Crystal Wave is a straightforward but deliciously well-balanced shoot-’em-up which should satisfy anyone fortunate enough not to be using a laptop mousepad. Oh, and it’s got a retro vibe to it.
Johnny B.’s first of (hopefully) many one-week-developed quick prototype games using the so called ‘Lazy Brain method’ is one of those arena shooters that are as common as muck in the present indie scene (think Coptra and MN.PAR). Still, at least it isn’t a horribly unbalanced shooter of the ‘bullet hell’ variation. So yes, this game isn’t hugely original; you control a ship and you face a small but diverse variety of enemies. You can choose to shoot or dodge them but keep in mind that points are awarded only for collecting what I assume are crystals (although killing an enemy yields a crystal shard). Collecting a larger one will bag you ten points while a small one will only earn you a solitary point. A little more variety is offered by virtue of a bomb which you can trigger with a right-click once the metre is full. The bomb creates a devilish blast which will destroy most of the on-screen baddies while gifting you a horde of magnetically-attracted crystals; good practice for escaping sticky situations. One thing I was surprised about was that the rate at which the metre filled up is completely independent of the amount of enemies you destroy, such that it doesn’t give you any encouragement to blast as many as possible. The difficulty curve is fairly steep but noticeable; after the countdown timer has ended the first wave of enemies will rush on to the screen and before long, you’ll be greeted by trickier variations of enemies.
The visual aspect of Crystal Wave is very consistent. Consistently pixelicious, that is. The game takes place in space, hence the background is black (well, dark grey). It’s quite an unoriginal choice but then again, the neutral environment minimises any frustration that might be incurred by a lack of visibility. Everything is well pixelled and certain effects in-game add a measured variety. In addition, the choice of font is appropriate and navigating between screens is as simple as it should be. Audio-wise, there is a decent 8-bit soundtrack fitting the overall retro aesthetics (the game only uses a NES colour palette, after all) whilst appropriate sound effects are aplenty.
We’ll have to wait and see if Johnny keeps up his game-a-week promise but if he does, I’m looking forward to what more he can produce. If you’re a fan of arena shooters and beating online highscores (at the time of writing, I have second place), you’ll enjoy this simple entry into the genre.