Game: The Last Crystal
Developer: Falling Flames
Release Date: TBA
The majority of my gaming hours are spent playing single player games, for me the online gaming wave has come and gone but that doesn't mean I won't try out another online multiplayer experience from time to time. I just get far more enjoyment out of a fully fledged single player story based adventure like The Legend of Zelda than I do from MMORPG's. Then there is the old fashioned way to play games with other people which may actually involve you having to physically communicate with them in a shared space and time. I am of course referring to local multiplayer, a version of multiplayer which for me beats any online multiplayer experience hands down. You don't get to see the reactions from the people you are playing with if you are playing with them online and the friendly banter doesn't feel the same over a headset. Local multiplayer and couch co-op games took a somewhat back seat when online multiplayer was on the rise but it is refreshing to see that it didn't and will never die. It gave smaller indie developers the chance to swoop in and cash in on a crowd of couch co-op lovers with their projects such as The Last Crystal, a 1-2 player puzzle based dungeon crawler that is a lot of fun!
So what is this exactly? As I mentioned before, The Last Crystal is a puzzle based dungeon crawler that is geared towards playing with two players cooperatively. If you don't have two players you can play the game solo but will be controlling both characters simultaneously yourself which can get tricky in a pinch. This is why the developers Falling Flames recommend that if you are playing solo that you use a game controller such as what I used, an Xbox One controller. This is so that you can use both analogue sticks to move each character rather than having to punch separate keys on a keyboard to control them which I would imagine would be far more tricky. So regardless of how you are playing, you'll be controlling two characters the whole time as the game requires them both to solve the majority of the puzzles on offer. Each character (Elia and Ezio) have one of the trigger buttons each, so RT will control one of the characters' melee attacks while LT will control the other characters' melee attacks. RT and LT will also allow each character to grab hold of certain objects so that they can be moved either to cover a switch or to block oncoming arrows that are fired your way. Your normal action button is A that allows you to jump across small holes and pick up objects as well as perform a heal once the ability is acquired but that's all there really is on the control front of the demo. While there is some fun to be had playing The Last Crystal single player, it is fairly obvious from the get go that the most enjoyment you will get from the game is if you play with another player.
Onto how the game looks, looking at the screenshots will tell you all you need to know about the look of the game, it's bright, vibrant, colorful and cute. It's quite nice to see a dungeon crawler take this approach with its art style because we have had a lot of this type of game try and borrow too much from the Diablo success. Let's not get the wrong idea and think for a second that I'm comparing The Last Crystal to Diablo though, despite the fact that both games have you roaming around dungeons, that's basically the only similarity. If I had to criticize anything about the game it would not be on how it looked or felt but rather how the game sounded. Some of the sound effects were rather humorous like those of some of the enemies, the snakes for example sounded very human like but this isn't a criticism. I actually found that the humorous sound effects added to the games serious yet lighthearted tone, it was the sound track that I thought could do with improving. When you hear the dramatic ambient tones it sounds fine but randomly throughout the traversal of the temple it just stops then randomly starts again after several seconds. It's as if it's on some kind of loop that replays after a short while of nothingness, it would be better if the sound track would accompany you throughout the entire journey. If the music is going to stop it should be because of a dramatic turn of events is occurring and not for no reason at all, lets hope this personal bug bear of mine is addressed in the full game upon its release.
The demo starts you off with a brief overview of what you are doing at this temple which is basically to recover the crystal which resides within it which happens to be the "last crystal". You will die quite a lot, particularly if you are playing by yourself as it's so much harder to control two of them at the same time but thankfully you will come across revive statues throughout the dungeon enabling your fallen characters to revive. you will still have to control your fallen characters spirit by moving it to the revive stone so you are constantly controlling two characters whether one dies or not. I honestly felt somewhat relieved when one of the characters did die especially when I was trying to fight off a horde of enemies. Controlling two characters to fight at the same time with both analogue sticks and both triggers is something my tiny brain could not comprehend! The puzzles in the game felt very well put together, the very earlier puzzles will have you using both characters to stand on a switch each to open a door and will get more challenging along the way. You will also get the occasional curve ball thrown your way like when you get cursed, one of my characters was weakened rendering them unable to move heavy objects while the other was no longer able to walk through fire. It's moments like this that make you have to rethink the way you will solve future puzzles utilizing each character accordingly.
Solving puzzles and fighting enemies are not the only thing you need to think about although it would be enough for me! You will also unlock abilities throughout the temple for each character, one of my characters unlocked a healing ability for example but I am interested in finding out what other types of abilities the full game will include. There are other parts of The Last Crystal that I am also interested to see like the other environments, you only really see inside the temple in the demo but the games Steam page informs us that there are many other areas to explore. The enemies in the demo are what you would expect to face in a temple such as snakes, bats and mummies mostly, so other areas of the game would no doubt contain a diverse cast of enemies to defeat. Although my experience with The Last Crystal was of the single player nature, I really enjoyed the experience that I had and it did make me want to play it more but in co-op mode with another player. I'm going to try the demo again with the missus to see what she thinks but if I know her as well as I claim to, she will enjoy this game as much if not more than me so a full game purchase may well be on the cards. I really hope the developers push this game as much as they can because if I am being honest, I have not seen a thing in terms of advertisement about it and Youtube videos of it are hard to find as well. It was only by chance that I stumbled across their Steam page which I advise you all to do as well so that you can check out the demo with a friend.
I would love to hear what you think of The Last Crystal or this kind of game in general, so don't be shy, let me know in the comments! Thanks for reading!