Crossing Souls – Review

What an adventure!

Despite the small indie team at Fourattic they’ve managed to produce a fantastic adventure / RPG lite game that perfectly captures the feel of those classic ‘coming of age’ movies from the 80’s.  ‘The Goonies’, ‘Stand by Me’, ‘The Explorers’, ‘E.T.’, ‘The Karate Kid’, ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off’, ‘Weird Science’, ‘The Lost Boys’ and many more all come to mind while playing Crossing Souls.

“It’s 1986 in California. A group of friends discover a mysterious pink stone that allows them to travel between two realms. This gang will live the summer of their lives in an adventure that will get them involved in a government conspiracy. Control five kids with special skills while fighting and solving puzzles in order to save their families and the world.”

In case you missed it, I also previewed this game a few weeks ago and you can check that out here –

In the Summer of 1986 our story begins…

Crossing Souls drips thematic atmosphere, includes a soundtrack that could have been lifted straight from a 1980’s movie and is stuffed full of homages (Easter Eggs) to movies and books of the time.  I could easily put this game on my shelf next to some of those movies I listed above.  I wouldn’t be surprised to find entire forum threads discussing all of the nods in this game, both hidden and otherwise.  Toy Story, Poltergeist, Back to the Future, The Return of the Living Dead, and many other films are directly referenced and if you are familiar with movies of the 80’s you’ll have a smile on your face each and every time you catch a reference.

The story itself is largely original though (despite the homages) as you guide Chris, his brother Kevin, friends Big Joe and Matt, and his crush Charlie through an epic adventure.  What starts as a simple childish adventure quickly escalates into a much larger situation.

Not ‘The Goonies’ at all.

It’s important for me to make clear that despite Crossing Souls’ top-down 16-bit appearance the game is only RPG-lite.  It is primarily and foremost and action adventure game.  You won’t level up, gain much in the way of new equipment or improve your weapons and skills.  What you will get is a deep, rich and satisfying story.  How deep and rich you ask?  I found myself with an emotional connection to all of the characters and despite a couple of cliche moments ultimately shed tears at the conclusion.

And when you think about it, it wasn’t so much the visuals, combat mechanics or skill trees that made games like Secret of Mana, Link to the Past, Final Fantasy VII, Chrono Trigger and others so memorable.  It was the story.  A well written story will draw you in, keep you engaged and leave a lasting impression.  I don’t always have the time to complete the games I review, let alone explore alternate paths, and go back to hunt through maps looking for collectables.  And yet that is exactly what I did with Crossing Souls. While you could simply run from A to Z and finish the game, there is an awful lot you would miss out on.

Explore. There are lots of neat things to find.

Take your time, explore the maps, speak with NPC characters, read books, interact with everything and enjoy the world.  There are a LOT of neat scenes you can only catch at certain points of the game that help make the story richer, but could easily be missed if you were bee-lining for the finish line.  For those that enjoy collectables, there are plenty hidden all over the place in the form of VHS movies, cassette tapes and video games.  All spoofs of their real-life counterparts and quite humorous.

I spent a little over 21 hours with Crossing Souls, and I’d argue that if you took your time and enjoyed the game you’d finish it in about 12-16 hours.  Can’t help yourself and have to finish it ASAP? ~8-10 hours maybe?  Finding everything and completing achievements? Who knows, but you’d likely be going through the game thoroughly a second time so somewhere between 30-40 hours.

Great use of the 16-bit graphics.  While some games don’t suit the style or just get it wrong, Crossing Souls looks and feels like a Super Nintendo title, with just a few little post-processing improvements.  It completely suits the game considering its period setting.  Cutscenes are suitably camp and filled with VHS grain and tracking, capturing the morning cartoons of the 80’s nostalgia.  There is a bunch of detail in many of the scenes; I urge you to take your time exploring them.

Much like the 16-bit games of the day there is no speech to mention, although it doesn’t really need it and I think if the characters were voice-acted it would probably break the immersion to a degree.  That being said, all of the sound effects used in the game are perfectly suitable.  The soundtrack is a blend of orchestral and actual songs, which gives the game a theatrical feeling and is really well done.  Music is used appropriately and really helps stimulate an emotional response to the scene taking place.  Kudos to whomever was responsible for the musical score on this game.

When you fire up the game it’s going to recommend you use a control pad.  I stuck with mouse and keyboard and had no problems at all.  Play to suit your personal preference.  Fighting, moving and navigating menus was easy.  A USB SNES controller would be neat.

Lots of collectibles to hunt down.

As I mentioned earlier, this is largely an adventure game with action elements.  You will spend the early part of the game just wandering around exploring and talking to people.  Action sequences are largely straight forward with some simple jumping puzzles and the like.  Combat takes place in real time and reminds me of Secret of Mana or Link to the Past.  You’ll probably settle on a preferred character for combat, although each have their perks and some deal with particular enemies better than others.  Likewise, certain puzzles will require a particular character.  Big Joe can move around heavy boxes, while Matt has jet packs in his shoes for moving long distances in the air.  Chris can climb up on vines and jump while Charlie can sling shot herself long distances.  Kevin? Kevin can fart, pick his nose, blow gum bubbles and eventually picks up an interesting trick that I won’t spoil here.

There is a sharp increase in difficulty though as you near the end game and I was a little disappointed when a later chapter had little-to-no story and was simply jumping puzzles and fighting enemies.  It almost had that Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines feel where the last chapter was rushed.  One particular boss fight took several goes, made more annoying by an unskippable cutscene before it that would be repeated each and every time you tried again.  Those two niggles aside the game is excellent and the other 90% of it is thoroughly enjoyable in every way.  I only wish there was more of it.

Indie gaming done right! A thoroughly enjoyable experience. Provided you enjoy a good story, there is absolutely no reason not to pick up Crossing Souls.  Like a good book though, take your time with it and enjoy it.  I’d love to see a prequel / sequel / sidequel at some point and feel there could be a lot more adventures to be had with Chris and his team.  The game will typically sell for $14.99 USD ($19.07 AUD) but is currently enjoying a 20% discount, bringing it down to $11.99 USD ($15.25 AUD).  Applying the old ‘$1 per hour of gameplay’ rule there is absolutely no reason not to pick this game up now at the discounted price.

SCORE – 90%

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