CrossCode review: You don’t need to be finished to be perfect

By Jack Rechsteiner, managing editor.

CrossCode is one of the best indie-developer games I have ever played – and it’s not even fully released yet.

CrossCode is an action-role-playing game currently being made by Radical Fish Games for Windows, OS X and Linux. An extensive demo of the game was released back in 2015 and is expected to be fully released by the end of the first quarter of 2018. CrossCode is presently in version 0.9.8, and Radical Fish Games have used the time the game has spent in early access to lovingly craft and polish this game on its way to completion.

Now, for the game itself. CrossCode is something of a love-letter to the era of SNES games; it looks like it would be perfect to play sitting in front of your old CRT TV. It combines 16-bit pixel graphics with engaging puzzle mechanics and a gripping story but makes it feel new and fresh with buttery-smooth physics that complement its fast-paced combat system. That’s one of the first things you notice when you start playing the game, is just how good it feels to play. The graphics are absolutely beautiful to look at, but the detailed animations react so fluidly to your inputs as the player that exploring and fighting through the world feels more like a dance than anything. In fact, the main protagonist Lea does a whirling pirouette anytime you dash while walking.

From top to bottom, everything about CrossCode feels rewarding and satisfying. The combat is varied and requires you to use both melee and ranged attacks at the same time. The game has an intentional level of difficulty, so that players are rewarded for playing smartly by utilizing different strategies to take out different enemies. The puzzles combine a wide variety of mechanics in order to provide various challenges for the player, which manage to never feel stale or tedious but instead make you interact with the environment in new ways. The world is deep and well-crafted, and exploring it rewards you with a great variety of items and equipment that always make you excited to see what might be around the next corner if you look well enough. Leveling up lets you invest into the games complex, but not overwhelmingly so, skill tree as you unlock new combat arts and element branches throughout the game.

The story (that’s been released so far) as well as the game’s characters are both well-written, unique and extremely enjoyable. You play as Lea the spheromancer who is a player avatar in the online multiplayer game set in the real, physical world of CrossWorlds. It’s a little tricky to explain in just a few sentences, but the game introduces the setting and context to you in a way that feels absolutely natural and is an entirely new idea. All the hills, forests, deserts and mountains of CrossWorlds form the virtually augmented, but otherwise physical space, that the game of CrossCode takes place in. It is a surprisingly multi-layered story that draws you in with its interesting premise and sells you on the idea with its quirky and lovable characters. The game is filled to the brim with witty dialogue and entertaining character development. Even the main character has a very clear personality, despite her vocabulary only consisting of the word “Hi!” (in the beginning. She begins to add words to her vocabulary, but you’ll have to play the game to figure out why.)

CrossCode uses a combination of expressive and likeable (N)PCs, an interesting setting that keeps you interested, thoughtful puzzles that require brains AND reflexes, as well as a rewardingly challenging battle system that doesn’t get boring or tedious that’s all packaged in a charming, hand-pixelated environment. I play this game every time that new content is released for it, and with the full version coming out in just the next few months, I can already tell this will be my favorite game of 2018.

Comments are closed.