Occasionally here at Player2.net.au, we will play something that deserves your attention but probably doesn’t need a full review written for it. Be it DLC for the latest AAA title, a little indie game or even an Android/iOS title. We play these titles for a blockbusting amount of time (2 – 5 hours) and report back to you the reader on what we found. So grab your popcorn and settle in for the latest episode of Blockbuster Gaming.
Blockbuster Gaming – Crossing Souls
Nostalgia is a powerful force for most people, but for millennials perhaps more so. Possibly it’s due to advances in technology making it easier for us to save our treasured memories, or maybe it’s due to the Internet making it easier to access and share them. Whatever the secret is, nostalgia is especially popular with folk of a certain generation; and Crossing Souls has it by the bucketful.
Set in 1986 California, Crossing Souls is the story of five high school friends (Chris, Matt, Charlie, Big Joe and Kevin) thrust into the adventure of a lifetime, where the stakes are higher than their sneakers. Having come into possession of a mysterious stone called the Duat, they discover they are now able to see “the other side”, along with all its ghostly inhabitants. But they’re not the only ones aware of the Duat Stone’s powers – and some people will do anything to have that power…
Backed up by a fantastic 80s-inspired soundtrack and chock full of radical references, Crossing Souls has been riding a wave of nostalgia since its original successful Kickstarter campaign in 2014. But that’s not to say developers Fourattic haven’t done the heavy lifting.
An action adventure game at its core, Crossing Souls seamlessly switches from combat, to puzzle solving, to mini-games that wouldn’t be out of place in a 1980s arcade. Each of the playable characters comes with unique abilities (such as climbing or being able to move heavy objects) and all these skills must be used in thoughtful cooperation in order to advance through the game.
Channelling the vibe of old Sierra and LucasArts games, Crossing Souls looks simply beautiful. The sprites convey a gamut of emotion with simple animations and their more detailed portraits paint a picture of the characters both literally and figuratively. Every detail seems purposeful and, although the perspective can occasionally be confusing, the next move is always clear. Bouts of gameplay are bookended with short cutscenes animated in the style of a Saturday morning cartoon that would look right at home between He-Man and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
In keeping with the 80s theme, Crossing Souls takes influence from classic games of that era, so that beating many of the challenges in the game relies less on skill and more on dogged determination. This is particularly the case in the later stages of the game and can definitely get frustrating, with the Game Over screen likely becoming a very familiar sight. A few more checkpoints sprinkled about would not have been unwelcome – or the ability to skip cutscenes when restarting a trial for the umpteenth time.
There were also times when the marriage between retro and modern was not as ideal as it could have been. Although Crossing Souls has the looks of a 16-bit game, the controls feature a full 360-degree range of motion, which added an unnecessary degree of difficulty to some of the more precise puzzles and high-octane action sequences, where nothing less than perfect is required to succeed. While these sections are limited and mostly centred around boss fights, they pose a real risk of turning off players who are there for the storyline and calmer gameplay, which makes up most of the game.
No trial is insurmountable, though, and victory is all the sweeter when it is hard won. And for dedicated fans of old school, this try-and-try-again method of playing will be just what the doctor called for. Between the gameplay, the aesthetic, and the collectables (mix tapes and VHS movies, anyone?), Crossing Souls hits a perfect nostalgia note that most won’t realise how much they really need until they grab a gamepad and get real.
“It has been said that a good writer can use two words to communicate ten. This bio is already twenty words long and Stevie hasn’t even told you anything about herself yet. She likes video games, especially the pointy-clicky, adventurey kinds, and also likes writing, so this video games writer gig suits her nicely.”