I hate turning this into a habit, but I have a choice of not writing about a game I can’t finish and moving on, or writing on my feelings up to the point that I stopped playing, and I’d really rather get new posts out for y’all, even if they’re incomplete opinion pieces on games I don’t want to force myself to continue playing.
This time the game is Cross Code, a somewhat nostalgic RPG/puzzle platformer that looks great, has a fantastic soundtrack, and an intriguing story premise. Unfortunately, it’s the puzzle portion of the game that’s dulled my interest in continuing. Where I stopped was a few hours after completing the second of four dungeons to acquire the game’s four elemental powers, ice, fire, shock, and wave. I can say that I rather enjoyed the combat, and some of the platforming sections. But the puzzles just drag on an on and on and on and on and…and if I haven’t made this abundantly clear, most overstay their welcome, pushing aside all other aspects of the game. Keep in mind, I’m someone who loves puzzle games like Portal and Portal 2. This is just too much puzzle for me.
From what I’ve been able to sort out from the story, Lea is a player in a unique VR RPG. Rather than log into a game server to play a virtual character, players log into a physical avatar who stays on a real island. Lea apparently had played this game before, but something happened to her that wiped her memory and left her in a coma. A scientist got desperate and decided to try logging her back into the game, and while Lea is still comatose in the real world, she’s got enough brain activity to play as her avatar. The other catch is, she can’t speak due to some kind of malfunction in her avatar, creating a charming reason for her “silent” protagonist shtick.
Each time Lea logs out, her dreaming mind conjures fragmented memories of playing the game with other people, hinting at something really quite intriguing, and I really wish I could power through the puzzles to see more because the story was the main reason I hung on as long as I did.
Combat is similarly fun to play. In addition to a dodge move, Lea has a gun, a shield, and several flavors of melee attack that can be upgraded with extra levels, and augmented with elements as she completes dungeons of the “path of the ancients,” the whole point of the game. Think of it as a company applying gamification to research projects, enlisting the help of gamers worldwide to solve the puzzles left behind by an ancient alien civilization. It sounds cool, right?
Sadly, at least for me, I’ve hit my limit for puzzle solving, mostly because so many of the puzzles punish a whiffed input and force me to go back to the start. Several of these kinds of puzzles involve using one element to, say for instance, freeze a water drop, shoot the ice to launch it, run across a narrow ledge, turn, switch elements to fire, aim the gun with the right stick, and fire at precisely the right angle to launch the now steaming ice into a barrier. The more of this kind of puzzle I came across, the less I wanted to finish the game.
There’s also a kind of platforming puzzle in the outer world that involves sorting out the right order of raised pillars to hop to and find a secret passage or item. But imagine doing twelve of these hops and then whiffing the last one. Go back to the start and eight hops in, whiff an input. Oh, go back and do it again, moron. WHIFF. Go back and do it again, moron. WHIFF. OH FOR THE LOVE OF…
Ahem. So that’s it for me. And please keep in mind, this is just my opinion. If you really love puzzle games that require fast reflexes and damn near perfect timing, this could be your cuppa. For me, it just became a grinding chore that sapped out all the fun I’d had with the combat. For 20 bucks, it’s not a huge loss to drop this after roughly 43 hours of game time. I also got it one sale for 15, so I’ll chalk it up to a game in the “not for me” department. It’s not terrible, and the puzzles do have a well developed sense of logic to them. It’s just that for me, there is apparently a point of having too much puzzle in my RPG experience, and considering I’d yet to complete the other two elemental dungeons, I suspect I would have ended up hating this had I attempted to finish it. Your mileage, of course, may vary.