A big problem with many space games is that it's usually just a straight-up Shoot-The-Enemy sort of mission. That's it. Put whatever story there, but it really just boils down to shooting. Unless, of course, it's something like Eve, in which case it boils down to being a virtual TurboTax. So what happens when a space game adds robots, salvage operations, keeping a budget and actually planning into it? You get Cryptark.
As the story goes, you work for an outer space salvage company on a largely alien crew. You go from old ship to old ship to shut everything down. That means donning a mechanical suit, and fly and shoot your way through all the still online security and power. Once you disarm, then the rest of your company can salvage. As a plot, it can be a little repetitive, but in contrast to most games where you're the hero just running and gunning, Cryptark takes a step back, makes you think how to take everything down, and also adds a company angle in there so it doesn't seem like you're doing it for the hell of destroying things. It works really, really well, and is a refreshing change of story and motivation from other similar games.
Controls were a little hard to get used to. Generally there weren't too many controls – fly, shoot, unlock, etc. Flying was a little difficult, partially because of the 2D environment. Even after I figured it out, the controls felt it was kinda limiting where I could go, or how fast I could move. They still worked, no questions there. I just wished they were a tad more responsive.
As I mentioned earlier, this is 2D. You aren't going to get the best kind of graphics with that. Cryptark's graphics felt off though. They're somewhat detailed (Things like enemies are pretty detailed, while ships can look copy/paste), but it also adds that cartoon quality to it, so you're stuck between looking completely fake and realistic. There are nice touches, like a stream of fire coming out of your suit when damaged, or some of the explosions that look decent. But that's off set by your captain or whoever popping up to talk with you looking like a talking head of yesteryear and their mouth being unsynced with their voice. Graphics are a real mixed bag.
The basic gameplay is pretty solid. You are flying around, shooting enemies, collecting codes/keys and that sort of thing. There's some challenging enemies here and there where you need to dodge attacks in skillful ways, and take them down in ways that requires thought. Then there' some straight flying and gunning. Although there were a few hiccups, such as when you opened doors. When you open a door, you can immediately fly through, even before it opens on scree. This bothered me to no end. It was more of a mistake sort of thing, but because opening a door could mean enemies are right there, you needed to factor that in despite making no sense. Gameplay is good, but could have used a little polishing.
The sounds in the game are good too. Explosions and shooting are fine, and the voice acting is great (minus that syncing problem. The music is so-so though. Half the time it's generic rock music that isn't very good or fitting, while the other half of the time is this really good almost industrial rock that fits in with the surroundings and action nicely. What won me over was the nice touch of the music going softer during a pause in the action when choice bubble or something came up.
Frame rates were overall pretty good. A few times there were second delays, like a gap in action, but those were really rare. And besides a few things like the aforementioned door issue, it all came together for a low amount of errors. Like I said before, a little more polishing could have helped, but all in all it worked out.
I enjoyed playing Cryptark. It's a robot space shooter with a brain, which is a little ironic, because you need to destroy giant brains sometimes in the game. There were a few bothersome things, but the pluses outweighed the negatives. If you enjoy shooters, or smarter versions of shooters, this cannot be recommended enough. Cryptark is, literally and figuratively, a blast.
Final Score: 8.5 out of 10
A copy of this game was provided for the purpose of review.