Crossfire (1981 video game)
|Platform(s)||Apple II, Atari 8-bit, C64, VIC-20, IBM PCjr, PC booter|
|Release||1981 (Apple, Atari, VIC)
|Genre(s)||Shoot 'em up|
Crossfire is an Apple II video game created by Jay Sullivan and published by Sierra On-Line in 1981. It was ported to the Atari 8-bit family, VIC-20, Commodore 64, and IBM PC (as a PC booter). A cartridge version of Crossfire was a 1984 launch title for the IBM PCjr, announced in late 1983.
In Crossfire, the player uses the IJKL keys on the keyboard to move and ESDF to shoot left, right, up, and down among an array of blocks, avoiding incoming fire and dispatching enemies. The playing area consists of 42 blocks (7 rows by 6 columns), through which there are six vertical alleys, five horizontal alleys, and 30 intersections. The player can move and fire in any direction, but can only stop in intersections. On e.g. the Commodore 64 port, the game optionally be played with joystick, but this is harder to control than using the keyboard.
Along the left, right and top sides of the playing area are 16 pockets, each of which releases four enemies. These enemies emerge and move among the blocks, firing at and attempting to collide with the player. The four types of enemies differ only in appearance, not in power or behavior. On Apple II the first enemies are small, bluish, and diamond-shaped (worth 10 points); the second resemble scarabs (20 points); the third are orange with blue legs (40 points); the fourth are silver and diamond-shaped (80 points). Ports of the game, such as Commodore 64, have different enemy graphics. Like the player, the enemies can move and fire in any direction, but are not as fast. Unlike the player, they never run out of ammunition. The player advances a level when all enemies are destroyed.
Within four blocks near the middle of the playing area are four orange, spindle-shaped bonus items. Once the player has fired 12 times (after the beginning of the level or after collecting the previous bonus) the item emerges from its block and becomes accessible. If it has not been collected after five further shots, it goes back into its block, and no further bonus items will appear in that level. Capturing the bonus items grants 100, 200, 400 and 800 points.
The player can fire only a limited number of shots before having to reload. In early rounds this number is around 30, but drops by five for each level progressed, until the player can fire only 15 shots. When the player has 10 shots remaining, a cluster of four pulsing white dots appears at the opposite point of the grid from the player. This cluster marks where the player needs to go to reload. A central gameplay mechanic is that the player can only fire one bullet at a time, and can only fire the next bullet once the previous bullet has hit an enemy or gone off the screen.
Play begins with three ships; an extra one is awarded every 5,000 points. The game ends when the player is out of ships; if the player never runs out of ships, the game will continue indefinitely.
Softline called Crossfire "a new twist on arcade games with delightfully colorful beasties and smooth animation", which "offers hours of challenge and enjoyment for the dedicated and persevering gamester". BYTE called Crossfire "one of the most difficult and challenging arcade games to play ... The reflexes take a long time to master, but, once you get the hang of it, it's addictive". PC Magazine's review was less favorable, calling the alien-attack scenario overused. It described the IBM PC version's graphics as "adequate, but nothing spectacular", and the controls as imprecise and inelegant.
In March 1983, the Atari 8-bit computer version of Crossfire received a Certificate of Merit in the category of "Best Arcade/Action Computer Games" at the 4th annual Arkie Awards,:32 however reviews for other versions were mixed. Ahoy!'s review was critical, stating "come now, do we really need a bare bones grid shooting game (the VIC graphics are absolutely starved), with no character or atmosphere?" InfoWorld was more positive regarding the IBM PCjr version, describing it as "an engrossing waste of time". The Addison-Wesley Book of Atari Software 1984 gave the game an overall B+ rating, calling it "one of the best strategy shoot-'em-ups to come along in a long while ... it remains tough, and one that you won't tire of easily."
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