I always love it when a game comes out of nowhere and completely takes me by surprise. I had not heard of this game until I saw it streamed by the PC Access team but I was instantly grabbed by it and made it a point to get this title in my PS4 as soon as physically possible. With the promise of a superb story and cast of characters to take me on a nostalgic trip back to the 80s, it was finally time to give Crossing Souls a go.
Crossing Souls takes us back to 1986 and the sunny days of California where five teenage friends, Chris, Kevin, Matt, Charlie and Big Joe are getting ready to enjoy their summer break when Kevin, younger brother to Chris, makes a discovery that will change all their lives and the world forever and for me, the most fun opening 90 minutes to a game I have had so far this year. I do not think the stupid happy grin left my face for a good few hours whilst playing this game with so much of it just ticking so many gameplay boxes not to mention the amazing attention to nostalgia that is threading throughout this game.
It is almost crazy just how many gameplay styles are blended together into Crossing Souls. From the very start it has the old school visual art style of a Lucasarts game of old with an 8 Bit feel that completely suits the 80s tone to the game. The detail in the animation of each character works well to make sure they each have their own personality in their movement style that makes them all unique. The audio is very much set in the old school gaming style that combined with the animation and overall visual style to the game just creates an amazing world for these characters and the player to experience. Crossing Souls is an action adventure game where puzzles will need to solved and each of the friends will have their role to play to do that as well as a combat element that harks back to the good old days of Streets of Rage at times.
The first hour of the game will see Chris going in search of his brother Kevin who has summoned everyone to meet at their secret treehouse base after making a discovery that have to see to believe. As Chris collects each friend we get a quick chance to learn something about them and their skill set and how they fit into the mix. They really are a completely believable group of friends and instantly remind me of the Goonies. The writing and dialogue for each character is superb and is full of nods and references to iconic things from the 80s which also works its way into the locations the friends will travel too. There is also a really fun element of breaking the fourth wall which is used really well and never over done.
The player can only control one character at a time, and in true old school fashion, all the characters will inhabit one body and using the controller bumpers to switch between the characters to use. Chris for example is a star high school baseball player and so carries a baseball to fight with and as the ability to jump and climb vines. Matt is the scientist of the group and budding little Tony Stark with the gadgets he invents. Matt has a laser gun for ranged attacks and hover boots allowing him to hover long distances. Charlie is the girl of the group and has the ability to dash quickly and using a skipping rope as a deadly whip in combat. Big Joe is the powerhouse of the group, slow moving but packing the hardest of punches and ability to move heavy objects, which leaves Kevin who can jump and blow bubble gum. Depending on what the environment and situation is will give the player the chance to select which character is best to use. Some of the later stages and puzzles will require some hot switching between them but will come to that a bit later on.
The intriguing element to this game comes in the form of the Duat Stone, which has the ability to reveal the spirits of the dead who are still part of the world but can’t be seen. Our heroes find the stone and a way to use it which brings the world of the dead into the world of the living adding new puzzles to solve and enemies to battle. I don’t want to spoil too much of the story but it is fair to say that is has all the elements anyone familiar with 80s movies and kids cartoons has. But under all the nostalgia and pop culture references, there is a really deep and emotional story for the characters that was surprising to me. Also huge thumbs up to all the references made that use simple imagery rather than any text to explain the reference so to those who know the 80s, it works really well but also in a smart way to avoid any copyright issues which just adds to the discovery of each one.
As clever as the story and characters are, the game does sadly fall down in some aspects which to an extent undoes some of the good nature gameplay Crossing Souls has. The platforming elements can be very frustrating indeed as they often require precise jumping or quick switching and there is still some input lag on the controller meaning cheap deaths resulting in having to redo that whole section at times. It just adds a clumsiness to the game which is a real shame because overall this is a superbly put together game that gets so many factors in balance but is let down by its own control system. Boss fights are fun for the most part but a couple of end game ones can be extremely cheap stopping you in your tracks with one in particular feeling more than a little unfair.
Crossing Souls is a big surprise for me in 2018, it delivers on so much that as a someone who did grow up in the 80s, uses that nostalgia to great effect to enhance an already fun title to play. Hopefully updates can address the clumsy jumping that hamper the game later on, but the story is solid and really well written to make this a must have title in your collection and a great little distraction from all the big AAA heavy hitters and just refreshing with its old school style but modern enough to make it a great experience early on in 2018.