I’ve been waiting for the release of Crossing Souls for a while. This 80s-style action platformer has five interchangeable playable characters, a nostalgic concept and a host of fresh mechanics. It caught people’s attention with cute pixel graphics and fun Saturday morning style cutscenes. You start out as Chris, your basic all around 80’s kid. He is the outdoorsy type, into baseball and climbing up places he doesn’t belong. This fits in well with his special abilities. You are slowly introduced to his three best friends, each with their own strengths and weaknesses.
There is Matt, the scientist who has his own laser gun and rocket boots. The strong man Joe, who can move heavy objects and packs a real punch. Finally, the speedy Charlie who can dodge super fast and whip with her jump rope. The four characters team up to meet with Chris’ brother Kevin who has discovered a dead body by the lake. Checking the body they discover the duat stone, an ancient artifact with the power to bridge the gap between the living and the dead. However, possessing the stone gathers them more attention than they ever could have expected.
The scenario design is a real strong point of Crossing Souls. Interesting changes in scenarios and dynamics make you feel like you’re traveling on a journey with these characters. Gameplay works hand in hand with the storytelling for effective results. As each character carries their own specific strengths, weaknesses and move sets, you feel each one is a necessary asset to your team.
Crossing Souls is not an easy game and you must develop strategies around utilizing each character’s strengths. Whether it’s using Charlie’s speed to quickly get around the map or using Joe’s strength to efficiently take out bosses, every member of the party lends a hand. When a character becomes unusable, even temporarily, you mourn the loss all the more. This is an extremely effective way of making you connect strongly with the gang, as you feel the separation just as the characters in the game do. Crossing Souls constantly changes up the gameplay and forces you to change up your strategy.
There are many different strings in Crossing Souls’ bow. Combat and boss fights combine with tricky platforming and puzzle solving that is necessary to travel across the map. There are also several sections which change up gameplay completely. Sudden chase sequences and other spoilery bits keep players on their toes. Crossing Souls is not a game you can simply breeze through. While there may be many solutions to one puzzle or problem, it is up to you to figure out the best strategy for you and execute it perfectly.
Crossing Souls thrives on its versatility. Will you use Charlie to dodge all attacks, Matt to attack from a distance, Chris to hit back projectiles or just tank the damage with Joe? Will you use bombs to kills groups of enemies at once, or use the flash to stun enemies and bide your time? All are valid techniques but it will take time figuring out which techniques best suit your play style. This is where the joy of Crossing Souls lies. Figuring out that perfect solution is just oh so satisfying. This does not mean that the gameplay is not without its flaws though.
In difficult games, getting the balance perfect is crucial in walking the line between a difficult game and a frustrating one. Crossing Souls does not always get things right in this regard. Some fine-tuning in terms of mechanics would have seen Crossing Souls go from a great game to an excellent one. Some gaps you are required to cross when platforming are extremely tight and small mistakes in timing can see you sent back punishingly far. Infrequent checkpoints or difficult jumps are not necessarily a bad thing, but when combined with the top-down perspective, it could be difficult to predict the correct angle or distance of a jump. This lead to a few jumps feeling confusing or unfair.
In this vein, some boss fights might take a dozen tries before you are able to secure a victory. Again, this is something I am more than happy to do. The boss battles are varied and tense, so replaying them can be a joy. However, when each attempt to proceeded by a long and unskippable cutscene. the frustration levels begin to rise. Just a few tweaks here and there, including faster times between deaths and the next attempt as well as a little more generosity on difficult platforming sections could have seen Crossing Souls become an indie great.
The storytelling is a real strong point of Crossing Souls. It calls on the 80s tropes of a strong group of friends working together to overcome a great challenge while bringing this epic journey to life. You watch their dynamics and relationships grow and change. The events the group go through together bring real emotional strength to the story, while the twists bring the shock. While the overall scenario creation in strong the dialogue is much weaker. There are a few funny moments here and there, but the overall dialogue is littered with clichés and predictability. It is not terrible. I understand the choice to stay strong to 80s tropes to make everything feel more cohesive. However, just a few more risks when it came to choices of dialogue would have seen much would have seen much stronger storytelling overall.
They have kept the atmosphere strong and united when it comes to Crossing Souls. The choice of pixel art isn’t completely true to the 80s. However, it still gives a nostalgic kick and blends well with the VHS style cutscenes. The story is pure 80s and it is all brought together by the gorgeous 80s style soundtrack. This was a highlight for me, as it was laid back and atmospheric. I would be happy to listen to it anytime on its own merit.
Some frustrations aside, Crossing Souls brings a lot in terms of innovative and fresh gameplay while maintaining a nostalgic feel. Varying play styles means that puzzles aside, there is a lot to figure out in terms of strategic gameplay. It ticks so many boxes in terms of what makes a great indie game; a beautiful art style with fun animations, a chilled immersive soundtrack, an emotionally deep story, and fresh innovative gameplay. Just a few factors in terms of balance prevent Crossing Souls from becoming an indie darling. FourAttic will be one to watch for the future.
While Crossing Souls treads the line between challenging and frustrating, there is a lot here to get excited about. Strong and varied gameplay mixes beautifully with a well written story and great music and graphics.
- Innovative, Strategic Game Play
- Great Music and Art Style
- Touching Story
- Frustrating Deaths
- Weak Dialogue