Sometimes, game developers have to go back to basics to provide an enjoyable experience. Demon's Crystals is a simple twin-stick shooter that you can enjoy with a few local chums so let's see if it adds up to a good time.
All you need to know before playing Demon's Crystals is that the left stick makes your character run around and the right stick shoots. It's really that simple. If you've been playing dual-stick games for as long as I have, this is actually a breath of fresh air. There are no complicated systems to keep in mind, no screen-clearing bomb button, no weapon-switching, or anything more than running and gunning. Of course, you'll pick up plenty of power-ups that are automatically utilized upon touching them. Most of these change your weapon to a different kind of shot such as ones that go in various directions or comically giant bullets. Other power-ups may have you grow so large that you can stomp on enemies or run around the stage as quickly as possible. Considering the goals contained within each stage merely consists of collecting enough crystals or defeating a certain number of enemies; the entire campaign is easily digestible yet the chaotic fun can be rather challenging.
You can play as a variety of characters each with its own respective colour: Adora (Red), Dryad (Yellow), Anara (Blue), and Taur (Green). The gameplay doesn't change much according to which character you choose but you can level the characters up so alternating between them once in a while can be quite rewarding. Anyway, the visuals are reminiscent of an arcade-style original PlayStation game with its flashy neon bullet effects and blocky 3D stages. For me, it's nostalgic in a very welcoming way. The enemies come in all sorts of varieties and they all look great with cartoonish animations. My only complaint is that the environments don't come across as all that different. Whether you're shooting in the Graveyard, Castle, or Forest; it all generally looks the same. The music is composed of frantic orchestral pieces that add a sense of satisfaction to the animated world. Overall, Demon's Crystals looks and sounds great.
The main mode in Demon's Crystals is Arcade which features three areas to work through either solo or with up to four local players. Each area contains 8 stages and a boss fight and you can master each stage on three different difficulty settings. Besides Arcade, you can compete with friends in six multiplayer variations that include Survival, Deathmatch, Team Versus, Crystal Quest (collect the most crystals), Seize the Large Crystal (collect the most shielded crystals), and Kill the Enemies. The latter variation has your score reset whenever you encounter a gnome so it's a pretty crummy mode seeing as the winner is seemingly decided at random. Finally, there's a single player survival mode. In the end, it's great to see so many ways to cooperate and compete with friends.
Of course, Demon's Crystals isn't without its faults. Obviously, the bare-bones gameplay is fun but I couldn't help but feel like it could use a bit more complexity. This especially became an issue after playing for a few hours as the fun factor started to die down and I was left hoping to see something new. Finally, you'll likely take damage or die without understanding why a lot of the time. The main causes of this are enemies that explode with very little warning and stage hazards that aren't easy to spot such as grates that have spikes shoot up through them. If these hazards were clearer and you were alerted to oncoming danger then this wouldn't be an issue.
Demon's Crystals may be one of the simplest twin-stick shooters that you'll ever play but that's what makes it so enjoyable. It's easy to pick up and play with a few friends and with so many modes to try; it will make a solid addition to any genre fan's library.
- + Simple yet chaotic twin-stick gameplay
- + Flashy visuals and great orchestral music
- + Loads of different ways to both cooperate and compete with local friends
- - Gameplay could use a bit more complexity
- - Environments look too similar
- - Unclear hazards and upcoming danger results in plenty of annoying deaths