As shoot-'em-ups go, Sidewize was one of the best of '87. What better could Firebird do than a sequel? But, as has been proven time and time again, the word 'sequel' can bode misfortune. Not just in the games world, either. Superman 4, for example. Thankfully, Crosswize falls into the slim category of games that at least equal, if not better, the original and continues where Sidewize left off.
After saving the 4 worlds of thingy, whatsit, erm and you know, the universe became a happy place. Your reputation as a hero grew and grew, as did your head. Peace has reigned triumphant, until now. Lots more aliens have decided to be a pain in a place where the sun don't shine, and you have been conscripted to help on the front line. Well, not exactly help. To put it another way, you are the front line.
Following on in the trend of such games as Soldier of Light and indeed, Sidewize, Crosswize places you as a lone fighter, without ship or copy of SU, expected to save the show by moving through a right to left scrolly landscape, shooting anything that comes at you.
The aliens attack wave after wave, and good golly, there's a lot of them. All different shapes and sizes too. Some fly in set patterns, some zoom by and shoot at you, some dive at you kamikaze like (Someone takin' my name in vain? K.B.).
The diamond shaped objects and the spheres are the ones that travel in set patterns. No problem, bang bang. Then there are the large slab like things that come on from all sides of the screen. Occasionally, if you really have bad luck, a wave of craft will fly on from just behind you, and loop around you, shooting as they go past. Perhaps a little help is needed in the form of some extra weaponry.
In a lot of places (to start with) lie various tokens. These either give you extra energy or, huuuuuugh (sharp intake of breath), an extra weapon. Not any ordinary nancyboy weapon either, but a real instrument of destruction. You can get a portable missile silo, enabling you to fire 5 missiles in a forward direction. You can get fan bullets, which fire outwards in the direction you are facing, as well as complete surrounding bullets, that fire outwards from your person. A shield can be found and used to get past 'that bit'. You know the bit you can never get past normally. Finally, a smart bomb, which kills everything currently on screen.
In some games, you get a set amount of lives. In others, you get an energy level. In Crosswize, you get both. You instantly lose a life, if you crash into something (ground feature, bullet, other sprite). Also, your energy is continually dropping, and must be topped up with the help of the energy icons. Should your energy drop to a sufficiently low level, you begin to slow down. Slow to the point that you die.
In this game, it's not just the enemy that are a lethal threat. The ground is too. You fly over various buildings, and most of them have aerials, chimneys that spit bullets and all manner of strange artefacts.
To get to the next level, you must destroy the multi hit mother ship. All I can tell you is that she is big, at least twice the size of your little sprite, and very hard to kill without additional weapons.
I'd go as far as to say that Crosswize plays better than most of the recent Spectrum games I've seen. The game moves along at a very fast pace, though never too fast to be confusing. The pattern of aliens is learnable, though a random element is involved in certain positions in the game.
A terrific shoot-'em-up and a classic blast. Violent escapism at its best.
Quality follow up to a quality game. Roll on the next-wize.