Perhaps the fact that I like this game as much as I do says more about my lameness than anything else. See, shameful as it is to admit, I suck at most shmups. I mean, I like the genre conceptually, and I like the fact that some create beautiful, almost abstract visuals during gameplay, and I appreciate the intensity of attention they demand to play well, but the sad fact is that I'm a 40-something gamer who cut his teeth on Panzerblitz and not Zaxxon, let alone Space Giraffe. I just don't have the reflexes nor the long-honed l33t sk1llz to do more than flail about and die ignominously in most shmups. But I can actually play Crusaders of Space 2, and enjoy it.
Now, for some, that may not be a recommendation; there's no difficulty knob in the game, so if the basic gameplay is turned down low enough that even a schmuck like me can make progress, it may be that serious shmuppers will find it utterly lacking in challenge. I can't speak to that; all I can talk about is what makes the game work for me.
Crusaders of Space 2 clearly has its genesis in Space Invaders, but there's more complexity here than you'd expect from a straightforward Space Invaders clone with more modern graphics. In addition to your normal gun, you have a limited number of missiles, mainly useful in taking out fixed gun emplacements or bosses at the end of an 'episode', and upgrades, which you receive over time, can give you such things as a gun that fires both straight ahead and simultaneous shoots at angles to left and right.
As in Space Invaders, you're fixed to a line at screen bottom, and can move only left and right, which you do mainly to dodge bullets fired by your opponents, or to follow an alien ship you're trying to destroy. The aliens aren't simply unrelenting masses moving slowly down-screen, though some behave that way; some swoop about in circles or curved lines across the screen, in the fashion of opponents in more modern shmups. Some are "mines" that don't shoot back until you destroy them, at which point they release a hail of bullets that can be hard to dodge. Intermittently, destroyed opponents drop powerups of various kinds, which drift down toward you; ideally, you intercept these for their benefits, but sometimes enemy fire is too close (or you're busy elsewhere), and you have to let them go.
Every few levels, you can upgrade your ship with better weapons and armor, new weapons, and the like.
The difficulty of dodging incoming fire while working to take out the opposition is sufficient to keep me, at least, at the edge of my seat, though I do have a mental image of a serious shmuppper playing this game with one hand while holding a glass of Chartreuse with the other, simultaneously engaging a sloe-eyed girl in light persiflage--in my imagination she's dressed as a 20s flapper for some reason (perhaps thinking too much about Dangerous High School Girls in Trouble) -- knowing full well he'll elegantly address all potential enemies until it's time to save the game and progress to the next stage of seduction.
Not, I imagine, that anyone actually lives like that, but it would be cool, wouldn't it?
Anyway, to give the game its due, most of the time when I fire up a shmup, I have one of two responses within the first ten minutes: either "meh," or "might work for someone who's actually good at this kind of game." (And in the later case, I try to find someone else to review it.) For what it's worth, my reaction with Crusaders was neither of those, but, "Hey! I'm having fun."
Further, deponent sayeth not.