It may have been a few years since their last Xbox One release, Runbow, but developers 13AM Games are back with yet another platforming experience in the form of Double Cross. Unlike the multiplayer-focused Runbow however, Double Cross is an adventure for those who prefer to go solo. But in a gaming world where platformers emerge from every nook and cranny on a regular basis, how will this one manage to stand out?
By exploring the Extraverse (multi-verse), of course!
As a R.I.F.T. (Regulators of Interdimensional Frontiers and Technology) agent, Zahra Sinclair has to be ready at all times to venture to weird and wonderful universes, often inhabited with strange life forms. Being an agent tasked with keeping peace between a plethora of dimensions within the multi-verse isn’t easy though, especially when the devious Suspect X launches an assault on the R.I.F.T. base of operations. How did this mysterious villain pull off such an attack? Did Suspect X have insider knowledge of where the most precious item was at R.I.F.T. HQ? Have the agents been double crossed by one of their own?
Slowly, but surely, the answers will present themselves through a narrative that’s surprisingly in-depth for a platformer. It plays out like a mystery to solve at the HQ and in-between levels you’ll be able to interact with folk, give items acquired in the field to them and even present a case to the higher-ups in order to prove your theories. The story remains interesting throughout as there are shocking discoveries and a steady flow of new characters.
On the subject of the characters, and even without voiceovers, they have real personality that comes across damn well, mainly due to the art design and well-written dialogue. Every ally, villain and mere acquaintance is unique from the next; there’s the cat-lady Ada Lovepaws, the muscle man Sprout Ironbulk, the suave undercover agent Pineapple – who provides an unusually successful injection of humour – and a fair few others that are memorable. It has to be said, Suspect X is a cracking villain, wearing sinister attire that screams ‘baddie’ immediately. I think the creepy, always smiling, mask is what does it.
Moving onto the gameplay, and initial impressions found a rather basic selection of combat moves, a rather nifty Proton Slinger tool, the ability to dodge and a standard jump. There’s nothing out of the ordinary here aside from the Proton Slinger, which you can fire towards anchor points to launch Zahra through the air. But fear not, because the levels themselves have neat tricks up their proverbial sleeves to ensure an exciting time is to be had.
Apart from the boss sections, each level is actually unlocked from the very beginning, with three of these levels available per world. There’s Gootopia, which is full of gooey creatures that just want to absorb you into their bodies; a place where dinosaurs roam the land with a few enhancements called Reptarria; and the obviously Japanese-styled Funderdome land, populated by a whole load of crafty ninjas. Whilst a good job has been done for all three in terms of creating an environment to suit the inhabitants, including a great audio track to complement each setting, the Funderdome is the most fun with lovely usage of neon to add vibrancy.
Don’t simply presume this 2D platformer is just going to see you jumping across gaps, leaping from wall to wall and propelling to the highest heights with the Proton Slinger though. I mean, you will do that, but there’s a ton of clever ideas implemented too, with fresh hazards to negotiate regularly. To avoid these, you can expect to float in goo, zip-line out of the way of danger, navigate conveyor belts, leap off of moving transportation, flip switches to make use of magnets, fly with help from a balloon, and so much more. A personal favourite though is the inclusion of the sticky and bouncy goo that can be thrown at walls, floors and ceilings; it brings back memories of the Propulsion and Repulsion gel in Portal and lends itself well to the gameplay here.
And then there are the boss battles, which provide very different challenges to overcome; ranging from a brute-ish dinosaur to a familiar face, or two. As always when encountering bosses, it’s a case of learning their attacks and figuring out how you’re going to do enough damage to defeat them. None are overly difficult, ensuring even the less-gifted gamers have a chance to succeed. One in particular – no spoilers – manipulates goo of all forms and it feels great to work out the solutions to have an effect in each stage of the battle. Not every boss is that clever though, and so it’s fair to say they’re a bit hit and miss.
It’ll take a good few hours to get through what’s on offer, and you can add even more longevity with the replayability factor coming in the form of finding Upgradium hidden in the most obscure places. Acquiring Upgradium crystals enables Zahra to rank up, which unlocks permanent upgrades as well as a selection of equipable options. That means you can get Zahra whatever she needs for the next level like an absorption shield, a double jump, more slow-down time to aim the Proton Slinger etc. Reaching the Upgradium will generally be tricky, so it really puts your exploration and platforming abilities to the test.
Sounds pretty darn excellent, right? Well, I’d prefer not to spoil the party with negatives, but there are a couple that must be addressed. The first of which is something I’ve seldom experienced before and that is the game changing to a different language each time it’s loaded up – it’s pot luck as to whether it’s in French, Spanish, Italian or English. Fortunately, most of us should be able to figure out how to change it back… until the next session. Double Cross also has a tendency to freeze up for a short while when a lot is going on on-screen, which is a tad worrying.
I’m not entirely convinced on the combat either; not because of any technical faults, but due to how monotonous it can be when surrounded by enemies in the arena-type segments. Whether it’s a light or heavy attack, the resulting feeling is mind-numbing – apart from the awesome fireball style attack you can throw out with enough energy stored up.
All in all though, Double Cross on Xbox One provides a cracking variety of levels that continue to add new platforming mechanics to get a grip on from start to finish. The story is mysterious, with a great cast of memorable characters and some fairly interesting text dialogue to boot. Throw in the crisp, anime visuals, the well-suited backing track and the decent amount of upgrades on offer, and there’s a lot to love about 13AM Games’ latest title. It’s just a shame that the technical issues hinder it, as well as the mediocre combat and some of the boss encounters.
Nevertheless, Double Cross is still worth grabbing as it’s a great platforming adventure.