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Crusaders of Space 2

Score: 60%
ESRB: Not Rated
Publisher: Alawar
Developer: Adept Studios
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Shooter

Graphics & Sound:

Retro-styled games have made something of a minor comeback in recent years. While most are merely collections of older games in a “Greatest Hits” package, some developers have tried to go back to gaming’s roots with simpler games. Crusaders of Space 2 is Alawar’s well-intentioned retro-release that is meant to pay homage to old school shooters like Galaxian, Galaga and Space Invaders, while throwing in some “new school” elements. Though the idea and premise behind the game are interesting, it completely misses the point as to what actually made these shooters so popular in the first place.

As with most of Alawar’s releases, Crusaders of Space 2 looks good for a downloadable game. Each of the selectable ships has its own styling and even show bits of evolution as you add various upgrades. Both the design of the ships and enemies pay homage to the design of enemies in the old school shooters the game is trying to mirror – especially those seen in Galaxian and Galaga. Level backdrops also mirror backgrounds from these old shooters as well, though they also come with a bit of twist. Details are suggested rather that shown; rather than showing sprawling environments of each planet, you instead see a set of rendered mountains or some other alien structure.

I wasn’t as impressed with the sound side of the presentation. There are only a handful of tracks playing throughout the game, each with a synth-techno style to them that had me reaching for my MP3 player after the first five or so levels. Seeing as how this is a downloadable game, it is hard to fault Crusaders of Space 2 for not having a more robust soundtrack, but at the same time, it still doesn’t sound all that great. Alawar might want to look into including some kind of custom soundtrack option for later games.


Gameplay is very simple to understand. You control a ship at the bottom of the screen as swarms of enemies fly in from the sides and top of the screen. You job is to shoot down the swarms as quickly as possible while dodging their fire. Where Crusaders of Space 2 deviates from the old school norm is that both the enemies and your ship now have health bars, which both adds to the challenge as well as taking it away. Requiring more shots to kill enemies makes the game a little more challenging in that you can’t just one-shot kill anything; at the same time, the damage done by enemy ships isn’t all that much and health packs are fairly common. What this does is create bland gameplay where you effectively can’t die. In addition, since enemies take so many hits to kill, gameplay is slowed to a near crawl, absolutely killing the whole adrenaline rush that made old school shooters so addictive in the first place.

Crusaders of Space 2 also deviates from the norm by including ship upgrades. Every few levels, you are awarded an upgrade point that can be put towards one aspect of your ship. You can choose to upgrade your weapons, add armor to your ship or even improve certain aspects. Some improvements even require that you have a certain upgrade count in one area before unlocking them. For example, in order to add the Regenerate upgrade, you must first upgrade to level 3 shields. Eventually you can even unlock new ships.

As with nearly every other gameplay element, I thought the idea of upgrading your ship and unlocking new ones was a great idea that missed its mark. The system reminded me of Apogee’s Raptor: Call of the Shadows, a top-down shooter that also included the same sort of upgrades. However, I was disappointed that Crusaders of Space 2 didn’t use a similar system since it added a lot to the game’s replay value.

Where Crusaders of Space 2’s gameplay ultimately fails is its pacing. Again, this is a slow game and the action never goes beyond anything more than shooting down waves of enemies. Sure the game has an impressive 120 levels, but if I have to plod through the first five levels, what is going to make me want to play the other 115? Even after playing the game at short bursts, I was completely bored since it wasn’t doing anything more than holding the right mouse button down and moving from left to right with my mouse.


Crusaders of Space 2 is by no means a hard game. In fact, I’ve yet to see a “Game Over” screen and I can’t recall the last time I actually died during a level. This all goes back to well-intentioned, but game breaking “features” that were added to update the old school gameplay. The slow gameplay makes it very easy to dodge incoming attacks and, in the event you are hit, you don’t take all that much damage. This becomes even less of an issue once you invest in Regeneration and Armor upgrades. Again, it was the speed and threat that you could be dead in one-hit that made old school shooters so great, not that you were shooting a lot of things.

Game Mechanics:

Controls are as basic as the gameplay. Rolling the mouse to the left and right steers your ship along the bottom of the screen. Similar to Space Invaders, you can’t move up or down in levels. Instead you’re confined to the bottom part of the screen while enemies have free reign of everything else. Pressing the right button fires, and holding it down causes you to enter a rapid-fire mode. It is easy to pick up and, well… kind of dull after a few levels.

Every so often you’ll catch power-ups that will add an attribute to your weapons. The Fire upgrade speeds up your bullets, Ice shots freeze an enemy (a trait that is only useful against stationary turrets since most enemies don’t move much in the first place) and Acid causes a constant energy drain on every ship it hits. Power-ups have limited ammo and can’t be switched off, limiting the strategic possibilities it could have introduced into the game. You’ll also pick up other power-ups like health, shields and missiles. Missiles are the more interesting of the three and can come in a few varieties. Touching one missile gives you a set of missiles you can shoot at enemies while another sends a screen full of missiles from behind you.

On a technical level, Crusaders of Space 2 is a solid game, though it does contend with lengthy load times, something that really didn’t make all that much sense considering that the game is in 2D and really only has one level. Even worse, load times happen before and after everything you do in the game outside gameplay. There’s a lengthy load time when you start a game, one before each level and even a long one after making ship upgrades or jumping to a story sequence. Seeing as how slow the rest of the game runs, the load times only compounded the problem and made the game seem even slower than it probably is.

While I have to give credit to Crusaders of Space 2 for trying to pay homage and, in some ways reinvent the top-down shooter, it is hard to recommend the game because it is so far off the point. Rather than add something to the genre, the additions instead subtract from everything that made the genre so popular.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

Minimum System Requirements:

Windows 95/98/ME/2000/XP; DirectX 9.0; PentiumII 1000MHz; 128MB RAM; 3D video card; Sound card

Test System:

Windows XP; Pentium 4 1.8 GHz; Radeon 9250 256 MB; 640 MB RAM; DirectX 9.0c; Cable Internet Connection

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Game Vortex :: PSIllustrated