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Act: Crusaders of Space: Open Range [by Adept Studios]

Game Review:  Crusaders of Space
Release: October 27, 2004
Genre: Action
Developer: Adept Studios
System Requirements:  Windows, Pentium 300 mhz+
Players: 1
Price: $19.99

It’s time for another Space Invaders remake! Alawar distributes this game, code and artwork mostly created by a single author – Daniil Mirkin. Space Invaders, for those among you who are not walking on crutches yet, is a simple game where your space ship is at the bottom of the screen, firing up into a slowly moving swarm of enemies. Your ship can only fly to the left and right, while some of the enemies can move all about the screen. It’s simple arcade classic, and there’s nothing wrong with attempting a remake.

However, what prevents Crusaders of Space from being a worthy heir to the original’s throne is a combination of two issues.

One is the fact that the game is very short. With a little over a minute per level, all of the sudden, a hundred levels don’t seem so much anymore. I was able to solve the game at medium difficulty in less than two hours. At a higher difficulty level, this time span will be even shorter, because it seems as if the three modes “easy”, “medium” and “hard” only affect the game speed, and thus invariably the amount of time you spent playing each level.

The second issue is how the game breaks its own set of rules every now and then. These (unwritten) rules are: “You have no extra lives, only weapon upgrades. The more of these upgrades you have, the more hits you can take before you die, and the better you have been playing. Each level is a bit more difficult to beat than the last one.” Crusaders of Space breaks the first rule by, every twenty levels, stripping the player of his weapons and confronting him with a swarm of small enemies that, of course, without the added protection of superior firepower are somewhat difficult to beat. But it’s not fair to modify the player’s firepower to make the enemies in one particular level seem tougher. The other rule is the fact that some levels are much, much easier than previous ones, in particular, the last five levels in episode 2 are very easy to beat. The end guy, “Main Brain”, died in less than 10 seconds because he could only take six hits (of course, with each hit, a huge swarm of tougher enemies spawned to protect him, but I was still able to get my shots through).

Still, Crusaders of Space was fun to beat, thanks to the original idea of having weapon levels to lose instead of lives, the game’s decent soundtrack, and the funny voice comments coming from the pilot portrait on the bottom right of the screen whenever you pick up a bonus item. With his eastern European accent, it’s just hilarious to hear him say “Move over, Bill Gates!” or sing “I got armour! I got armour!”

Graphics: 6
Detailed, but somewhat unpolished pre-rendered animations of the various enemies; and repetitive rendered backgrounds with parallax scrolling don’t manage to make Crusaders of Space stand out from the competition at all. A slightly better screen layout, and more than one spaceship explosion animation would have helped.

Sound: 7
As said before, the sound is okay, and the music is very good. Unfortunately, there is only one main track playing while you play, and that one loops every 3:48 minutes – a pity, because it’s really good and makes you long for more variety. There is a special track for the bosses at the end of every other mission, but that, too, is the same for every end boss.

Game Play: 5
It’s Space Invaders. That said, it’s a pretty good clone of the original game, but there aren’t enough extra weapons or levels, the game is easy to beat, and it breaks its own rules by wantonly taking away the player’s power ups between levels.

Value: 2
Since all the game play you’ll get out of this one will hardly exceed four hours if you’re a newbie, and be less than two hours if you are a seasoned space shooter player, I’d recommend other, better games available for the same price elsewhere. The program isn’t really stable, either – it displayed various error messages to me after exiting, and the “Run Game” button in the registration key dialog doesn’t seem to work.

Concept: 3
Except for a few new ideas, this is a direct conversion of the original game, Space Invaders. this means that concept-wise, the game is several decades old, and you feel it. It’s too simplistic for a game published in 2004 AD. Also, one can tell that the game could definitely use more end bosses for its missions, and the idea of increasing the game’s difficulty merely by increasing the game’s speed (and the speed of the menus and animations, for that matter, eek!) doesn’t really work in the end.

Fun: 7
I have to admit – the game does develop a kind of “flow” that feels very groovy, particularly in the later levels that are crowded with countless enemies. It’s fun to blow them up, or to start chain reactions using missiles and smart bombs in quick succession. The music fits the game like a glove, being a chilly mix of trance music with space sound effects.

Overall: 5
In the end, Crusaders of Space: Open Range is a nice addition to the genre of Space Invader clones, though I have seen better ones. Quite honestly, they all are a little dull thanks to a concept that’s already been around for a quarter of a century. After beating the game once, you feel ready to move on – a mere two hours after you initially installed it.

Added: January 8th 2005
Reviewer: Moritz Voss
Hits: 4969


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