Crossing Souls


Review by · March 25, 2018

80s America. An era filled with societal landmarks. Just imagine how different the world would be had the NES been a commercial flop or if Steve Jobs had opted not to unveil the first Macintosh computer. With such monumental milestones, it’s not surprising that society’s love for this decade has not diminished throughout the years. Lately, this undying attachment has become even more apparent with the rise of remakes and terrific tributes like Stranger Things and Nintendo’s unexpected revitalization of the NES with the NES classic.

Capitalizing on this ongoing throwback is Crossing Souls, an action-adventure game that attempts to artistically encapsulate the spirit of 80s American culture. Its story begins during the summer of 1986 in the quaint town of Tujunga, California when five teenagers stumble upon a mysterious stone that allows them to traverse between the astral and physical planes. Seeing this as the perfect cure for the summer doldrums, they embark on the adventure of a lifetime, filled with peculiarities, idolatries, and government conspiracies.

Right off the bat, Crossing Souls boldly showcases its classic appeal with an opening sequence that emulates old children’s cartoons, featuring hand-drawn animations, pseudo-television interference, and upbeat synth-pop accompaniment. To further flaunt its 80s splendor, the game employs stunning 16-bit graphics that resemble the ones used in games from the past. But unlike its antiquated influences, Crossing Souls’ visuals are vibrantly detailed, captivating, and highlight each distinct characteristic of its numerous locations. I particularly enjoyed scavenging for all the pixelated 80s memorabilia Fourattic scattered throughout the game. I won’t disclose any titles throughout my review to maintain the element of surprise (and totally not because of my abysmal 80s knowledge).

And that’s not all.

Complementing the visuals is a superb soundtrack that strikes a sensational balance between introspection and extrospection. Staying true to their synthwave origins, Timecop1983’s evocative tracks truly hit home and take you back to a time that once was — a time where life felt unfettered. Conversely, Chris Köbke’s stringed compositions are more atmospheric and elicit powerful emotions in order to establish the overall tone for each particular setting. Although seemingly contrasting, both musical styles create a duality regarding human perception: one causes you to look back, while the other urges you to move forward. Out of all the songs, the original and orchestral versions of “Dreams” best exemplify this, and I highly suggest you listen to them both in succession.

Undermining this heartwarming hodgepodge is a linearly hackneyed plot with a patchwork of 80s conventions. Crossing Souls starts out like your average coming-of-age story, but it gradually morphs into an outlandish narrative that attempts to add overused science fiction, fantasy, and paranormal elements (since these were the emerging genres of the 80s) that are haphazardly tied together with a saving-the-world shtick. Combine this with recycled NPC dialogue and mandatory fetch quests, and you’ve got a story that’s far from substantial.

Adding to my onslaught of story complaints is Crossing Souls’ incredibly insipid cast and their threadbare 80s clichés. Instead of exploring some of their strained familial relationships or establishing a decent backstory, we get a gang of voiceless latchkey kids and a power-obsessed antagonist who fail to develop beyond their assigned archetypes. Debasing things further is the group’s contrived camaraderie. For a game that glamorizes the power of friendship, Crossing Souls doesn’t timely cultivate the bond between the five main characters. Their limited group interactions that consist of superficial exchanges, awkward pauses, and sudden melodramatic outbursts made me wonder why they were all friends in the first place.

In terms of gameplay, Crossing Souls is your typical platformer with several puzzles scattered in between to provide a much-appreciated change of pace. Most of the puzzles are quite enjoyable and aren’t particularly perplexing — save for an archaeologically themed one with a solution that’s a sure stumper for many. The most interesting puzzles are the ones that involve alternating between the two planes to bypass locked doors or detect hidden pathways (similar to the “reveal” psynergy from Golden Sun).

On top of this, several of the platforming puzzles are specifically tailored so that each of the characters’ distinct field abilities is required to navigate your way to the next area. For instance, there are huge gaps that only Matt can cross with his booster-infused shoes. Charlie, on the other hand, can catapult herself between ledges using two wooden supports. While this isn’t anything revolutionary, it’s a creatively effective way of utilizing each of the characters and making them feel purposeful. And without spoiling too much, it also heightens the overall impact of the game’s harrowing events.

Even though Crossing Souls is your typical hack-and-slash, its battle system is engaging with a slew of strategic combat mechanics. Similar to elemental affinities, the monsters are cleverly crafted so that each kid’s unique weapon is strong against a particular type. For example, Chris’ baseball bat can deflect incoming projectiles from shooter-type enemies, while Big J’s bare fists can easily destroy the toughest of goons. To discourage mere button mashing, Crossing Souls implements a stamina bar that gradually depletes after each attack. Completely exhausting it immobilizes you for several seconds and can signal your demise if you aren’t careful. Therefore, knowing each weapon’s capabilities and constantly monitoring your health and stamina are imperative for survival — especially during the dynamic and demanding boss battles.

For a game with fast-paced combat that heavily focuses on switching between characters, Crossing Souls’ swapping mechanic is surprisingly slow and poorly designed. First, you can only switch to one character at a time and only in one direction. To make things even more frustrating, you can still be damaged while swapping characters. Compare this to a game with identical gameplay like Dark Cloud, which managed to have smooth character transitions via a rotatable ring and immunity frames during swapping a full 18 years ago. And did I mention that it’s game over when your current character loses all of their health? So let me end this with a pro-tip: always keep everyone healthy at all times. It will save you a few hundred expletives.

If I could describe Crossing Souls in one word, I would call it ambitious. It’s a game that transforms the most memorable moments of the 80s into a nonsensical yet nostalgic escapade; a game whose originality lies in embracing its unoriginality; and a game that lacks focus but is brimming with heart. So for those of you willing to take this time-rewinding journey, put on your Saturday morning pajamas and rose-colored glasses and enjoy the trip down memory lane. I know I did.


Spectacular 80s-like soundtrack with modern twists, enticing pixelated graphics, pure nostalgia.


Horrible combat controls, uninspiring story with unmemorable characters, too many clichés.

Bottom Line

For those of you with strong attachments to the 80s, Crossing Souls is a sure cure for your nostalgia; for those without, Crossing Souls simply feels like a game that's trying too hard.

Overall Score 70
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Tris Mendoza

Tris Mendoza

As RPGFan's unofficial resident games detective, Tris is always on the lookout for those hidden gems that inspire introspection – it fuels the introvert in him. Being a pun aficionado, he makes it his mission to incorporate as many puns as he can in his reviews. When not punning around, you can find him staring off into space in deep contemplation, nose-deep in a good fantasy fiction, or socializing with close friends.