We thought it couldn’t be done, but peak nostalgia has finally been hit.
If you’ve ever found yourself watching Stranger Things on Netflix and thinking, “I wish this was a video game,” consider your wish fulfilled. Crossing Souls, developed by a Spain-based indie studio, essentially crams as much ‘80s pop culture as possible into an action-adventure game for the Switch. Usually too much nostalgia isn’t necessarily bad a thing, but when almost all facets of the game are from a previous work, it just becomes too much to swallow.
Originality isn’t a concept that is going to come up to often when discussing either the plot or the characters. The story is clearly lifted from the movie Stand By Me. An eclectic group of friends set out one morning to visit the local forest with the intent of seeing a mysterious discovery by one of the friends. As per usual, you have the kid that could be popular but instead chooses to hang out with his less popular friends, his little brother, the nerdy smart kid, the courageous poor girl who wants to prove she’s strong, and finally the overweight African-American modeled after Fat Albert.
You only need one guess to figure out what the mystery discovery is: following the plot of its inspiration, the children find the rotting corpse of a dead body. In the hand of this dead body is the Duat Stone, a mysterious object that allows its user to see and interact with the spirits of the dead. It doesn’t take long for the villain to discover the location of the Duat Stone, and the story focuses on the children trying to save their parents from an evil using them as collateral in an attempt to recapture the powerful stone.
Gameplay is an isometric action-adventure where you’ll need to master combat and some awkward platforming. Each character has their own unique traits and progression requires constant flipping through each character. The could be popular kid is the only one that can climb and swings a baseball bat as his attack. The nerdy kid can levitate for a short while using rocket shoes and has a laser gun as an attack. The poor trailer park girl utilizes a whip for both attacking and launching herself across platforms. The imitation Fat Albert can move objects and uses his fists as weapons. If this didn’t happen so early in the game it could be considered a spoiler, but the younger brother character dies at the beginning. Using the Duat Stone, his spirit can be used to pass through impenetrable locations in order to create new paths for the group.
The combat and exploration actually isn’t too bad. A healthy variety of enemy types keeps gameplay fresh and some of the boss battles had some neat ways to defeat them. I would say that the environmental requirements of having to constantly switch characters did grate on my nerves. Too often I would have to cycle through characters to utilize their unique traits, like needing to climb a ladder and then immediately having to switch to move boxes or get across gaps. It reasonable to expect that each character would need to be used but the constant changes were disrupting to the flow of the game.
Ultimately the experience feel flat for me as I tried to trudge through the non-stop references to the most obvious and overused aspects of the ‘80s. Yes, I enjoyed ET and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as a kid, but I’ve become numb to the overuse of catchphrases and plots that are continuously rehashed over and over. I’m at the point now where you either need to use these references sparingly as a complement to an original idea, or really dive deep into ‘80s culture that many probably wish would be forgotten. Unfortunately for Crossing Souls, neither of these ring true.