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Don't Miss Out On CrossCode, An Excellent Action-RPG

Illustration for article titled Dont Miss Out On iCrossCode/i, An Excellent Action-RPG
Kotaku Game DiaryKotaku Game DiaryThe latest thoughts from a Kotaku staffer about a game we're playing.

What I love about CrossCode, an action-RPG that came out on Steam earlier this year, isn’t just that it’s charming as heck and feels great to play. No, what I love about CrossCode is that it’s secretly a puzzle game. Don’t miss out on this one, folks.

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CrossCode, which I started playing last week after seeing it on Fahey’s GOTY list, is like a cross between .hack and Zelda. Set within the world of a fictional MMORPG called CrossWorlds, CrossCode has you play as an avatar named Lea who’s trying to figure out who she really is, while also uncovering mysteries and hearing plenty of MMO jokes along the way. She’ll slash up monsters with sword swings and a ranged bullet attack in Zelda-style combat. It’s a role-playing game on the outside, complete with shops and weapons and endless side quests, but at its heart it’s a puzzle game, one that isn’t afraid to kill you over and over again.

Here’s an example. Fairly early in the game, you might find this optional puzzle:

Illustration for article titled Dont Miss Out On iCrossCode/i, An Excellent Action-RPG
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Your job is to jump from platform to platform, sequentially activating switches and avoiding bullets from the nearby turrets. Get hit by a bullet and you’ll go plummeting into the abyss and have to start over again. You’ll have to dodge and block these projectiles as you jump, which can get pretty hairy, but when you die, you’ll just pop right back up on that leftmost ledge. Moving around feels great thanks to CrossCode’s sleek physics, and when you finally do finish the sequence after a few dozen deaths (don’t judge me), you’ll get the delicious jolt of satisfaction that comes with finishing a good puzzle.

Those are the obvious puzzles. What makes CrossCode really special is that every new room you explore is its own little puzzle box. Run into a new enemy, for example, and you might realize that he’s only susceptible to your long-ranged attacks. Spot a couple of boxes in the corner of a town’s alleyway and you might figure out that there’s a secret passage if you jump up high enough.

Illustration for article titled Dont Miss Out On iCrossCode/i, An Excellent Action-RPG

CrossCode is massive—it’s an MMORPG, after all—and every new map screen is full of satisfying little moments. Although it’s a 2D game, there’s a lot of verticality in CrossCode, and each region is full of ledges, cliffs, and tricky jumps. It’s got a really great rhythm. As you move from map to map, you may find yourself slowing down and learning the layout of each level so you can figure out how to get high enough to reach every hidden chest and secret. The designers have thrown in a lot of smart vertical tricks and illusions, ones that I’ve very much enjoyed trying to figure out.

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Illustration for article titled Dont Miss Out On iCrossCode/i, An Excellent Action-RPG

I’ve only played a few hours, so it’s too soon to say if CrossCode would have made my 2018 top 10 list had I played it earlier in the year, but so far I’m in love with this game. The developers of CrossCode say it’s not coming to Switch, which is too bad, because this is a game that feels designed for Nintendo’s newest platform. But if you’re into Zelda-likes, you should play it nonetheless.

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DISCUSSION

I’m just gonna go ahead and point at the post I made on your Top 10 Jason:

Did any games journalist from either kotaku or giantbomb (their expanded list, even!) actually play CrossCode? I have zero skin in the game and am deeply disappointed I can’t find a single mention of this amazing title. I have to assume that at some point near the end, the game kills your real world best friend or something... I just can’t figure out why this game is being ignored.

I later discovered that it was on Fahey’s list and it was also added to one of GB’s lists... but still ignored on every other list I read.

Now I’m not gonna say “oh you read this comment and that probably helped you go play it” because I know my opinion doesn’t matter that much (and like, only 1 person starred it) but rather I’m going to state that the absence of this game from so many reviewers’ lists makes me... just plain not trust GOTYs this year. I mean, not like I ever should have... but the fact that such a great title can fly under so many radars at once simply because there were more AAA big budget titles and more well marketed indie titles released this year kinda ruins what I feel should be the true spirit of GOTYs. It shouldn’t be so much about telling everyone about the games they already know about and more about the titles that didn’t get the recognition they deserved during the year.

Now don’t go crazy and misread that, I definitely think that this is the time and place to award and compliment the titles that deserve praise this year, but I feel like we’re getting 90 percent of the story and missing out on a lone, unknown tenth of the titles that were released to small audiences of happy fans. Small Itch.io titles, try-and-fail multiplayer titles, and in CrossCode’s case, single-developer over 8 years with no budget for marketing and PR titles. It’s a point where word of mouth just isn’t loud enough to penetrate an already over-saturated market. I’m not writing this all as some CrossCode defense, I’m writing this all because when my name’s in the credits for tiny titles, it’s going to be my skin on the line when said titles are drowned away by year end GOTY hype.

So... thanks for this quick note about CrossCode Jason. I’m certain you will enjoy it. Between the music, art, writing, and gameplay, it’s a fantastic title. Maybe the dungeons overstay their welcome (something you may not have experienced yet) but every time I finish a puzzle in one, I still get that same feeling of when I’d finish a puzzle in Portal, so I can’t really complain!