It’s around about Chapter 3 when you stop comparing Crossing Souls to all the games you loved and start to appreciate its own ingenuity.
Crossing Souls is a love letter to everything from Streets of Rage to Earthbound to Lost Vikings, Paperboy, and almost everything else in-between, but that’s not what defines it. It’s the way these classic concepts have been mashed together, setting the bar of quality for hybrids higher than it’s gone before.
Whether it’s the moment you start talking to your buddies over a walkie-talkie from your bedroom, or your first taste of distorted VHS-inspired tracking lines during a cut-scene or that haunting, hypnotic synthesised soundtrack, Crossing Souls immediately draws out those childhood memories and makes you feel at home.
And as you traipse through a 1980s pixelated Californian neighbourhood, roaming through a packed arcade and feeling slightly envious of the neighbour who’s getting the sparkly new pool fitted, you’ll have nothing but respect for what Fourattic have managed to accomplish.
The aim of this small, four-person development studio was always to pay homage to their humble origins; reading comic books, riding bikes, going on adventures, but also tapping into the unexplained phenomena that swirled around sci-fi and fantasy films pre-internet. They’ve done exactly that.
Crossing Souls starts you off like you’re in a traditional RPG with your health bar in the top left, a baseball bat for a weapon and an all-familiar, yet still quirky inventory system. As blue-haired Chris, you’re inviting yourself into people’s houses unannounced, rummaging through their drawers and genuinely making a nuisance of yourself by smashing up their living rooms and listening in on their conversations.
Then you meet Mat who has a cool looking ray-gun and jetpack, and the game starts to open up a little bit more. You’re now hovering between rooftops, shooting at rats from a distance, picking up loot and unlocking chests.
As you wander around, you start to pick up fun little references to 80s culture. There’s nods and winks to the likes of Ghostbusters, Goonies, Back to the Future, Pet Semetary. There’s the suggestion of a wider government conspiracy the deeper down the rabbit hole you go. And the mechanics broaden even further, giving you the ability to push crates and catapault across the map.
Then the game really hits a crescendo when you first cross over to the other realm – thanks to a mysterious pink, diamond-shaped artefact – and start talking to ghosts and battling with ghouls. Or so you think, at least.
Crossing Souls just keeps surprising and enticing by always keeping you on your toes and making sure you don’t know what to expect.
The whole time I played Crossing Souls I had a smile on my face and the controller glued to my hands. In a morbid, macabre sort of way, I wondered when the game would stop being fun and start to get a bit flat. It has to, right?
But it genuinely doesn’t. Yes, some platforming sections are a little irritating and a couple of puzzles will take longer to solve than others. Boss battles can provide an unforgiving challenge, but there is also a satisfaction there. 9 times out of 10, you’ll need to use the kids abilities together to succeed, switching them out on the fly, figuring out those combinations. And when you realise where mistakes were made and you figure out how to proceed, you’ll forget why you were ever angry in the first place.
Crossing Souls is full of lovingly crafted scenes and sequences. There is so much heart driving the experience and a clear desire to entertain that you cannot help but fall in love with this sensational debut.
The real-time combat is delicately crafted, the narrative is full of surprising twists and turns, the ambience and aesthetic could not be more appropriate. Everything just clicks and pieces together naturally and effortlessly.
In a year where AAA blockbusters are focused on squeezing every last drop of speed and power out of processors and graphics cards, Fourattic have given us a wholesome, humble, and most importantly fun video game that you’ll simply adore from start to finish. No doubt about it, Crossing Souls is the indie game to beat in 2018.
+ Pixel perfect
+ Continuously surprising
+ Pure, unadulterated fun
+ One of the best genre mashups ever seen
+ Cartoon cutscenes are a thing of absolute beauty!
– Harsh difficulty at certain points
9.5 out of 10
Tested on PC