Genre Crossing

After writing about how conflicted I am about CrossCode, I have decided to abandon the game. Multiple times. And I’m still playing it.

This isn’t a thing that I do! I’m a busy adult with a huge backlog of games (somehow I still have not gotten to Marvel’s Spider-Man, to name just one example sitting on my shelf). When a game loses me, it loses me and I am on to the next.

And CrossCode does so many things that would be instant deal-breakers in most other games. But it turns out I am willing to put up with a lot to spend time with the game’s characters and unravel the mysteries of its story.

So, what are those things I’m putting up with? Fundamentally, I think CrossCode suffers from being three different games crammed into one. If you happen to like all three of them, you’ll have a great time; but disliking any of them can go a long way to ruining the experience for you. CrossCode is:

  1. A character-driven mystery story presented in SNES-like pixel art, a la To the Moon.
  2. A systems-heavy action RPG with deep skill trees and fiddly gear choices, a la Torchlight or Grim Dawn or whatever.
  3. A precision- and reflex-testing 3D puzzle platformer with complex timing and spatial reasoning puzzles a la Portal or The Talos Principle or something.

I already mentioned that some of these elements don’t blend well - in particular, the SNES-style pseudo-oblique camera often makes the 3D spatial puzzles harder than they should be. But the real problem is that these games block each other off and the story is the only part you can skip through.

This is most obvious in the temple dungeons, where you must defeat a puzzle gauntlet and a boss fight in order to be reunited with your party members and continue the story. But it comes up everywhere - sometimes you’ll find that a plot-relevant sidequest leads you to a jumping puzzle followed by a tough battle. Or you’ll do a sidequest that has you solving a sliding-block puzzle, your reward for which is a scene developing some side characters. No matter which of the three games you’re here for, you’re getting all of them, unavoidably and unpredictably.

Don’t care about the story? You can skip dialog and plot scenes. Don’t care for the combat or puzzles? Tough. Like Horace, Catherine, Wandersong, and countless other games, CrossCode might lure you in to its world and characters and then block you off from it with skill tests you find uninteresting or impossible.