The flash of steel, the weight of a well-balanced (and enormously over-sized) sword in your hand, the bloodthirsty war-cries of your enemies cut short as their life-threads snap with the slice of a blade – ah, the beauty of the battlefield. Croixleur, a new PC hack-and-slash action game developed by Japanese developer souvenir circ. and localized in English by Nyu Media, reminds gamers that battle doesn’t have to be blood-and-gutsy to be darn good fun.
The player character of Croixleur is Lucrezia “Luc” Visconti, a mischievous redhead known as the Vermillion Vortex. (I wonder if she’s related to the Crimson Whirlwind?) In story mode, players find themselves fighting floor by floor to the top of a tall tower to complete a test of strength and skill known as the Adjuvant Trial. As if defeating hundreds of monsters wasn’t enough, Luc’s competition in the race to the top turns out to be her childhood friend Francesca “Fran” Storaro, the Moonlight Sword Princess.
The game has three modes to choose from. In story mode, players fight to complete the Adjuvant Trial. Score Attack mode is a three-minute skirmish where the goal is to score as many points as possible within the time limit. Endless mode is exactly what it sounds like – an endless onslaught, against which the player must survive for as long as possible. Though different in format, all three modes have the same basic underlying goal: kill all the things! Sadly, this is easier than it sounds – even the “normal” difficulty setting poses one heck of a challenge.
The plot of the game is pretty straightforward and may not appeal overmuch to fans of more immersive narrative experiences, but it works well for an action-driven game like Croixleur. The dialogue is translated almost perfectly, with only one or two awkward phrases like, “I learned it off by heart,” which sound a bit strange but aren’t overly distracting. Indeed, if anything about the dialogue is distracting (and not necessarily in a good way), it’s the fact that the first conversation Luc has with Fran consists, for the most part, of the two of them having a rather suggestive discussion about how they used to bathe together. It’s a little funny, but lasts just long enough to teeter on the edge of too much.
The gameplay works exactly as one might expect in a hack-and-slash, featuring various attack and combo options and ten beautifully ornate swords to collect. Each sword is imbued its own individual power waiting to be released by the right wielder – you, of course! – and Luc can take up to four at a time with her to the battlefield, though where she hides them all is a mystery yet to be solved.
Croixleur looks and sounds a bit like early PS2 titles, with graphics and music that put me in mind of games like the first Kingdom Hearts and Fullmetal Alchemist and the Broken Angel. The art, however, is exceptionally clean, and the animations are as gorgeously smooth as one would expect of a modern release. The special attacks and “bombs” (which are not actually bombs – I’m still not sure why the game just doesn’t call them extra-special attacks and be done with it) are especially delicious eye-candy.
Though Croixleur isn’t breaking any especially new ground, it’s good for some old-fashioned, button-mashing fun, and the temptation to find all ten swords and gain all twenty achievements will be more than enough to bring many a player back for round two (and three, and four, and five…). Though the tutorial could be better (more interactive and less demonstrative, for one thing) and the control system could use some fine-tuning, my biggest complaint about the game is a good-natured one: all that frantic button-mashing makes my fingers hurt!
Croixleur is available to download for $4.99 from the official site, or you can try the free demo (which features Score Attack mode). The game is also up for voting on Steam Greenlight, so be sure to show your support if you enjoy it.[review pros="Satisfying action-based gameplay, beautiful animations, challenging battles, high replay value" cons="Tutorial and control system need tweaking, battles and enemies lack variety (except bosses), concept is not particularly novel" score=83]