CrossCode Review – A swell game… within a swell game

Platforms:

Nintendo Switch, PS4, Xbox One

Released:

July 9, 2020

Publishers:

Deck13, WhisperGames

Developer:

Radical Fish Games


Posted July 11, 2020

Really, is there anything better in gaming than when you settle into a niche title that turns out to be absolute magic? Crosscode is an indie sci-fi RPG crowdfunded on Indiegogo a few years ago. It’s already been on Steam for some time. Admittedly, I hadn’t heard of it until it was nearing its (now out) console release. I’m glad I got the chance to play it, because it’s become a personal all-time favourite for me.

CrossCode has quite a unique story. Players control a charming and (almost completely) mute blue-haired character by the name of Lea. The interesting spin here is that she’s a video game avatar, designed for play in the in-game fictional MMORPG called CrossWorlds. Unfortunately, she suffers from amnesia, with the only hints remaining of her past coming to her in dreams upon ‘logging off’ the CrossWorlds servers. These flashes appear to be past moments in her life, occurring within (and maybe even possibly outside) the game. So Lea must play through the game CrossWorlds, hoping that’ll spark some memory. Thankfully she won’t be alone.

Two interesting parallels are offered here. Lea, with the help of others outside of the game, is on a journey to just work out what in the hell is going on. At the same time, they’re taking on a true video game adventure. Plenty of side tasks and missions are on offer, but her sole objective in-game is to plunder dungeons, searching for and mastering the four different combat elements. I won’t give too much away here, but the story is an absolutely stellar ride full of wonderful twists and turns.

The world of CrossWorlds, based all inside CrossCode is a fully realised game world

CrossCode is a gorgeous little indie game that quite often bears homage to classic RPGs without ever crossing the line. Yes, it’s definitely going for that 2D, 16-bit SNES art style but it goes further. There are subtle scenery and iconography nods, such as a Trials of Manaesque giant and important tree deep within a swamp-like forest. Then, more on the nose but still hilarious and fun is an encounter with a large katana-wielding mammal known as Sephisloth. I’ll leave you to pick up the obvious breadcrumbs there.

The other notable thing about the world of CrossCode is that it absolutely feels lived and breathed in. Whether players explore the snowy Bergen Trail or the enchanting jungle that is Gaia’s Garden, there’s plenty to see or do. Plenty of typical trading and shopping that can be found in RPGs is here, but just as important is interaction with those around you. With this, plenty of meta is explored: characters that appear to be typical NPCs will chat to you about updates or contents they ‘wish were coming to CrossWorlds.’ Nearing a portal to an area also sees that space populated with people rushing to enter it. The charm, iconography and in-jokes of MMOs are absolutely there, and it’s nailed.

CrossCode

Combat is another exciting beast in CrossCode. Our hero Lea is a class known as the Spheromancer. What this means is besides their typical melee attacks, they wield the power to fire projectile orbs to damage their enemies. At first, it appears a bit barebones. Fire a series of orbs, hack and slash a bit, repeat. However, it opens up vastly once you get your hands on and upgrade more of the aforementioned elements. Not only does this help you exploit foes’ weaknesses but mix things up greatly. Now, you’re shooting and slashing in style.

A simply stylish RPG adventure

You can use circuits to mod and customise the way you fight too. This allows for more leeway and a breath of relief for the tough, tough boss fights you’ll have ahead of you. Strong, powerful flame punches can be thrown and hell, you can even rain down strong powerful lightning on those that stand in your way. Party members, though uncontrollable, will also be with you most of the way. Thankfully, they too help significantly in packing some mean punches on smaller foes. If all else fails, there’s a slider you can adjust that lowers the damage you receive. Don’t be above using it, it’s your friend!

CrossCode

Arguably the most enticing part of CrossCode is its dungeons. They’re boasted to be on a Legend of Zelda level in quality, and I’d argue some even go further than that. Before you go up in arms about that, it’s worth mentioning that some of these dungeons run over an hour long. The scale in them is absolutely huge. Still, I wouldn’t remove a thing from them.

The reason these dungeons need to be seen to be believed is the intricate level design and thinking that goes into them. Despite being a 2D game, they also still manage to play with verticality, and this includes the puzzles that are flooded in every room too.

 

“The charm, iconography and in-jokes of MMOs is absolutely there, and it’s nailed.”

Remember those orbs I mentioned earlier that I said you’ll have at your disposal? They come into play in puzzling solving in a big way. Instead of trying to simply get from point A to B, more often than not you’ll be trying to activate certain switches in unique ways. Instances of these are incredible. Maybe you’ll rush to use your heat element to melt blocks of ice so that an ever steamrolling projectile can safely travel its planned route to a switch. Other times you’ll use magnets to manipulate and move objects, shoot a flame into a blob of water to steam power a device, or even direct the electric current through a long and testing path.

It’s very, very, very hard to find words to describe the complexity and brilliance of the puzzles in CrossCode. Often you’ll walk into a room overwhelmed by the size and scope of a puzzle ahead of you. You’ll think, “Just how on earth am I meant to do this?” However, when you work it out and watch the pieces slowly fit together, it’s awe-inspiring. I’m talking Portal 2 level quality. Just maybe don’t feel scared to use a guide or two every now and then. I certainly wasn’t.

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CrossCode achieves so much in its 35-40 hour campaign. Whether it’s simple nods to RPGs past and present, getting you to care about a frankly large and charming cast of main characters, or building upon itself in many ways, there’s plenty to see and love. If CrossCode were an entirely new game out this year, it would without a doubt be my game of the year so far.

CrossCode

CrossCode

Nintendo Switch, PS4, Xbox One
RPG

Positive:
  • Gorgeous 16-Bit SNES art-style that's a welcome homage to early RPGs
  • A fantastic narrative that'll have you reeling at every turn.
  • Fun and bombastic combat, complete with interesting modifications.
  • Killer and out of this world puzzles, with smart solutions.
  • Setting and vibes of the game are absolutely close to perfected.
Negative:
  • May occasionally see yourself perusing guides during play more than you'd like
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

9

Amazing

I’m so happy I got the chance to play CrossCode. Within the product is some stellar storytelling and puzzles that I won’t ever forget. I even got to be the first person in the world to earn the platinum trophy for it on PlayStation 4. If this game sounds even remotely like your jam, I implore you to pick it up. It’s on Xbox Game Pass. It’s on Switch. The game’s cheap and really great. Who doesn’t want to experience some video game magic?

If you’re looking for a physical copy of CrossCode, a boxed version can be pre-ordered right here. 



About the Author

Charlie Kelly

Charlie isn't picky when it comes to all media, absorbing as much as possible when she's not studying her Games Design course. Typically on any day you can find Charlie getting over emotional about LGBT characters in video games and perpetually catching up on games she for some reason haven't played yet.