Croixleur – Review

Title   Croixleur
Developer  souvenir circ.
Publisher  souvenir circ.
Platform  PC
Genre  Hack and slash
Release Date  24th January, 2013
Official Site

We are currently living in something of a golden age when it comes to indie gaming, thanks in no small part to the internet and large corporations ripping us off for the same recycled trash every year, fuelling our desire for something new and unique. While the age is still very much golden, and has been for some time, it hasn’t stopped the usual rot setting in, with developers releasing awful games, jumping on the bandwagon of awesomeness that we see from so many titles in many genres.

Unfortunately Croixleur is one such title and is, quite frankly, one of the most downright shambolic games I’ve had the misfortune to play. The fact that people could be in a position to part with money for this is a real travesty, especially at a time where finances are tight, and what appears to be an appealing game is, in fact, a horrible accident waiting to happen.

From the top then folks?  Welcome to Croixleur, a Japanese hack ‘n slash game from developers Souvenir Circ. The aim is to battle your way through various levels of enemies, reaching the top in under a fifteen minute time limit. This is what passes for a story mode. The story itself casts you in the role of Lucrezia Visconti, a student of the Aristocrat Academy of Besier where you about to take part in ‘The Adjuvant Trial’. It’s never really clear why you are doing this, what the whole point is or what the consequences of your failure will be. If the story is supposed to act as a framing device for the action, it does a pretty poor job.

The character herself is equally forgettable and bares the trademark characteristics of the genre: young, ridiculously-proportioned hair, and a short school-girl outfit. Despite being a young, ridiculously-proportioned haired male myself (I only wear the school-girl outfit at the weekend), I can’t relate to her in any way. Within about thirty seconds of the game starting she’s talking about another girls, perky breasts and recounting tales of washing each other when they were younger. I probably wouldn’t notice so much, or find it equally pathetic, if it wasn’t so blatant and out of context. This isn’t a dating game, it’s supposed to be a bloody hack ‘n slash. There isn’t any reason for it to be present and it is, quite frankly, the elephant in the room – the stereotypical baggage that comes with this style of game.

Some may argue that straying into this territory is dangerous, questioning what I would expect from a title such as this, but I argue that games, gamers and game developers especially, should have risen above this by now. If you want to make an animé game about girls touching each other, go make that, and someone else can go and buy it. I’ve bought this to kill things and I’ve got to button-mash through minutes of text about shit I don’t care about.

When I actually get an opportunity to play the game it’s hardly a revolution, barely managing combat that would have seemed out of place years ago. You’re given a number of floors to traverse, a number of enemies to vanquish and the end of goal of beating the boss, all in under fifteen minutes. You collect four weapons along the way that you can use to chain combos together with, although the controls were so poor I couldn’t do anything except slash at the opposition, jump and dash out of the way.

Complaining about the controls may sound stupid, but it is a real issue here. The game recommends on startup that you play with a controller. What that text should actually say is “you’ll need a controller or this will be a real ball-ache to play”. The default keyboard mapping is simply ridiculous and appears to have been given no thought at all. Z, X, C, V handle attack, jump, dash and special attack respectively. Fine, a little squashed together and not the sort of control method any PC gamer is used to, but fine.  The A key handles another ‘mega-attack’ of sorts, except it doesn’t seem to work, at all. No matter what I did, I couldn’t get it to work. The arrow keys move you around, which makes sense, but the camera controls are Q, W and E. This means that in order to move the camera, I have to take fingers away from attack, jump and dash, unless I want to stand still. This isn’t so much of a problem on the lower levels but after five minutes, the opposition gets quicker and being able to spin the camera would help.

There is an option to change the controls (as well as the graphics settings and the usual configuration options) in a separate configuration executable filez, outside of the game. Why it isn’t part of the in-game options menu I will never know. Not that it matters because that executable file refused to save when I re-mapped the controls or took the game out of its default windowed mode. If this is a bug, it’s a fucking awful one, something basic QA would (and should) have picked up on. The fact that it has made it into a retail version is a fairly poor reflection on the game.

As far as the rest of the game goes, there are further issues. The AI swings between, quite literally walking around the stage waiting to be attacked and running towards you at a quick pace, ready to strike you without thought. The difference between these two groups is their colour, and I’m assuming this is supposed to be an indication of rising difficulty. A reflection of difficulty using colour is certainly well established within gaming, but having one set of opposition with what appears to be barely functional AI, and another with the tenacity to engage me from the word go, seems stupid at best. I’ve left my character standing next to one of stupider ones for about twenty seconds, with no attack being launched against me. Due to this odd issue there is absolutely no challenge for the first three to four levels.

Graphically, Croixleur looks like it belongs on a Nintendo DS or a Vita, not on a PC. Sometimes a simple graphics palette is intentional and adds to the theme of the game, here it is just forgettable.  The backgrounds are a mash of different colours and there are very few variations of enemies – I believe I counted five different models in total, which have a splash of the aforementioned colour themselves for a little variety.  The same can be said for the sound, which, like the graphics, is unimaginative, repetitive and downright boring. The menu music kills your enthusiasm like a rock to the head, and I think there are a total of three different tunes being played from start to finish, which consist of menu music, fighting music, and boss music. I’d rather have Justin Beiber on repeat for the next twenty-four hours then have to listen to it again.

From a replayability perspective there is a Score Attack and Endless mode to have a go at, both of which do nothing to change the formula or improve the gameplay. It is literally more of the same with a different spin on a formulas that have been done hundreds of times before, and so, so much better in virtually every other game I’ve ever come across.

  • Combat can be enjoyable... for a few seconds
  • The flying enemies reminded me of Mikey from Monsters Inc, which, in turn, reminded me to re-watch it at some stage...
  • … Because, unlike this game, Monsters Inc doesn't make me feel like my soul is dying when I interact with it
  • Pointless story
  • Combat stops being enjoyable after a few seconds
  • Can't change the control scheme, essentially forcing the purchase of a gamepad, should you wish to bother carrying on with it
  • Graphics and audio are incredibly basic

I've no doubt that there are some people out there who will enjoy this game and think it is four pounds well spent. I am not one of those people, and it is has nothing to do with the type of game or what it is based around. It is because the bottom line is that it is bland and repetitive, with very little to make you bother to come back to it after the first fifteen minutes. There are hundreds of games that are cheaper and better, offering so much more. This game is currently trying to get the Greenlight on Steam and I, for one, really hope that it does not, because I know of a number of games that are far more deserving of that success. Don't take a hopeful chance on this, unless you really, really love the genre.

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