Urican demons. Ever heard of them? Nah, me neither.
I have to admit to initially being somewhat wary of Demon’s Crystals from Byte4Games and Badland Games. For starters, the main stars of the show are scantily clad demons with pointy ears – and if I’m honest, anything magical or mystical usually sees me run a mile. Secondly, the stupidly cheap price point that these demons are hitting our lives with is usually associated with cheap, cheerful mobile ports or skin based downloadable content packs that frequent our digital stores. Rarely does such a price deliver a standalone well-created latest generation console game.
But I’ve been sat here for many an hour thoroughly enjoying what Badland Games have created. Okay, so much of it is a bit of a grind, but it’s a pretty damn enjoyable grind. So much so, that I can’t leave it alone.
So, Demon’s Crystals. What is it? Well, simply put it’s a twin stick shooter in which you control a few demons through a number of levels, grinding away until you manage to level up, get more powerful and eventually be able to take down three big boss characters with ease.
The lengthier tale tells us of a world which was once ruled by immensely powerful astral Urican demons. After spending eternity at the top of the food chain, things suddenly change when three mysterious beings turn the planet’s peaceful population into destructive minions. It is from there where you must help the remaining Uricans restore order, save the world and safeguard their place in history.
That in itself is a decent little setup to the game, but aside from a quick initial refresher as you take control of your character, the story is very swiftly pushed into the background, so much so that it is pretty non-existent, with the actual twin-sticking gameplay thankfully taking charge.
Four Urican demons are in place for you to choose from, but aside from their colour and name, are pretty much identical. So identical in fact that other than running through things in order to level up each one for the precious gamerscore it brings, or being able to distinguish yourself from your mate in the local multiplayer modes, there really is no point to having the four available. That’s because each will move around the levels at the same speed, each are able to utilise the many weapon pickups that become available and each have the exact same health levels. The controls for all four are the same too, with just the two thumbsticks of any use – the left to move, whilst a rotation on the right determines your automatic firing angle. It’s pretty simple stuff with all other buttons rendered completely useless, but it is what it is and both sticks do the job intended.
The multitude of stages that you will find yourself in cover three unique worlds, and consist of a number of short, sharp waves of enemy killing, in which you’ll need to dispatch a number of bad guys, collect a set amount of magical respawning Crystals or take down a combination of both within a set time period. Manage to do so, surviving the hectic onslaught, and you’ll move on to the next wave – or next level depending on your positioning through the game – with a harder, beefier boss stage signalling the completion of each of the three worlds.
The levels themselves are small but content-packed affairs. There are a decent variety of opponents available, some of which will run at you with melee attacks, whilst others will fire a variation of magical ranged death bringers your way. You’ll also find spiked grates, flame throwing statues and more, all ready to make your life a hard one. When I say the pace is frantic, that is most definitely the case throughout and a let-up in shooting is rarely allowed. In fact, at any point in time, you’re likely to find yourself running, shooting and dodging your way through a ton of enemies, all respawning under your feet as you take their mates down. It’s quick, and there is a lot going on all at the same time, but never does Demon’s Crystals suffer from an ounce of slowdown or lag, running smoothly throughout.
Any randomly located and spawned pickups are automatically collected as you walk over them, but they are time limited so you will have to occasionally be tactical in your pickups. New weapon types are the best available and these see a huge range of shooting variety dropping at your fingertips. Stacking them with special super powers works brilliantly and it really doesn’t take too long for the screen to become awash with colour, all as your bullets attempt to find their next target.
But there are also game changing extras which you can pick up should you so wish, with these bringing the likes of extended stage times, speedy running boots, confused controls, simple health pickups or blue mushrooms which…well, I’ll let you find that out for yourself. Like I mentioned, all are time limited and just occasionally you’ll do well to think tactically and head back to them at a later point. For the most part though, if you see a pick up, you’ll want to grab it and utilise it asap.
So, shooting your way through numerous stages really is the name of the game with Demon’s Crystals and although it may seem simple, the sheer number of enemies you will face ensures it’s a pretty taxing affair. It’s also a bit of a grind, especially if you wish to chase the gamerscore and pick up the achievements on offer. If you are one of those gamers, and to a certain extent, I think we all are, you’re going to find yourself spending more time with Demon’s Crystals than you were previously anticipating. But that’s not a bad thing, and for such a low price point, it delivers a good fun experience.
Aside from the standard Arcade mode which can be played with up to three other friends for maximum carnage, Demon’s Crystals comes complete with a solo player Survival mode. There are no levelling up aspects to this though and the only real reason I can see anyone bothering to drop into it over the much more sophisticated and in-depth Arcade mode is that they want to see their name in lights on the online worldwide leaderboards. It’s a strange call though to only be able to see the top 10 worldwide players on each of the Graveyard, Castle and Forest worlds, with no option to filter between friends or the like.
There is also a good fun ‘shout at each other’ local multiplayer option which is well worth five minutes of your time. It works best in a cooperative fashion and even though there are a number of deathmatch and versus style multiplayer battle options in place, the real joy comes from teaming up and working with each other towards a common goal. But then, that’s something you can do to a better extent with the Arcade mode, again leaving the multiplayer section to only really be appealing to those who want to batter their mates with magical weapons.
For the price, Demon’s Crystals is a fine playthrough. Okay, so it may not have the depth of other twin stickers and it’s seriously missing an online component which would no doubt have been hugely well received, but for the price of a beer, BadLand Games have delivered a massively fun experience. Visually it all works well too, but it can get extremely manic, especially when more than one player is in place, with bullets flying everywhere – so much in fact that it can most definitely boil down to a case of luck playing out over skill should you wish to survive the waves of enemies.
You may have never heard of Urican demons, but you should seriously think about getting yourself acquainted with them in Demon’s Crystals.