Crystals of Altaxia 2
As is the case with a good few action games out there, the plot in Crystals of Altaxia 2 runs fairly thin. Perhaps the game being a sequel has something to do with it, but not having played the original, Iím unsure. In any case, all that is known is that to save humanity, the player needs to scour the entire galaxy in order to return 1000 crystals to Earth. A do-or-die-trying mission of exploration and adventure into the unknown. One thing is for certain - a staggering amount of baddies are about to meet a fiery death.
The playerís ship starts in the sector adjacent to Earth, in our section of the Milky Way, and is surrounded by 191 other randomly generated sectors than can all hold any number of valuable crystals. Each sector plays out like a puzzle of sorts, and may contain crystals, jump gates, friendly sectors like bars and space docks, bonus and upgrade squares or hostile sectors that will impede the playerís progress. If all of the crystals in the sector cannot be reached by peaceful means (or if the player is simply feeling a bit bloodthirsty), combat will ensue, and conquered zones will allow passage after the mini-game challenge is completed.
There are three mini-games to resolve combat. The first is a simple vertical shooter - kill or be killed by a mob of enemies that defend the square. Then there is the minefield type, which plays like a Breakout clone. Lastly, the labyrinth mini-game sees the player race through an obstacle course to beat an opponent, with the winner claiming a substantial cash reward.
The challenges are basic and the difficulty level of the game is usually fairly easy, although I have lost a couple of games by simply being careless. The labyrinth mazes can be especially punishing since contact with asteroids or enemy ships at high speed will render your shipís shields useless. If youíre willing to forgo the reward, though, the mazes are not difficult to navigate at a modest speed.
Your shipís weapon layout and special abilities can be upgraded at any space dock. The four weapons (that can be switched at will) are all useful when facing different enemies, and each has four or five upgrades available. Other tools that can be purchased to assist your journey include long and short range scanners that allow the player to pick and choose their fights, as well as space bridges used to access difficult to reach areas of the sector map, and of course the obligatory weapons of mass destruction. You can gamble spare cash away at the local bar, or use it to buy information from dubious sources about the location of upgrades, crystals or even extra lives.
After a while, the cash will probably start to bank up, and by less than halfway through the game the whole thing just becomes a bit of a cakewalk. The gameís biggest flaw is that, by nature of its random galaxy generator, once the player has all the available upgrades itís just a bit of a grind to find all of the crystals. In my current game I have found around 700, but this has been the result of over 3 hours of gaming, and the whole experience is getting quite tedious. I doubt whether Iíd ever start a new galaxy from scratch after I finally win. The difficulty level cannot be changed, although there is a feature that lets the user input customised galaxy settings affecting the number of enemies generated at the start of a new game.
Graphics are of a reasonable quality, but animations are a bit choppy and the explosions are totally ungratifying. The colour palette is also perhaps a little drab. Overall, however, the game is not unattractive to the eye. I like the variety of sound effects for most of the actions in the game, for the most part - if there are no really annoying sounds in a quite repetitive game such as this, the sounds are fine. Thereís some looping background music/ambience in the background as well that suits the game quite nicely.
Thereís a local highscore list, as well as multiple user profile support. A range of options to set the level of graphics and sounds are also present.
On the website, the developers boast of totally non-linear action due partly to the fact that each sector in every galaxy is randomly generated. I canít argue with this statement apart from suggesting that it might be a little misleading, since apart from earning cash, buying upgrades and finding crystals, there is very little else to do in the game. I like Crystals of Altaxia 2, and recommend the demo to action game aficionados. Although you will be immediately familiar with all of the components of the game, the overall concept is quite original. A good mix of action, puzzle and some basic strategy elements make it definitely worth a play through at least once.
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