Did you ever use the monkey bars when you were younger? You put both hands firmly on the bar and swing yourself in the attempt to reach the next bar, in the ambition to grasp the other end. Playing CrossCode was a similar experience; sometimes you would fail miserably and would lose your grip and have to re-start from the beginning again. Regardless if you were successful or not, you knew you were going to keep climbing right back on those bars. However, when you were finally successful, it was beyond gratifying.
Radical Fish Games have developed a 2D RPG game that will make you swing from bar to bar with its charming 16-bit nostalgia graphics, compelling plot and platformer inspired puzzles, which when solved makes you feel like a smooth-operator.
The story follows our protagonist, Lea as she wakes up on a Cargo Ship. She is later informed she’s in an MMO game called Crossworlds, where the maintenance staff have injected her back into the game in the hopes she will regain her memories by playing Crosswords. However, she’ll have to pass off as a normal player without arousing suspicion that may be more difficult than it sounds, as Lea is playing a very under-represented class called the Spheromancer. On top of the fact she’s unable to speak, that leads herself being landed in some comical moments within the storytelling that certainly adds a layer of charm to our heroine. On surface value, it may sound like the premise follows in the footsteps of the alkies of .hack and Sword Art Online, but the story takes many unexpected turns several hours into the plot that it certainly stands out on its own merit.
A real high point of CrossCode is the puzzles that the game presents you. I must admit, I’m not usually a fan of puzzle orientated games, so I was surprised that I found myself really enjoying the puzzle aspects. Sometimes it’ll want you to use a twin-stick aim so you can project a ball forward to hit an object from far away, or jump off a platform with exact precision or else you’ll go tumbling down. The puzzles are unassuming but not always simple to execute. So, upon resolving a puzzle it really felt like a slick manoeuvre, especially when encountering puzzles within dungeon environments. I think the reason the puzzles excel in this game even though they can be challenging at times, is because you are immediately rewarded for your efforts when you’re successful. Even when my attempts were unsuccessful it never left me feeling frustrated to the extent I stopped playing the game.
The combat in CrossCode is smooth, high pace but still intricate. Progressing later throughout the game, you’ll have more abilities within your arsenal to fiercely tackle your opponents with, and sometimes there will be hordes of foes to strike down where these abilities will come in handy. However, this is introduced to you at a healthy pace and I never felt like a fish out of water, more of a natural progression. You can personalise your experience with equipping items and investing CP points gained levelling up your characters on the circuits – that is an essentially a skill tree. So, you can tailor your combat skills to your preference. You’ll also encounter characters throughout your journey that can join your party, which will actually be helpful in combat situations especially at the lower levels. Let’s be real, AI party members are not often helpful in games, so this was a welcomed edition.
The boss battles are a challenge, but in the same vein as the puzzles, a rewarding challenge when completed. It requires you to learn an array of the opponent movements whilst using the environments to your advantage. I’m not ashamed to admit that I died a few times trying to figure out the pattern and routines of several bosses in the game. Luckily, if you ever find the game too challenging you do have the option to alter the difficulty level to your preference that is a nice reassurance.
Visually, CrossCode is a vibrant retro SNES inspired experience mixed with many subtleties and nods to the MMO genre. These include trade market stalls willing to exchange items found in the environments for goodies, to random NPC’s running around the towns and conversing with one another – the world never feels empty. Running through the town never felt like an artificial MMO world even though it was a single-player experience. The more you’ve divulged into the MMO genre, the more you’ll appreciate the small nuances about CrossCode.
Playing through the entirety of the game will take you roughly 40-50 hours but this time can be easily doubled if you want to explore all the routes for finding the treasures and achieving all the side quests given to you by NPC characters. As you might expect, achieving the majority of these side quests will require some mad solving puzzle skills to come into play. Solving the puzzles will be pivotal if you want to see all aspects of the game.
From its distinctive plot, thought-provoking puzzle segments and highly enjoyable combat system, CrossCode has a truly unique experience to offer players. If you’re not a fan of the RPG genre this won’t be the game to change your mind. But for anyone that’s looking for the next RPG to sink some serious hours into that doesn’t mind an MMO spin onto the story, this is a must-have.
CrossCode PS4 Review
Overall - Must Buy - 9/10
CrossCode is an RPG overflowing with greatness with its vibrant 16-bit graphics, challenging puzzles and fantastic combat system that in accumulation pulls you into this immersive and sublime world. CrossCode is without a doubt one of the best indie games to arrive on the PS4 this year so far.
Compelling plot with many nods to the MMO genre.
Vibrant SNES inspired graphics
Fantastic combat system
Challenging puzzle segments
Even though the puzzle segments are immensely fun, some may find them difficult at first glance
The game is unlikely to win over new fans to the genre
Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using a copy of the game provided by the publisher. For more information, please read our Review Policy.
Reviewed using PS4 Slim.