by Murray Lewis
reviewed on PC
CROX-LEER? CROICK-SLUR? CROY-LER...?
Croixleur Sigma, as well as being nearly unpronounceable at first glance, is a fast-paced arena battle game, developed by doujin (Japanese indie) developer Souvenir Circ. The game was originally released early last year, simply titled Croixleur, but Sigma attempts to create a definitive version of the game by addressing a number of criticisms levelled against the original release.
While most of the improvements (including improved graphics, Steam achievements, voice acting, a co-operative mode, and online leaderboards) will only be noticeable in a direct comparison, they do all work well. Any existing owners of Croixleur feeling jealous of the new additions will be pleased to hear that they're eligible for a free Croixleur Sigma Steam key.
The issue at hand is that the original game was released to a muted reception at best, so is this updated release worth playing?
LEARNING TO FLY
Taking control of one of two stereotypically-dressed Japanese schoolgirls, Croixleur Sigma has you carving your way through enemies in a series of short, arena challenges all running at a buttery smooth 60 FPS. After each fight, you're given a portal to the next floor, and so you progress. Often you're given a choice of two portals which lead to different sets of enemies, but the basic layout of every battle is identical – a small circular arena with invisible walls and a brightly coloured background. It's entertaining enough, but there's a clear lack of variety all-round.
In a drastic departure from the norm when it comes to Japanese fighting games, I found the game to be very forgiving for beginners. The controls are relatively easy to pick up, and there are no complex special moves or multiple attack types – you only have jump, attack, dodge, and two 'special attack' buttons. As a result, anyone who hasn't played before should easily be able to dive right in and have a blast, but the lack of depth means existing owners of Croixleur may feel little need to come back for more.
At its heart, it desperately wants to be Devil May Cry. All the hallmarks are there – the fast-paced, combo-juggling action, the waves of enemies, and the awful dialogue. Unfortunately, like a young child trying to emulate an older sibling, Croixleur Sigma never manages to get it quite right. Whether you're a fan of the series or not, it's easy to see that Devil May Cry does everything with an almost effortless sense of style, while this game's attempts at the same mechanics never really take off in the same way.
A lot of this can be attributed to the length of the game (or lack thereof). Even the slickest of jet fighters needs a runway long enough to take to the skies, and Croixleur Sigma seems to run out of tarmac way too early. Fans of loitering beware, because the game imposes a strict time limit on gameplay. If you don't complete the game – from the first battle to the final boss – in 15 minutes, it's game over. The clock is fairly forgiving, in that it stops counting between battles, but if you like to take your time and fight cautiously then this is not the game for you.
The lack of breathing space given to the game means there's also little room for variety in gameplay. While there are 20 weapons to unlock through gameplay, the differences are largely aesthetic. The enemies in the game suffer from the same problem, with Souvenir Circ.'s designers creating only four or five unique creatures before apparently running out of ideas and settling for just re-colouring them and increasing their hit points on later levels.
It's not all bad, though, because the game's length is something of a double-edged sword. For all the gameplay opportunities missed by cutting it so short, Croixleur Sigma is a great option for gamers on a tight schedule. Not everyone has the time to play through anything too involved, and the game can really shine as a quick blast when 15 minutes is all you have.
Bright and fun. Co-op mode. Quick to pick up and play.
Serious lack of depth. Confused controls. Plot may as well not exist.