Double Cross (Switch eShop) Review
Hyped up during the Kinda Funny Games Showcase as “Mega Man meets Phoenix Wright”, Double Cross is a weak attempt at combining 2D platforming action with a whodunnit investigation, resulting in a bland, derivative adventure.
Playing as an agent of the Regulators of Interdimensional Frontiers and Technology (RIFT), a peacekeeping group who oversee happenings across alternate dimensions, you’re charged with investigating the culprit behind an attack on RIFT headquarters. Doing this requires you to travel through dimensions to piece together clues and apprehend those responsible before further attacks occur.
Normally, plots with parallel universes filled with mystery are totally my jam, and 2D platformers even more so which sparked my interest in Double Cross. Unfortunately, it just looks, feels and plays incredibly flat.
Double Cross feels okay to control, if a touch loose by the standards of modern platformers. Combat, which comprises a significant portion of your time, completely lacks oomph. You’ll be unleashing melee combos and various powers against waves of enemies, but there’s very little kinetic reaction behind each hit, yielding a certain weightlessness to your actions. Enemies have health bars that pop up when hit, which is the only definitive way to know you’re making any headway in battle, especially with the limited recoil animation generated. This works both ways too, in the sense that whenever you’re hit, there are no frames of invulnerability like in many other games. Double Cross’ flat art style certainly doesn’t help; it’s easy to get confused by what is part of the background and foreground respectively, as there’s very little separation between the two. It all just sort of blends together into a dull mesh of indistinct colours, which makes you the prime candidate for leaping right into a projectile that looked like a background object. After getting hit, you’ll encounter a couple of frames of flinching where you cannot move, but there are some enemies that are able to fire off several hits while you’re in this state, causing the flinch to stack, increasing the amount of time you have no control over the game. Dodging isn’t even an option by this point, you just have to cop it on the chin until the enemy doesn’t land a hit for a couple of seconds. This feels cheap and it is frustrating to relinquish control to your opponents in a game and genre where mobility is a decent chunk of the fun.
Conversely, the main gadget you’ll play with in Double Cross is a proton sling, an energy weapon that allows you to swing from grapple points and yank objects from mid-air. There are some moments where the proton sling is used to good effect, such as when you need to quickly swing from point to point while avoiding hazards, which elicits a cool feeling of flow, but these scenarios are hampered by the unsatisfying combat. Among the various worlds you explore, there are different ways to use the proton sling, but many of these borrow heavily from other games without adding anything new. Borrowing from other games is totally fine, the various mobility gels from Portal 2 as an example, but there’s little point to engage with these mechanics when they aren’t executed in an interesting way like in the games they originally appeared in. Double Cross specialises in these cliches, offering nothing in the way of innovative gameplay – it’s totally serviceable and adequate, but not very exciting to play.
It’s these inconsistent moments that frustrate the most; swinging through the air using the proton sling one minute, to getting bogged down by an uninspired light puzzle the next. This is also reflected in some of the loosely scripted events. One level concluded with a cave-in that required me to escape within a time limit, but despite the potential for this section to be a thrilling encounter, it was rather mundane. There was no heightened sense of urgency; the music stayed the same, no countdown sound effects, no flashing lights or any fanfare whatsoever beyond a small countdown in the top-right corner. This specific example is emblematic of how oddly-paced Double Cross feels to play. Continuing the inconsistency, the very next level saw a remarkable improvement; you’re chased for much of the level, but in this situation, the music changes intensity to suit. You’re forced to speed through at a high pace using the proton sling, and you feel much more excitement than the prior level. Sadly, these moments are too infrequent to get completely enthused about.
Finally, there’s the investigation component of Double Cross, which is anything but a fascinating caper. Deciphering who attacked RIFT is merely a case of collecting the unmissable key items literally given to you in each level, showing it to a relevant person, and then submitting it to your boss in the hub world. That’s it. I really wish I could tell you more about a tense cross-examination or interrogation of your findings culminating in an epic standoff revealing the truth, but there is literally nothing more to it. In line with this, the story plays out in a rather pedestrian fashion, and the “big” reveal at the end generates no emotional weight or surprise whatsoever. To its credit, Double Cross does include some nice morals, but the dialogue plays it too earnestly and on the nose to be considered much more than kids’ entertainment.
I really wanted to like Double Cross, especially after 13AM Games’ previous game Runbow was packed with personality, but I just failed to click with Double Cross on a monumental level. Instead of trying to emulate a combination of games like Mega Man and Phoenix Wright, I think Double Cross would have been better served by focusing on one gameplay element and solely perfecting that. I do respect the team’s ambition, but I don’t think they’ve done themselves any favours by spreading too many ideas too thinly across the game.
Despite a cool concept on paper, Double Cross spreads itself too thin trying in vain to emulate the platforming action of Mega Man and the investigative intrigue of Phoenix Wright to do anything original. Instead, Double Cross is a derivative, flat game with tepid combat and very little actual investigating to do.
+ Cool moments with proton sling
- Weak combat
- Poor "investigation" component
- Borrows heavily from other games without innovating