Thursday, January 10, 2019

Review: Double Cross [Nintendo Switch eShop]


Making games that blend elements of genres together can be a tricky business, for every title that manages to blend them brilliantly into a transcendent experience there are a load of them that fall all over the spectrum of success. Mixing together action platforming with some light adventure / RPG elements Double Cross lands somewhere in the middle, with the latter aspects adding flavor and story but not clearly making the game better either. Where it shines is with its platforming action that features a powered grapple, and a pretty wide variety of puzzle elements that are featured in each of the game’s stages.


You’ll be playing as Zahra, an inexperienced agent of an interdimensional team called R.I.F.T. who is looking to prove herself. In order to do that she’s working on tracking down Suspect X, a powerful villain who is a threat to the extraverse. In order to put together the clues that will break the case open she’ll need to travel to 3 levels on 3 unique worlds, making smart use of her grapple beam, battling some aliens, and working out a variety of generally clever action puzzles. While the stages have difficulty ratings to help guide you a bit you’ll have the option of taking them on in the order you like and the nature of the challenges you’ll face can vary wildly.


Whether using a variety of types of goo to coat different surfaces to help you stick or bounce, moving magnets around to allow you to help avoid traps, or simply being on the run and needing to quickly and carefully grapple and dodge through obstacles, there’s a fair amount of variety here. Throw in a boss battle on each world that acts as a cumulative test of what you’ve learned and you’ll need to master your skills to be effective. You’ll want to challenge yourself to grab hidden crystals on each level that will level you up and give you access to a variety of passive additions like new attack options and greater health as well as some perks that you’ll be able to choose from in different combinations to suit the situation you find yourself in. While they’re not essential in some spaces any incremental help you can get is appreciated.


The game does stumble a bit in some areas though, and these do hold it back. While the grapple mechanic generally works well, and feels great when you’re more methodically using it for puzzles, in spots where you’re on the run it can be a bit cumbersome and awkward. Especially in the handful of situations where you’ll be running to the right but then need to aim somewhere behind you to the left you can manage it but it’s clumsy. Another aspect that doesn’t work as well as intended has to do with the adventure and storytelling elements. While they do add some flavor they’re not really meaningful in terms of requiring you to put thought into anything, you just get object X and need to talk to person Y about it, then you move on. In the end progressing the story is just an obstacle that doesn’t clearly make the game more enjoyable, if anything it’s just holding you back from being in the zone and enjoying the action. I just wish something more was done with the story aspects to justify you needing to walk around the HQ so much when, if it’s going to be so linear anyway, they could have just chained the discussions and cutscenes together to keep things rolling. Finally, though combat does work it’s pretty generic, and your unlocked skills are more for visual flourish than effectiveness.


All in all there’s quite a bit to like about Double Cross, as it manages to provide some challenge without being over the top or cruel. Certainly grabbing all of the crystals on all stages would take some formidable effort, in particular the ones along the way in action-oriented stages require some serious timing, skill, and luck. What’s nice is that though the perks and skills you get as you grab these are helpful they’re also not all 100% necessary either, the most beneficial ones tend to be at the front of the list so only getting a portion of them all should give you most of what’s truly useful. While its characters and story require a little too much pointless walking around they do at least try to give the game a little more depth and interest. Where the game shines most though is with its smart use of the grapple and varied puzzles that keep you thinking and consistently challenged. It stumbles in places but overall it’s a very enjoyable title.


Score: 7.5

Pros:
  • The power grapple is used pretty well everywhere and generally feels great
  • A wide variety of challenges and action across its 3 worlds and multiple stages
  • Some smart action puzzle design, especially if you’re trying to find crystals

Cons:
  • Though the characters and story add some flavor, it’s not quite enough justify the need to walk around so much burning time between missions
  • When you need to do some consecutive grapples on the run, especially when you need to aim in the opposite direction from where you’re running, the controls get a little clumsy
  • Most of the combat is relatively unrewarding and can be beaten roughly with button mashing