System(s): PC (Windows)
Release Date: Jan 24th 2013
Publisher (Developer): Nyu Media (Souvenir Circ)
Note: This review was done on a Windows Vista PC with an Intel Core 2 DUO processor, a NVIDIA GeForce 9600M GT graphics card and 3GB of RAM. As such, some performance issues occurred which we believe was a result of the hardware and not the Croixleur software. We recommend downloading the demo of Croixleur to ensure your hardware runs the game adequately.
Croixleur is a indie hack and slash from Japanese developer Souvenir Circ, and published and localized by Nyu Media. Nyu Media has localized and published many Japanese indie games for an English speaking audience, including the bullet hell eXceed series, and Souvenir Circ has released a few Touhou bullet-hell games. Croixleur plays well enough to distract you for a couple hours, but there are a few glaring issues with the game that make it a game you play only once.
A Tower of Death
Croixleur tells the story of two opposing factions, the knights and the aristocrats. Every year, both factions send one girl each to compete in the Adjuvant Trial, a race up a tower to determine who will rule over the nation of Ilance. Along the way, each girl will have to fight monsters in order to advance up the tower.
You play as Lucrezia Visconti, a light hearted, magical warrior from the knight faction, who is racing up the tower against her childhood friend, Francesca Storaro, a warrior for the aristocrat faction with a cold attitude towards you. There’s a bit of suggestive humor in the dialog exchanges between Lucrezia and Francesca, which shines through the difference between the characters, but the “Serious character gets their jimmies rustled by not so serious character” bit gets old really fast.
As you can guess, Croixleur has all the mechanics of the usual hack and slash. Along with the movement keys, the other controls you need to know for the game are all the attack buttons (regular attack, spin attack, and special attack) and the dash button. Business as usual on the control end.
There’s a small customization element in the form of magic swords. These swords are earned throughout Croixleur. Each sword represents a different move that can be used while holding down the special attack button. Moves vary from air attacks that effect flying enemies, to ground attacks that effect enemies on the ground. Some are ranged attacks, some are area of effect attacks, and other attacks are just a more powerful version of the average attack.
The First Cut is the Deepest
I had a bad feeling about Croixleur when the first picture told me that this game would be best played with a game controller. I knew that the game was created for a Japanese audience, who would likely have a game controller for their PCs, but I feel like a PC game should have their controls optimized for a keyboard for those people who don’t have any other means of playing a game.
While that was an annoyance, nothing left more of a bad impression on me than the first few minutes of Croixleur. I have a lot of patience for bugs and glitches, but never have I encountered so many bugs and glitches after only a few minutes of play. I admit, my computer is a bit old (It’s still running Vista) but I feel that a machine that can play Team Fortress 2 smoothly should be able to play a simple game like this one just as well.
The first Croixleur bug I encountered was the glitching menu music that would skip in some places. It was a small bug, but annoying. After a few minutes of fruitlessly restarting the game to fix it, I gave up, and decided to just play the actual game.
I went for the tutorial first, and was greeted with a black screen and an overlay of the main character explaining the controls. I suspected that something was up, but it was only when I heard a character making attack noises in the background, that I knew something was wrong. I would find out later, When I actually started playing the game, that there was an accompanying video to go along with the tutorial that didn’t load up the first time. Strike two, Croixleur.
After getting a vague idea on what to do from the tutorial, I decided to jump in and figure out the game myself. Since I didn’t have a tutorial I played with the controls a bit to get a sense of what I was dealing with. I was trying out my moves when I suddenly and inexplicably fell through the world.
After restarting Croixleur yet again, I decided to give the tutorial another shot, and the accompanying video decided to cooperate this time around. Apparently, I wasn’t meant to find out how to figure out the controls for myself, lest I trap myself underneath the world again.
A Fighting Chance
I started Croixleur‘s story mode, and after a wall of text exposition explaining the backstory, we got to Lucrezia and Francesca exchanging some words. There were some hints of them bathing together, along with some background on their childhood. Their banter sounded like it came from some generic anime, and really didn’t sway me to care about either character.
