The resurgence of 80’s nostalgia recently has resulted in some of the best media of the last ten years. Spielberg’s Super 8, Stranger Things, and the remake of It are all releases that jump to mind. In steps developer Fourattic and Devolver Digital with the release of Crossing Souls. Adventure games are nothing new, but an incredible soundtrack, and stylized retro graphics really help set Crossing Souls apart from other adventure titles.
Taking place in 1986, Crossing Souls follows a mismatched group of five teenagers. All of the main protagonists feel like they’re lifted straight out of the 80’s adventure movies like Stand By Me. There’s the trailer park Charlie, a female whose father is an alcoholic who doesn’t fit in with her social standing. Chris, our lead, and his little brother Kevin. Matt, the lovable nerd who doesn’t want to be put into any dangerous situations, and lastly Big Joe, the token black friend who fits right in with this eclectic group.
Things kick off pretty quick, right after Kevin finds a dead body in the woods and the group agrees to go check it out. They swiftly find themselves embroiled in a military conspiracy led by Major Oh Russ as he attempts to harness the energy of a powerful artifact. The group must stop Major Oh Russ, learn more about the artifact they find and rescue their parents from the grasp of this delusional military leader.
The world of Crossing Souls is built a lot like the old school Zelda titles. Players navigate squares of the world and then move onto the next one uncovering clues and defeating enemies. The thing that really makes Crossing Souls so special is how packed it is with pop culture references, not just 80’s references either, but also current day references. It was pretty cool having references to things I’ve loved from the past few years in this old school game. For example, the treehouse these teenagers use had Dragon Ball posters hanging on the wall, but while I was exploring town I found a flyer that said “have you seen this man” with a picture of Heisenberg from Breaking Bad on it. These reverse throwbacks were pretty unique and it was an easy way for the developers to have me searching every nook and cranny for other references.
Each of the 5 characters in Crossing Souls is playable too. Most of the puzzles built into the world revolve around using each of the characters in unique was. One puzzle had me using Matt’s hover ability to work my way around a group of crates while navigating moving platforms, and then having Big Joe move crates around to reach a certain area. Each character has unique abilities, and each one is used in unique ways.
The soundtrack was the initial thing that actually drew me to Crossing Souls. I’m a big fan of the movie Drive, and the song I most associate with that movie is “A Real Hero” by College & Electric Youth. The musical sound of that song just oozes 80’s synth, and the song used in the trailer for Crossing Souls instantly reminded me of that song. The soundtrack in Crossing Souls is unique and varied throughout the 8 hour campaign. It’s all stylized for the time period, but each area’s unique music and sound effects really help bring the world to life.
The only thing that really felt like a detractor for me was the combat. Each character has unique abilities, but it often felt like I was just mashing the square button (the attack button) until either my enemies died, or my character was low enough on health I needed to switch. The boss fights had a bit more variation in them which was nice, but most of the game had me fighting weaker enemies. Boss fights in Crossing Souls forced me to switch up my tactics. One boss had me evading energy blasts until he needed to recharge, which was the time to have Matt use his energy gun to blast power converters to overload them and then have Big Joe pull them out of place. These fights felt like puzzles within a boss battle which helped mix up the combat system.
I mentioned the stylized graphics before, but Crossing Souls is uniquely beautiful. The world is full of people to talk to and detailed towns, sewers and graveyards. Interspersed throughout the exploration are beautiful hand drawn cutscenes that break up the gameplay in between sections. The world is vibrant, and there are lots of things to do hidden throughout each area.
After doing a little bit of research on Crossing Souls, I found out that there was actually a Kickstarter campaign initially associated with it. After partnering with Devolver Digital, it was announced that Devolver would publish Crossing Souls no matter if they hit their crowdfunding goal or how far into the goal developer Fourattic reached. It’s a good thing too, because Crossing Souls is a fun, varied, 80’s throwback. Fans of old school adventure titles will feel right at home with the unique (but typical) cast of characters, and will want to explore every nook and cranny and talk to every unique character in this robust world.