Sometimes, you look around at games today and say, “Gosh, I need some more Sega Dreamcast vibes.” CROSSNIQ+, a relaxing but challenging puzzle game that exudes late-nineties aesthetics, fills that gap. With a difficult time attack mode and an extremely low-key “chill mode” wrapped in its distinct “Y2K” look, it has something for everyone.
CROSSNIQ+ is a puzzle game by Max Krieger that’s available to play on the PC, Mac, and Linux right now although an enhanced version is coming to consoles like the Nintendo Switch soon. The goal is to realign colored blocks to form a giant cross. Each time you do, you get more time to play and new boxes appear. If you’re a hardcore puzzle game player, CROSSNIQ+ offers curveballs like pieces that lock rows and columns from moving or blocks that give extra points if placed just right. There are individual levels to best and a time attack mode to race for high scores, but if you’re like me, you’ll probably want to luxuriate in the awesome “chill mode,” which allows you to choose special backdrops like a breezy beach and clear tiles at your own pace.
I’m a sucker for anything that reminds me of those bubbly days when the Sega Dreamcast and Playstation 2 were mapping out the boundaries of 3D visuals and console game menus. CROSSNIQ+ embraces the hip, loose feel of those consoles and takes notes from games like Chu Chu Rocket and Rez to create a game that would have felt right at home in 1999. There’s a little bit of WarioWare quirk in there for good measure as well. The result is a puzzle game that, while I’ve hardly even scratched the surface, creates a headspace that I simply want to stay in, whether I’m listening to cute cartoon folks tutorialize me on the game’s finer points or tapping a menu option and getting a lovely bubble pop sound.
I’m a casual puzzle gamer at best, so I really appreciate the variety that CROSSNIQ+ has offered so far. It gives me the aesthetic and feel that I love while allowing me to decide how I want to enjoy my time. Hardcore players can have fun, and folks who need to zone out will sink into its comfortable spaces. It’s a fun tribute to one of gaming’s most distinct eras, and it’s worth checking out if you’re eager for something to scratch that Tetris Effect itch. It will hopefully make the full jump to consoles very soon.