I wanted to skip through the dialog, but like a good reviewer, I stayed for the whole thing. I figured if I can get through a game that takes place in front of a fireplace for four hours, I can live with two minutes of mediocre dialog. I guess it can be forgiven. I mean, lets face it, has there ever been a hack and slash with a passable storyline? Lets get to the part where we kill monsters!
Croixleur‘s story mode was a 15 minute rush up a tower full of enemies. The basics were to kill all the enemies on the floor to get to the next floor. Sometimes you were given a choice between two floors, but if there was a difference between the two floors, I didn’t see it.
One of the problems with the floor choice was that there were only three types of enemies in the game, not including bosses. You had your usual melee mook, a wizard mook that throws lightning bolts at you from the sky, and flying mooks that you needed to take on in the air. Mooks come in different colors, the general gist of the system was that the darker color your mook is, the more hits it takes to kill it.
The mix of enemies kept me on my toes at least. Do you want to do all aerial special attacks to take care of the flying mooks? Maybe some area of effect attacks to take care of the ground forces? Whatever your strategy is going into Croixleur, remember this – the wizard mooks are freaking annoying.
The boss battles happened three times throughout the game, and they’re usually accompanied with mooks. The bosses did massive amounts of damage when they hit you, making you go flying up in the air. When you’re up in the air, you’re much vulnerable, and unless you dash straight away, the bosses had a tendency to juggle you around. This usually meant a large chunk of your health was gone before you have a chance to retaliate. Boss monsters also appeared on normal floors after you defeat them once.
Along with going up floors and defeating bosses, you also measured your progress through a leveling system and collecting coins from your enemies. Leveling up happens after you defeat a number of enemies, which gave you upgrades to your maximum health. Collecting 100 coins gives you a charge of your monster clearing spin move.
The first thing I noticed about Croixleur is how clunky the controls were. I understand that the game is best played with a game controller, but dashing and moving around made me feel like I was crashing around like a bull in a china shop. There’s also the fact that attacking while moving kinda jerks you into a stop, which results in a few near misses with the enemy. The camera angle and lack of some kind of targeting system also didn’t help matters. You can reset the camera with a button, but not having a game controller made resetting the camera while moving difficult.
Moving wasn’t the only thing that was difficult. The entire game was difficult. One would think that going through a fifteen minute story mode would take, well, less than fifteen minutes. It took me four hours. Four hours of killing the same three enemies and the same three bosses. There are difficult games out there, and there are prohibitively difficult games. I think of myself as a capable gamer, but there is a problem when an average player like me has to go back into the options and set the game on easy mode to complete it.
I think part of the problem was the lack of a checkpoint or lives system in Croixleur. When you died in story mode, you were forced back to the beginning. You would even have to go through the dialog between Lucretzia and Francesca. A checkpoint or lives system would have at least eased the difficulty a bit. I suppose the game is difficult because the developers didn’t want players to breeze through the story mode, but I’d like to think that the developers were sadists that wanted players to bang their heads on their keyboards in frustration.
On the other hand, the frustration and the lack of a checkpoint or lives mechanic made Croxileur intense, especially when you were low on health, and trying to defeat the bosses, which were the only source of health packs in the game. The game did force me into some pretty hard situations. The bosses left very small openings between their attacks, and the game of cat and mouse you run had me hunched over the screen a few times.
Score attack and endless mode are also included in the game. Score attack sees how much you can score within three minutes while endless mode measures how long you can survive an onslaught. These modes seem there for those who get tired of the story mode, but it’s more of the same gameplay, just without an end, and goals you set for yourself. Your mileage may vary depending on how invested you are in the game.
Just a Flesh Wound
Overall, Croxileur serves as a cheap distraction for a couple hours. Once it’s over, uninstall it quietly. The game is a generic hack and slash stands out only through it’s glitches and unforgiving difficulty. If you’re up for a challenge, this game may be for you, but be prepared to experience a lot of hair pulling frustration with limited rewards.