From the very beginning you can see that Crossing Souls is a work of love. Fourattic's debut has spent several years in the oven, and the care and passion put into every single aspect of the game becomes apparent the moment you start your adventure in the fictional town of Tajunga, in California.
Because the game is first and foremost an adventure, which then combines platforming sections, exploration, dialogue, a bunch of puzzles, and a decent number of combat sequences, including boss fights. The mixture of genres is more or less balanced and the execution is decent, but what will captivate you above all is the effort put into the setting and the overall presentation itself.
Crossing Souls is one of the nicest tributes to '80s movies, comics, TV shows and pop culture that we've ever seen or played. Every scene, every line, has been enhanced by nostalgic references to some of the best (and some very obscure) works from that decade, and even though it feels a bit too referential at the beginning, soon enough it finds its own personality, with the mood it sets then becoming the main hook for the whole experience.
A lot of this has to do with the excellent audiovisual work. With its pixel-perfect graphics, Crossing Souls proudly fits on Devolver's digital shelves, next to any other of the publisher's modern pixelated hits. The animations have been handled with care, and the amount of visual information per pixel has been nailed. The soundscape is there as well to keep you in the mood, and it does so by combining arcadey SFX with a movie-like score. The icing on the cake is the cartoon cutscenes, which could easily bring a tear to the eye.
The other main driving force behind the game is the script. The plot follows the story of Chris, Matt, Big Joe, Charlie, and Kevin as they spend their summer holiday uncovering a world-ending conspiracy and flirting with the other side by means of a mysterious, magical "Duat stone". Again, while this is of course (and purposely) filled with clichés, the continuous interplay between the five kids, as well as their interaction with both the world and other NPCs via well-written dialogue, is charming enough to make you want to learn more.
We've left the gameplay aspect pretty unexplained until now as, as you may have noticed, it really isn't that prominent. Each of the kids has their own abilities with regards to how they navigate the world and tackle combat, and you'll be switching between them by pressing L1 as you see fit in each situation. Chris's bat and climbing abilities make him the all-rounder, but Matt's laser beam and hovering ability come in handy every now and then, even if he's probably the weakest. Charlie is an athlete with her whipping skipping rope, just the opposite to juggernaut Big Joe and his crate-moving skills, and so on.
Kevin is... special, as he's the (mandatory spoiler alert) first to enter the other world, the world of the dead, where he becomes playable in ghost-form. This makes for new dual puzzles as you switch between one group of characters and the other, as the game gets a bit more complex at times.
However, it looks like Fourattic went a bit too retro in terms of game design and mechanics. Even though they naturally suit the visual style by recalling classic inspirations, we've come to expect more punch from neo-retro gameplay like this. In other words, Crossing Souls would've benefited from a more varied and rewarding combat system, more agile platforming sections, and more intriguing level design.
As it is, even if the game is very well put together, you really don't feel that connected to the gameplay itself, no matter if you're exploring the world, solving puzzles, or fighting your way through enemies. Some of the boss fights are perhaps highlights in this regard, while some of the platforming/labyrinth sections could easily end up being boring and even frustrating. At the same time, the lack of variety (in gameplay situations, not in the presentation) makes for a lesser sense of progression, other than how you use the same characters and items.
In conclusion, the fun here comes from the atmosphere, the comprehensive background detail, and the work put into characters and presentation, with some amazing nods and a couple of memorable scenarios, rather than coming from truly engaging gameplay. That said, the game feels somehow dynamic and refreshing, and delivers good value for its price. A must-have for lovers of '80s pop culture, although adventure game aficionados and even beat 'em up fans may want to check their nostalgia meter first. In any case, the game is a testament to Fourattic's talent and we're already looking forward to seeing what they come up with next.