconds of starting the game up, you’ll find yourself zooming up the screen, shooting baddies and dodging bullets, with literally no idea of the motivation. To be honest, a game like this needs an involved narrative like a fish needs a bicycle, and at no point have I felt the loss of a story too keenly. What matters in games of this stripe is pretty much two things: Lots of firepower and lots of manoeuvrability. As long as the game has these things nailed, it should all be gravy. Shouldn’t it?
Well, lets start the critique with the look of Crisis Wing and the only way this could look any more period correct in fitting with the arcade machines of the ‘90s would be if it came with a coin slot and a stick-on fag burn. The action plays out in letterbox/4:3 format in the middle of the screen, the sprites are colourful and busy and the backgrounds are detailed enough, although occasionally too much so, disguising the bullet that is going to kill you. It all just works. Apart from that background thing; that is really annoying. The sound is perfectly in keeping as well, with zaps, whooshes, explosions and ominous sounding boss music all present and correct. Again, not much to complain about here.
But how about the gameplay, I hear you ask? Surely games in this genre live and die on players being able to squeak through a bullet-hell pattern, before killing the boss with a screen-filling smart bomb? Well, again, Crisis Wing covers all this.
The first thing to mention is the proper old skool difficulty of the game. There is no easy mode here so you play the game on the pre-determined, hard as nails difficulty. You also only get three lives per continue, although these themselves seem to be unlimited (unless you turn them off). Should you lose all your lives and have to continue, your score is reset, and as some of the achievements in Crisis Wing are attached to, and related to, scoring certain amounts, you’ll want to avoid dying as much as possible.
Smart bombs appear in limited numbers as well, and with only three in reserve at the start of each level, the question is whether you can hang on to them long enough to get to the boss. You see, Crisis Wing throws a truly ridiculous amount of bullets at you, even mid-level, and the use of these bombs will not only clear the screen of enemies, but allow you to fly unscathed through enemy fire. I’m not sure if this is a deliberate choice by the programmers, but it’s a bloody useful effect. Another quick pro tip regarding the bombs is this: If you have any left when you get to a boss, use them! If you die – and to the bosses you will – each time you come back on the screen, the bombs will have been refilled; there’s not a boss in the game that can withstand nine smart bombs.
Otherwise, the only other thing to worry about is collecting power-ups to improve your firepower. These come in three different flavours, one which makes your ship wide, with many lasers, another that makes your ship fire straight ahead and then also diagonally at the same time, and the last flavour adds powerful missiles to your regular cannon. With seven stages of carnage to go at, you’ll certainly need all the assets at your disposal.
With many modes to go at, and the all-important two player couch co-op action included, Crisis Wing is pretty much a well sorted shooter, especially for gamers of a certain age who remember these games from the first time around. Included are Boss Rush, which is as hard as it sounds, and also Score Attack, where you have to cause as much destruction as possible in a fixed time, all in order to amass the biggest score.
But what about niggles? The little things that make you grit your teeth? Well, apart from the impenetrable bullet swarm that comes your way with every inch of the levels, it is really only the ability of the bullets to get lost in the background that upset me the most; along with the fact that it isn’t a particularly long playthrough. The rest of Crisis Wing plays out to be pretty awesome.
What this means is that if you are in the market for a tough as nails shooter, Crisis Wing should be on your radar. It’s brutal, it’s unforgiving, and it harks back to an era when this was all we had to play. Give it a try and you will most likely enjoy it.
You can get your shooting fix by picking up Crisis Wing from the Xbox Store