I love the 1980s, but my adoration for the decade pales in comparison to that of developer Fourattic. Its open(ish) world pixelated puzzle-brawler is so packed with '80s references, it’s impressive that the studio managed to fit an actual game in-between its Poltergeist, Gremlins, and Goonies homages.
Set in 1986 and with a story straight out of an Amazing Stories episode, Crossing Souls has you lead a rag-tag band of mis-matched teens pulled directly from every Spielberg or Steven King coming-of-age tale released that decade. It begins in 1945 with the disappearance of a US archaeologist in Egypt, whose body is found half a century later by our five heroic teenage friends. With it is a mysterious artifact called the Duat Stone – one powerful men are seeking, as it is a key component in a plot to take over the world. As such, the kids must band together and use their unique skills to battle the mysterious forces of evil, travel through time, and even talk to the dead.
Even the gameplay of Crossing Souls manages to be an '80s homage, combining the brawling of Double Dragon and character swapping of Maniac Mansion. Whether you’re swinging Chris’s baseball bat or Big Joe’s fists, firing Matt’s laser pistol, or whipping enemies in the face with Charlie’s skipping rope, the combat is satisfying and punishing, especially when you are facing one of the rage-inducing bosses. Swapping between each kid and finding the right combination of skills is important both in combat and for the games’ various puzzles.
The puzzles are for the most part bog-standard fare. Move object X to position Y, activate object A to access Point B. There is some flair here and there, as you will need to swap between characters and use a little lateral or even inter-dimensional thinking to get past a few real stinkers Fourattic drops in your path. Sadly, while both combat and the puzzles start off strong, their lack of depth soon has them become predictable and repetitive. Neither ever becomes bad as such, but the gloss does begin to dull well before the adventure ends.
These problems could be forgiven if not for the very real issue of quantity versus quality imbalance that becomes obvious very early on. The game world is so densely packed with references, Easter eggs, and knowing winks, that they subsume almost everything else. Character beats are lost, and the story itself gets derailed often in order to jam in yet another '80s-ism.
However, there is one '80s re-tread that never outstays its welcome, and that the game's synth soundtrack. It’s radical!
Replete with body-switching, dimension-hopping, and more references than you can shake a Magic 8 Ball at, Crossing Souls is a synth-fuelled, pixelated '80s nostalgia bomb that certainly leaves an impression. But its repetitive gameplay and lack of narrative focus makes it feel less like a love letter to the decade, and more like a series of randomly applied post-its. The result is an adventure in excess. If you’re the right age, you’ll likely find yourself knowingly nodding your head in appreciation about as often as you’ll find yourself shaking it in annoyance.