StarCrossed is one of those games that can only be explained using a list of words that doesn’t sound like they would ever be used in combination. Out now on PS4, Xbox One, PC, and Switch, the game is a Co-op Bullet hell magical girl pong game, and at its core that bizarre combination of words does result in a fun core gameplay mechanic, even if it takes a little explanation to get to the heart of what the game is about.
In StarCrossed, you and a friend each control one of a crew of anime girl mascots, from a big buff horned lady, to a robot previously used for destruction, to a pink magical pop star, on a quest to save the galaxy from falling apart after the theft of a magical crystal. At all times, a star bounces in a straight line between the two players, much like a game of pong, causing damage to any enemies it hits along its trajectory. Players can time button presses to speed up the star’s movement, dodge attacks, and set off super attacks, but in essence you’re trying to play pong, where the ball is magnetized towards the paddles, in order to fight aliens that shoot bullet hell patterns at you. Dodge the bullets, while keeping an eye on where you are, where your partner is, where the star is, and what the line between you will successfully hit.
While the overall plot of the game is pretty simplistic and bare bones, between bullet hell levels your chosen pair of characters will interact, with their interpersonal dialogue fleshing out the characters and their relationships to each other. This dialogue varies depending on which pair of characters you choose to play through the game with, and offers some nice background to break up the combat.
The core gameplay mechanic at play is undeniably fun in Co-op, but it certainly does take some getting used to. It took me several hours of play to really get to grips with the fact that I could watch the star leave my character, and from that tell where the other player was on screen without having to look over to them on screen. Boss fights throughout the narrative are satisfyingly challenging, with frequent enough checkpointing and such super fast reloading after death that I didn’t mind dying repeatedly in a tough fight. A lack of interruptions really helped give the game a “one more try” feeling to its progression. The game was tough, but I never felt frustrated by the challenge level of a specific enemy type.
However, my biggest issue with the game overall is its reliance on a limited handful of basic enemies recycled more than they need to be to pad out the length of a playthrough. While it’s not such a problem in the early hours of the game, as you get further in you’ll find a lot of new enemies are just recolours of older enemies with drastically more health, and a handful of enemy layouts that were initially exciting in their challenge were reused so frequently they became an annoyance. One particular configuration where two sets of enemies that can only be hit from behind stand back to back with each other was reused so frequently in later levels it felt like they’d found one challenging way to place their enemies and decided that would do from then onward for the rest of the game.
While I have been talking about StarCrossed primarily as a Co-op game, it is possible, if very difficult, to play it in single player. If you’re up for a real tough challenge, managing both characters positions at once is a uniquely tough gaming task, and did offer some unique enjoyment in its own right. If you’ve got nobody to play with, but feel confident in your skill to multitask in a bullet pattern heavy game, there is still some fun to be found here.
StarCrossed is a cute queer bullet hell shooter with a really unique core mechanic. Sure, it gets a little repetetive towards the end, but until then the game offers a unique core gameplay loop that’s satisfying, and that i won’t soon forget. If you’re up for trying out a game that does something new and interesting, and are willing to put up with a little late game repetition, StarCrossed is well worth giving some time and attention.