2D platforming-adventures are a dime a dozen right now, but as long as each one has some interesting gameplay hook to pull me in I’m always glad to give it a try. Double Cross, the new game from Runbow developer 13AM Games, has more than a few different ideas tied into its tale thanks to its Proton Slinger (more on that in a bit), visual-novel style storytelling, and focus on investigating evidence. Do these ideas come together to make for a fun platformer though or does it end up falling short of the mark?
Double Cross tells the story of Zahra, an agent who works for the R.I.F.T. organisation that helps maintain peace between all of the different dimensions that exist in the Multiverse. Yeah, that might sound a bit too scientific and confusing – basically, there are a bunch of different Earths that exist and you have to ensure they stay apart from each other. Things go wrong though when someone actually attacks R.I.F.T.’s base, and when it’s discovered that one of the members of the organisation actually helped orchestrate it you take on the job of finding out who the traitorous culprit is.
In honesty, there’s nothing particularly unique or distinct about Double Cross’ tale and it’s full of clichés, but it still managed to keep me entertained. There are plenty of silly little scenes and fun characters to encounter, whilst the visual novel setup of the narrative ensured each interaction was always enjoyable. You’re not going to be blown away by the story that’s told, but it does a good job of adding a bit of context to Zahra’s adventure.
The bulk of gameplay sees you traversing through nine different levels across three worlds, with each one introducing a different mechanic to test your skills. It might be unpredictable goo that affects your movement in different ways, disappearing platforms that push your reaction skills to the limit, a test against multiple arcade-like mini-games, or even a focus on swinging your way through levels with Zahra’s Proton Slinger – a grappling-hook like tool that’s essential to progressing through the game.
The Proton Slinger is activated by pressing the trigger button and then using the left stick to direct where you want to aim at, with plenty of objects scattered around the environment to grapple between. Some of them will only send you in a fixed direction, but most of them launch you at the trajectory of the angle that you attach from. It adds a really fun way to traverse across levels, whilst the fact that most of Double Cross’ environments are both large and open in design means there are plenty of hidden areas to uncover. It’s definitely a game that promotes exploration, whether it’s just to find the best route to your goal or to uncover the hidden Upgradium that’s scattered across each level.
The Upgradium is used to upgrade your stats and combat skills, though in honesty Double Cross’ combat doesn’t really have enough depth to make these skills really worth pursuing. Most enemies can be disposed of with simple attacking combinations and I never really found myself changing from the light and heavy punches that I started the game with. Sure, there were times where I would have to use my dodge ability to avoid an attack and I would even use the Proton Slinger to launch a projectile at enemies too, but I never found any adversary particularly difficult. It’s a shame too, because the levels themselves are diverse in their design and enjoyable to work through – there’s just no real enemy threat to be found along them.
At least the boss battles are a bit more enjoyable, with each world’s finale putting you into a bigger encounter with a more formidable foe. Admittedly, none of these encounters are particularly taxing, but they will encourage you to think outside of the box a bit more as opposed to just mashing buttons.
One additional element of Double Cross’ gameplay is the case files, with Zahra finding different pieces of evidence as you work across each level that you have to share with the appropriate character. It’s a process that’s fairly simple in design and it won’t test your detective skills too much (it’s always obvious who you need to hand each piece of evidence to), but it’s not a bad addition to the game – it gave me an incentive to actually speak to the other characters that are around the R.I.F.T. base, whilst the process of putting the file together and handing it in to progress was satisfying. It helps bring on a few small narrative-driven side quests too, and whilst they aren’t too involving, they did add an extra bit of depth to the overall story.
Visually, Double Cross can be a bit of a mixed bag. The characters themselves look great, with their designs feeling like they’ve come straight out of a sci-fi cartoon and the animations that go alongside them proving slick throughout. The environments on the other hand were just a bit bland. It’s not that their ugly by any means, but they did look a bit simplistic and there was a clear disparity between the world and the characters that are a part of it.
There’s no doubting that Double Cross’ adventure is a fun one to be a part of and the level design itself is varied and on point throughout, but unfortunately some lacking combat mechanics hold it back from platforming greatness. I just never felt challenged throughout the game and with most foes easily taken down with just a bit of button mashing, it became difficult to feel particularly excited with each enemy encounter. It’s just so easy.
It definitely has some neat ideas on show though and platforming-adventure fans will have fun making their way to the end of Double Cross’ tale – it’s just a shame that it doesn’t deliver in all areas of its design.
Developer: 13AM Games
Publisher: Graffiti Games, Headup Games
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PC