8.5
Our overall verdict "silver"

What’s that you say? You’ve got the urge to fully immerse yourself in eighties pop culture though the medium of a video game? Well what a coincidence, because Fourattic and Devolver Digital have moon-walked onto your PS4 with something special. Park your BMX, put down your Walkman and stop peeling the stickers off that Rubik’s Cube – Crossing Souls is here and it’s worth your full attention.

Set in a Californian suburb in the 1980’s Crossing Souls is a brightly coloured action adventure. After a freak supernatural storm hits the town, Chris, his brother Kevin and their three friends discover something both icky and intriguing out in the forest. What happens next turns their lives and the town upside down. As is my way, I don’t want to give too many specifics about the story. Crossing Souls has a super strong narrative and it’s worth experiencing without any spoilers. It’s funny, it’s touching, it’s full of twists and turns and massively entertaining. While the story is clearly inspired by every eighties movie you’ve ever watched, it is still a brilliant piece of story telling in itself. The characters are hugely likeable, the villains are hilarious and everything oozes nostalgia.

I could jabber on all day about the story, but let’s leave room to talk about all Crossing Soul’s other outstanding features (and there are a lot of them). Next up – graphics. We’re big fans here at Punk and Lizard of anything retro. We adore pixel graphics and these are some of the most beautiful that we’ve ever seen. The colours are so bright and vibrant and the world has so much detail. It’s clear that a ton of love was put into this game. Every pixel sparkles with life and vitality. It’s further proof that 4k photorealism isn’t the only direction the industry is taking, and thank goodness because Crossing Souls feels like a work of art. Also worthy of notable mention are the cut scenes. These are gorgeous retro cartoons that punctuate all the major events in the game. They are a real treat to watch and I certainly looked forward to every single one.

So the story is fantastic and the graphics are gorgeous but what can you expect from the gameplay? Erm, well, expect everything. Zelda style adventure and exploration, platforming, side scrolling beat-em-up combat, bullet hell, a BMX mini-game, and even a nifty Simon Says boss fight. Any game style you can imagine, you’ll find a little bit of it in Crossing Souls. I can’t remember the last time I played something with so much variety. It certainly keeps you on your pixelated toes. There’s no telling what you’ll be doing when you move from screen to screen.

The unique feature of Crossing Souls is the ability to switch characters at will and also dimensions. You have the real world and a spirit world. In the spirit realm you’ll find plenty of ghosts and assorted nasties. It’s paralleled to the real world and acts like an additional layer. You can still see our world but with a spooky supernatural topping. In addition to flicking between these worlds you’ll need to switch between characters to get around and solve puzzles. One character can climb and jump, another can dash, another can push heavy objects and another, wait for it, has a JETPACK – awwwweeeesoooommmme.

Swapping between characters is absolutely vital to get through the game. Even the boss fights require you to think about your character choices carefully. There are some tough sections within the game, and some of these have a steep learning curve. If you’re dying repeatedly, have a think about what each of your characters can do. A wider gap might need a jetpack, or too many enemies might need one character’s dash or another’s baseball bat to thwack multiple noggins.

The difficulty is also extremely variable. One moment you’re doing some relaxing exploration and puzzle-solving and the next it’s a struggle to stay alive. Each character has a small line of hearts. Depending on the strength of the enemy, when you’re hit those hearts will deplete Link-style. When just one character loses all hearts it’s game over. There’s no auto save and no casual saving whenever you feel like it; you’ll have to wait for save points. The game will be kind enough at certain moments to throw you back to the occasional continuation point, but there are some later parts of the game where the space between these points feels a little cruel. You’ll be facing some tough bosses and tricky platforming and your hearts are very limited. Death will come. Welcome to retro gaming.

Conclusion

With its enthralling story, gorgeous pixel graphics, beautifully relentless eighties references and plenty of challenging moments, Crossing Souls has really cracked new-old-school gaming. It really does feel like you’ve stuck a wet pinky in a plug socket, been jolted with 1.21 gigawatts and thrown back thirty something years. A vibrant adventure and a joy to play.

S J Hollis Rating – 8.5/10

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S J Hollis

S J Hollis has been a keen gamer since the Atari 2600. She freely admits she thought E.T. was a good game but would like to stress her tastes have since dramatically improved. She is also an author, a morning person and thinks Elf ears are sexy. Follow her on twitter @SJHollis_