Platforms: Xbox One (reviewed), PS4, Switch, PC
It’s wild to think that CrossCode from Radical Fish Games entered development in 2012. I still remember playing the demo in 2015 and being really impressed with it. Well, the full game has finally hit consoles after its initial PC run, and if you’ve been eagerly anticipating the console release of CrossCode, you’ll be glad to know that it was worth the wait. Alternatively, if you never actually heard of the game but you enjoy a solid 16-bit isometric RPG with lots of fun combat and puzzles, you should definitely give this title a go without hesitation.
Armed with a blaster… no, wait, armed with a ball
The foundations of CrossCode are built on the game’s ball-based combat. Protagonist Lea mainly uses projectiles to dispose of enemies big and small. The combat is fun and smart, and it feels kind of like a semi-twin-stick shooter. Enemies will appear all around you, and you’ll have to line up your shots and fire at them. You can do quick shots and charge shots, and if you’re close enough, you can even do melee attacks.
On their own, the smaller enemies aren’t all that tough — but they’re rarely on their own. Whether you’re running through a large field or exploring a high-tech dungeon, whenever you engage in battle, it’s usually against a gang of at least four or five baddies. This means you’ll have to pick your shots, dash out of the way of incoming fire, and put up your shield to block enemy attacks. Combat is action-packed, and thanks to both the offensive and defensive abilities you have, it’s a very fast-moving experience that plays great.
Smaller enemies aside, CrossCode features some pretty major bosses. These behemoths often take up half the screen (or more) and unleash vicious attacks that will rapidly deplete your health if you’re not careful. For these encounters, dashing and blocking isn’t enough. Instead, you’ll have to use your environment to take cover from a bullet hell-like barrage of shots from the giant bosses.
Sometimes you’ll find switches scattered in a room and hitting these switches will raise walls or pillars that you can use to block deadly enemy attacks. This allows you to come out from behind cover and take shots wisely. Sometimes you can interrupt enemy attacks, which gives you a bit of an edge as you’ll be able to pull off a few more subsequent attacks. These little systems help keep combat from ever getting dull.
When you’re not dealing with enemies, you’ll be exploring dungeons. A lot of these have a bit of a high-tech Legend of Zelda vibe, and they make for some truly entertaining moments. You’ll use Lea’s projectiles to flip far-off switches, which in turn activate platforms that allow you to push further into the dungeons. Most rooms house some sort of puzzle, and these can get tricky at times, but they’re usually really cool.
When Lea runs off the edge of a platform, she’ll automatically jump. This means you’ll have to time and position your jumps properly to get across some of the trickier platforming sections. You’d think this type of puzzle gameplay would feel out-of-place in an RPG that’s heavily action-oriented, but the platforming puzzle mechanics work really well and sprinkle some nice variety in between all the combat.
A game within a game
Though it does have some interesting moments, the story of CrossCode is a bit weak. Lea has lost her memory and her ability to speak as she’s thrust into a big virtual MMO titled CrossWorlds. It’s here that she encounters a large cast of characters, most of whom aren’t all that great, though there are a few memorable exceptions. There are a couple twists and turns along the way, but for the most part, the game’s story fails to match the greatness of the gameplay.
The game’s virtual world is a sight to see. The pixel art is rich and detailed, with a nice stylized look and solid variety across the many environments you’ll visit. Enemy designs are decent, too, but it’s the game’s locations — from forests to snowy villages to neon-soaked towns — that is just an absolute joy to behold.
The soundtrack in CrossCode is strong, too. There are a number of catchy themes, as well as some really memorable epic songs. Like the actual gameplay, a lot of attention and care was put into the music here.
Clocking in at roughly 35 to 40 hours, CrossCode is a pretty big game. That’s just the main questline, too. Aside from that, there are what seem like infinite side missions. Most of these involve collecting items and bringing them to NPCs or killing specific numbers of enemies. They’re not always great, but a lot of these side jobs can be completed during normal play, and the rewards are usually worth the effort. Side quests will obviously increase your playtime, so if you want to take the deep dive, that all depends on your time constraints.
The world of CrossCode is a great place to visit thanks to its blend of projectile combat and puzzle-platforming. It’s a big world with lots to see and do. The writing could be stronger, but the overall presentation is excellent. It may have been in development a while, but there’s an undeniable quality to CrossCode that proves the wait was well worth it.