Crystal Control 2 is one of those games that seems simple to play at first but it is incredibly hard to master. From my experience playing this is most certainly true, the controls are simple to pick up but playing the game and winning it are entirely different feats. Described by its developers as a ‘competitive bullet hell game' the game is designed to allow those with the skill to shine. Unfortunately, the skill is something I lack, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t have fun whilst playing.
The concept is a simple one. You choose from a range of eight characters in a typical fighting game fashion and each character has its own unique design. The characters are all varied with their own unique special ability called ‘Control’ and their own projectiles to attack the other player. The game also plays like a typical fighting game in other aspects as well, such as level select and the way in which you win each round. The first person to win 3 games wins the round, but getting to that stage is where the sense of achievement lies.
Simple But Not Easy
Each game starts off relatively sedate. You and your opponent will be on opposing ends of the 2D level and can only move vertically. In the center of the level are various crystals that move around in a set pattern. Upon firing your projectile your goal is one of two things. To win outright you need to hit your opponent directly and you will instantly win the round. But it is easy for your opponent to dodge your projectile alone. To add the ‘hell’ to this game, it is the crystals that determine the victor more often than not.
Your projectile can also hit these crystals and controlling them adds two benefits. Once you control one it begins to also fire projectiles at your opponent itself, adding to the mayhem but it also starts to increase your ‘Control’ bar which acts like your special ability. Once this bar is fully filled you can activate this ability which can turn the tide to your advantage. For example, one character can place a block of ice on their opponent increasing their hitbox and slowing them down and another instantly captures all enemy crystals.
This adds strategy in how you aim to win. Attempt to hit your opponent directly and they will focus on the crystals to gain the upper hand, and if you focus too much on the crystals you leave yourself open to attack directly. Or if you’re like me you will just fire randomly and hope for the best. In fact, I would say this is my only tactic that has seen me victorious.
The art style and aesthetic of the game is very charming. Of particular highlight is the theme of Tarot cards for the characters and levels, which lends itself very well to the pixel art in which the game is built. The game is, at the time of writing, a local multiplayer game only and you must own at least one gamepad as well. The game is still in Early Access and the developers have indicated they may add online play at some point, as well as a single player experience. I would be very intrigued to see what a single player game offered, and to see how the characters could possibly be fleshed out with a plot and backstory.
Overall Crystal Control 2 is a game that would be fun in short, sharp bursts with a group of friends in a round-robin style championship. The game is currently available on itch.io and Steam for a very low price for a game in Early Access and is definitely a game to look at if you enjoy the fun and experience that only a local multiplayer game can offer. Just have a spare gamepad in case you break one in frustration.