The theme of the American eighties is actively taking over the media space. The unprecedented success of the Stranger Things series and the remake of "It" by Andres Muschetti haunts the creators, and some see it as an opportunity for easy money. The success of such creativity has generated a demand for strong children's characters who fight against inexplicable and mysterious evil. But everything new is well forgotten old: Stephen King wrote "It" back in 1986 - during the same period the films "Goofs" and "Stay with Me" were released, the main characters of which were teenage friends. The game of the Spanish indie studio Fourattic also targets the ranks of the eternal classics. Let's see what came of it.
Welcome to the eighties through the eyes of a resident of the early twenty-first century. A new trend burst into our lives, as the battle royale genre burst into multiplayer shooters. Soon this fashion will go away too. But while there is still time to ride the nostalgia train - this is what Crossing Souls, a game from the Spanish indie studio Fourattic, takes advantage of. All the necessary attributes are in place: a wayward team of teenagers, stupid adults, ultimate evil, pink retro scale and obligatory synth-pop on the soundtrack.
The plot of the story partly echoes the King's story "The Body" and the film "Stay with Me" based on it: a group of American teenagers, a forest, a corpse, hooligans and inevitable consequences. With only one caveat - on the corpse, the heroes of the game find a mysterious artifact "Stone of Duat", which literally becomes the source of the misadventures of friends and the cause of no less than the end of the world.
The magic stone turns out to be the door to the world of the dead. And, of course, evil people in military uniform are already hunting him.
At the head of the evil people in military uniform is Major Ou Rus burdened with the idea of world domination, who, as usual, has a couple of evil assistants - Bronson and Hartman, they will put a spoke in the wheels of our teenagers throughout the game. Scientist McKittrick from the major's laboratory, whose corpse is found by the brother of the protagonist at the beginning of the game, in a heroic impulse tried to steal the artifact and postpone the inevitable "War of a Day."
But, as usual, nothing worked out for him, and now the small town of Tohuna, California, and also the whole world, is in great danger. However, nothing new.
It is worth noting that as you progress through you will see a couple of really interesting plot twists, some of which can really surprise you. But I will say right away - no revelations, everything is strictly in order to move the characters forward.
There are five characters in the team: Chris, Kevin, Big Joe, Charlie and Matt. Each has its own abilities and characteristics. Many problems in the game can only be solved together, and in some places you generally have to write down the solution on a piece of paper. Third-party tasks are a nice bonus in the game - these are, of course, not metroidvania, but a lollipop for replenishing health and an achievement will be given.
Chris is the undisputed leader. He masterfully wields his father's bat and the only friend knows how to jump and climb stairs and vines.
Matt is the brain of the team. Stores hazardous materials in the garage and invents improvised laser cannons. He knows how to shoot and fly long distances on jet sneakers. Harnessed the energy of the Duat Stone by stuffing it into a walkman.
Charlie is Chris's love interest, a dangerous redhead girl from the Redneck Trailer Park. Masterfully wields a rope and moves with lightning speed. With the help of the same rope, it can fly over huge abysses. Alright, and you're on the other side!
Big Joe is a kind guy in basketball uniform. Loves his friends, food and gravity sipping. Only he can easily move a stale boulder or an ancient slab in an Indian cave. The tank is classic.
It is interesting to play with all five children, all their capabilities will be equally involved in the gameplay, but sometimes you do not leave the feeling that this is just one adult hero, divided into five smaller characters.
And there are really enough references here. Someone will say that this is a blatant exploitation of images, someone that is a respectful tribute to the memory of the culture of the 80s. Personally, it seemed to me that finding funny Easter eggs is very pleasant: they are not far-fetched and fit into the world of the game. Especially references to "Ghostbusters", since the main motive of the game is interaction with the world of the dead.
And the references are not only textual, but quite visual and visual - thanks to really high-quality and detailed pixel art. Let's even say that Crossing Souls' pixel art suits you, which, you see, is a rare compliment when it comes to pixel art. In terms of detail, the game is not inferior to the same Celeste, which we recently praised for working with pixels . Locations here do not seem empty, be it a city square, an abandoned mansion or a pet cemetery. The story changes the scene so quickly that you don't get tired of the world of the game, but on the contrary, you wonder where this time the difficult unlucky teenagers will take.
The local collectibles system is also based on cultural references - everything is collected here: secret documents, NES-cartridges, movie posters and cassettes with recordings of famous music groups. All names have been changed, but so much so that it was easy to understand who is hiding behind the same US2 pseudonym.
Game screensavers are presented in the form of classic hand-drawn animation, stylized as an old-school animated series. Imagine, there are full-fledged screensavers here - you don't even expect that from an indie game.
Despite the somewhat secondary nature of the Crossing Souls storyline, it provides a lot of room for game design. It seems that this game has it all - a topdown platformer with simple riddles such as "find the key", various arcade inserts and at one point even a quest at a rudimentary level. And the duration for indie is rather big - about eight hours.
These very arcade inserts deserve a separate paragraph, because compared to them, the main game seems to be a walk in the park. Perhaps the developers intended everything this way, but this turns the passage into a roller coaster - here you easily throw a bunch of spirits, and then, swearing terribly, you try to get away from Bronson by bike for ten minutes.
In some inserts, you have to change the character on the fly, which is why you just jump into a bottomless abyss a couple of times or two. I mostly died there - even the boss battles here are not so hard. And this is very strange.
I praise the bosses, here according to the classics: everyone needs their own approach and tactics. Especially memorable is the mustachioed fat school bus driver with an army of ghost children.
There is no voice acting in the game (except for a couple of moments in the screensavers), so the Russian text on the screen looks like its own. It is worth noting the competent localization of fonts - the Russian-speaking player gets almost the same picture as in the original. But, as always happens, there are minor flaws in localization, which, however, does not affect the general impressions.
As can be seen from the English text, Chris lists the names of the films that were modern and fashionable at the time. For some reason, Russian translators have replaced this reference with a family chronicle and a recording of a football match. Were you afraid that the Russian people in 2018 had not heard about "Ghostbusters" and "Something"? Or is it just that the lines in the Russian column have been mixed up in places? The translation is still pleasant, regardless of whether there is a substitution or not.
Agree, it's nice when there are good Russian fonts in the game. In Crossing Souls, fonts are part of the atmosphere, so the developers have tried to keep the versions consistent. But with the city map font we missed a little: it is not too pixelated.
For example, here Chris's father for a moment became a woman and "made a marriage proposal to his school friend Nicole." Agree, this minor typo immediately raises a bunch of questions. Of course not - it's just a typo.
Alas, the new game icon did not work out: the game copes well with the role of a cultural ambassador from the 80s, but is almost not perceived as an independent work - there are too many borrowings here. But it's a pretty solid platformer with a functional storyline, a wagon of references and cute, painstakingly drawn pixel art. Depending on your tastes, the game may well win your heart.
Devolver Digital continues to release games from up-and-coming indie developers, and we continue to play them.
Whether you are missing the adventures of childhood, love the Back to the Future trilogy, fondly recall teenage fantasy, or just want to catch up, Crossing Souls can bring you a couple of nice evenings in pink gradient accompanied by a quality retro wave.
For the more curious, a free demo is available on Steam.