Cooperative twin-stick shooters have been delighting arcade goers since Smash TV and here's another entry in the celebrated genre.
Developer Bitmap Bureau has gone from 88 Heroes to only 2 as Xeno Crisis stars a couple of marines who are on a mission to battle hostile alien forces. If you've played video games for as long as I have then this will likely sound very familiar because dozens of games in the '80s and '90s featured similar stories as well as gameplay. Speaking of which, Xeno Crisis is a twin-stick shooter where you move your character with the left stick and shoot with the right. However, you can only shoot in 8 directions which I guess is done to be authentically old-school but it definitely makes it feel dated. Anyway, you can also throw grenades, roll to dodge, and perform melee attacks. The gameplay is very tight and intuitive which makes the Smash TV style campaign enjoyable to play through.
Every run of Xeno Crisis will be different to the last because each of the 7 stages is procedurally generated. The stages consist of a series of rooms where you battle enemies in order to advance. With that in mind, boss rooms are entered from below so if you just want to fight the boss then a good strategy is to keep moving up. Along the way, you'll also find hostages to rescue as well as dog tags that you can collect to power-up in between stages. Doing so is rather satisfying because you can increase your maximum health, firepower, speed, and much more. There are temporary optional weapon pick-ups to utilize as well which add some variety.
Xeno Crisis looks and sounds like an authentic Sega Genesis game because, well, it is one. That's right; it's one of those modern indie games made for a retro console and this Switch release is merely a port. Anyway, the graphics are fantastic complete with well-animated and detailed sprites and the rocking 16-bit soundtrack is wonderful, too. This is also one of those games where playing it with a friend makes it a lot more enjoyable so if you love local co-op multiplayer games then it's definitely a solid choice.
After you complete the campaign which can be challenged on 2 difficulty settings, you may unlock infinite mode and boss rush mode which adds some replay value for those who are looking to challenge themselves. However, I personally didn't get much satisfaction from these modes and found that Xeno Crisis could have benefitted from more modes. I would have loved to see challenges and online leaderboards yet none of that sort of content is included. This is especially disappointing considering that the core gameplay gets extremely repetitive as you'll encounter the same kinds of scenarios over and over again. If the campaign wasn't so short and the gameplay had more variety, I wouldn't take issue with this. As it is, the genre has definitely seen much better in recent years.
Xeno Crisis is undoubtedly a solid throwback to co-op twin-stick shooters but with so many better options available, it's difficult to wholeheartedly recommend. That being said, you probably won't regret buying it if you're itching for more retro action.
- + Tight twin-stick shooting gameplay with rewarding weapons and upgrades
- + Spot-on retro graphics and music
- + Great fun to play with a friend
- - Gameplay lacks when it comes to variety
- - Short campaign with repetitive scenarios
- - Could use additional modes