Crossing Souls is the home console debut of Spanish developer Fourattic, helped to completion by a moderately successful Kickstarter campaign. A publishing deal with Devolver Digital is no doubt going to help this promising game reach a well-deserved wider audience than it otherwise might.
You may have seen our preview a few weeks ago. Our initial impressions have been confirmed the further we’ve gone into the game, just with a few caveats that we’ll go into here.
Crossing Souls features five playable characters you can switch between with a tap of the shoulder button, the first of which is main protagonist Chris, effectively the player character. You spend the opening act of the game meeting your companions one by one; in order; Matt the science geek, Charlene the trailer park inhabitant, Big Joe the gym nut and finally Kevin your kid brother.
Each has unique abilities which you’ll need to exploit throughout your adventure across your small backwater town Tajunga as you uncover the underlying conspiracy orchestrated by Major Oh Rus, the cackling main baddie. You can’t help but feel they missed the opportunity for some top level punnage on that name though. He’s supported by an accompanying cast of lesser enemies, each of which you’ll encounter and ultimately defeat in one of several boss fights.
The pixel art lends itself well to the heavily retro flavoured stylings throughout the game. You’ll spot shout outs and echoes of ‘80s pop culture throughout, ranging from the subtle to overt. Your save icons are NES cartridges for example and you’ll see nods to the likes of Ghostbusters, E.T. and LucasArts to name but three. The music is excellent too, with a synth vibe similar to John Carpenter’s work.
The orthogonal forced perspective you view the action from lends itself well to the variety of classic game genres you’ll encounter ranging from horizontal brawler in one section and side scrolling driving games in another.
Since the game is heavily plot driven, we’ve avoided any story spoilers as it is more fun to find it out for yourself by playing the game. The obvious influences you’ll spot from the off are Stranger Things and Stand By Me, but to discount the game as derivative on this basis would be short-sighted. Think of it more as homage rather than anything else.
For the most part, the game is balanced to ease you through the story, even down to the boss fights. They might initially be difficult, but once you have nailed attack patterns and their obvious weak spots, you’ll get through without much trouble. Though for one boss in particular, you might want a pen and paper handy for the last phase…
There’s a glut of collectibles littered around the game, some in obvious places, others a little off the beaten track. You collect confidential information, VHS tapes, video games and audio cassettes, each one riffing on or parodying a title of the mid-80s era. Devolver look to have provided good localisation services here as most of the gags work well, rarely falling flat.
It’s not all positive though, some extended platform sections go on just a little too long and it’s very frustrating to have to do over a lengthy section just because you die a cheap death the first time you encounter an enemy. Some smarter auto-checkpoints would come in handy, rather than bumping you back to the last time you saved. The game lets you retry a boss fight instantly without further delay so it’s a little contradictory in terms of how it treats you.
Some of the set pieces feel arbitrarily hard for no good reason, which is a real shame as for a game that focuses so heavily on story, you’ll occasionally feel you can’t go any further due to repeatedly failing the same section over and over again. The BMX section in particular is guilty of this and this reviewer had to stop short of completing the story due to being unable to get past another mini-game where you have to hammer buttons like you were playing Daley Thompson’s Decathlon on the Spectrum. Very frustrating. A better option would be to give you the opportunity to bypass the section after a certain number of failures, the button hammering being a prime example where this could come into play.
In addition, the screen can get a little busy and sometimes atmospheric effects that probably made sense at the design stage mean you can’t see your character when you really need to, especially during the side scrolling brawl set piece where scenery obscures a corner of the screen you could do with seeing.
Crossing Souls is out now on PS4 and Steam. Hopefully it’ll come to Vita too as it would be an ideal fit.
+ Good storyline
+ Fun collectibles
+ Tight gameplay
- Frustrating set pieces
- Occasional cheap deaths