Review – Crossing Souls

We currently live in an era where 80’s nostalgia is all the rage. We have current hit TV shows like Stranger Things, tons upon tons of bands trying to emulate the synth-heavy sound from that era, games like Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon, as well as re-releases of retro classics like Dragon’s Lair. Heck, you can even say Toto’s “Africa” is more popular nowadays than back in day. Suffice to say, appreciation for 80’s pop culture is at an all-time high, and there’s no better time for a love letter to that era in game form to be released. This is Crossing Souls, the closest you’ll ever get to a The Goonies videogame. Dare I say, it might even be better than The Goonies!

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How many retro references can you spot?

Crossing Souls tells the story of five suburban kids trapped in an adventure involving mystical relics, supernatural phenomena, multiverses, government conspiracies, and it’s all covered in an adorable pixel art visual style and a nostalgic soundtrack. There’s a bit of Goonies, a bit of Stephen King, and a bit of Steven Spielberg in here.

The game plays like a simplified and linear version of The Legend of Zelda, complete with puzzle solving, simple combat and thought-provoking boss battles. Each kid has different stats and abilities, with one being able to climb up walls, another one possessing ranged attacks, and so on. With the exception of some unnecessarily complicated platforming segments (it’s hard to properly aim at a platform when you’re playing a game in a top-down perspective) and the sometimes stiff combat, I had no issues with the gameplay whatsoever. The game knew when to be action-packed, and it also knew when to let me explore my surroundings looking for easter eggs and nostalgic references.

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More power to you, bro

The graphics are, for the most part, comprised of pixel art, with the exception of a few animated cutscenes. The developers went the distance to emulate the feel of a Saturday morning cartoon from the 80’s, complete with CRT effects and wonky animations. The overworld is well-crafted, full of varied landscapes and tons of pixelated nods to everything everyone loved from the 80’s. From NES consoles to a boss modeled after Prince, this game makes Ready Player One look tame in comparison. The sound department is the best aspect of the entire game. At first, when things are more light-hearted, the game provides you with an adorable soundtrack reminiscent of what John Williams would compose at the time. The soundtrack becomes gradually darker and more focused on synths as the game progresses.

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Nobody likes hedge mazes. NOBODY!

While the game bombards you left and right with more 80’s pop culture references than your mind can process, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t focus on creating an identity of its own. Most of the protagonists (with the exception of one) are adorable and relatable, and the story is a lot deeper than you would expect from a game that tries to emulate the feel of the often innocent Saturday morning cartoons from that era. Crossing Souls even featured some emotional scenes which caught me completely off-guard. They were extremely impactful and they never felt forced: that’s something worth of praise.

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I agree. Apton is god!

Crossing Souls is a blast. A nostalgia bomb with a heart of gold that features more 80’s pop culture references than the entire Big Bang Theory series making love to the Ready Player One book, while still providing fun gameplay and an occasionally touching story. If you’re a retro fan, don’t even think twice: this game was tailor made for nerds like you and me. If you’re not one, well, Crossing Souls is still a blast as it is, so I still recommend it despite a handful of minute flaws.

 

Graphics: 8.5

The pixel art is adorable, and the animations are crisp. The cartoonish cutscenes are poorly animated as a Saturday morning cartoon from the 80’s should be.

Gameplay: 7.5

Basic movements and overall controls are easy to learn and very responsive, although the combat and platforming are a bit stiff.

Sound: 9.0

The soundtrack is reminiscent of the great tunes from 80’s movies by the likes of John Williams. It just makes me smile like an idiot.

Fun Factor: 9.0

Some platforming segments can be a bit bothersome, and some characters can be irritating at times, but I won’t lie: Crossing Souls captivated me like few games this year have managed to.

Final Verdict: 8.5

Reviewed on Switch.
Also available on: PS4, PC.
A copy of Crossing Souls was provided by the publisher.

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