A coming of age story involving quirky teens that stumble upon a dead body? Check. Supernatural elements that involve time travel and ghosts? Check. Egyptian mythology? Check. Animated cutscenes that look straight out of an 80s cartoon? Check. In essence, Crossing Souls is practically a game that was made for me. It’s no wonder it found an audience on Kickstarter, as the game combines a bunch of really cool things into one promising package.
The story is certainly the most interesting aspect of Crossing Souls early on. Even if teens finding a dead body isn’t the most original start, the game adds in some Egyptian twists involving the Duat, which allows the crew to see ghosts. Of course, no one group of teens should have all that power, and things quickly go awry leading to the death of one of the kids. From there, a messy, yet coherent, plot of evil organizations and actual gods emerge, and it’s up to the kids to make things right.
As far gameplay goes, Crossing Souls is a pretty standard top-down action game with melee-focused combat. The one twist is that each of the game’s characters (who can be switched to on the fly) has different abilities. The main character, a blue-haired teen named Chris, wields a baseball bat that can hit projectiles, while the overweight “Big” Joe can take more hits and packs a damaging punch of his own. These abilities also play into some exploration aspects as well, so early on it seems important to learn everyone’s strengths and weaknesses.
Afraid to Let Go
The combat never gets overly complex, as most enemies just take a few direct hits before they’re defeated, but some of the boss fights (which you can see in the video above) do take advantage of the character switching. For example, one battle forced me to use the one gun-carrying character to activate objects from afar before switching to a more mobile character to avoid attacks. These are the moments that the combat feels fun.
Disappointingly, the game’s combat also winds up getting more and more limited as the game goes on as characters are separated and leave the group. By the time the final boss fight rolled around, I was stuck using the character I liked playing as the least, and any of the character-switching gameplay I found interesting was completely absent. Like many of its good ideas, the combat feels underdeveloped and leaves a lot left unexplored.
Equally as disappointing is the game’s whole mechanic of being able to interact with the ghosts of your friends. This allows for the player to control two characters at once (in different realms no less), and it should’ve made for some great puzzles and action sequences. Instead, players just use the ghosts to occasionally move through obstacles and then get them to activate a switch so the alive characters can continue on. It’s overly dull, and there’s a lot of platforming puzzles in a game that doesn’t feel all that great in terms of movement.
Crossing Souls Review - Don't Feel Anything (PS4)
Let’s Pretend We’re Numb
What’s most eerie about Crossing Souls isn’t how the game incorporates ghosts, but rather how little emotion the game is capable of evoking. This is a game whose opening is capped off with the death of a young child, and yet I was never given any real reason to be sad. After spending a few moments mourning the loss, the children start interacting with the dead kid’s spirit due to the powers of the Duat, and it’s like they were never really gone. Ultimately it doesn’t matter if the loss is undercut because all of the characters have too little depth to get the player emotionally involved. Even later on when the developers had more time to flesh out characters, the deaths (which should seem like major moments but don’t) failed to resonate.
I wish I could say that the story is only a disappointment from an emotional standpoint, but it’s pretty messy all around. The game builds to a final boss fight against a larger-than-life villain, and yet the battle never really occurs. Instead, players are treated to a short dialogue sequence that is quickly over (players don’t even get one of the game’s early morning cartoon-inspired cutscenes for what should be the biggest story moment), and then the credits begin to roll. It’s an incredibly anti-climatic way to end a journey that wasn’t all that fun to begin with.
Crossing Souls has a bunch of elements that should be right up my alley, but some flat writing and uninspired design really keeps it from hitting the desired marks. There’s a good idea here, and I have no doubt that a teen adventure starring ghosts and Egyptian Gods could be really dope, but a cool concept doesn’t make a great game. Instead, it just makes the end result all the more disappointing.
Crossing Souls review code provided by publisher. Version 1.02 reviewed on PlayStation 4 Pro. For more information on scoring, please read our Review Policy.