CrossCode TechDemo Impressions

Lining up a shot, angling a shot just right, and savoring every breath as you let out that prefect shot is what makes Pool such an satisfying game, and it’s that very same technical satisfaction that makes the early build TechDemo of CrossCode, an HTML5 Action RPG on the Impact.JS game engine, such an entertaining and interesting demo. While it is just a TechDemo, the current public version of CrossCode shows not only a technically sound build but also shows just how much potential this project has.

CC TechDemo BannerGame: CrossCode (TechDemo Version)
Genre: Action-RPG
Developer: Radical Fish
Release Date: TBA

Let's enter the world of CrossCode

Let’s enter the world of CrossCode

Botchan Concept and Sprites

Main character, currently named Botchan, in her concept art and sprite forms.

The story portion of this Action RPG cannot be discussed just yet, but the visuals and gameplay are more than worth some healthy analysis. Visually, Crosscode is a very simple looking game because as the developers put it “the devil is in the detail,” yet the simple aesthetic of the game manages to be quite pleasing and functional. Since there’s not an overly abundant amount of detail, every object on the screen is easy to identify and thus leaves the frustration of “What is this madly embellished contraption?” that too much detail can cause out the door. For this build, the developers also demonstrated a competent understanding of level design, as the various platforms that a player can jump onto are placed fairly close together. Because of this, the relative heights of each platform can be easily distinguished. This has very little consequence on the TechDemo, as there’s no risk to the platforming just yet, but this design promises that any later platforming sections will not be marred by any questions about what is or isn’t a platform or any questions about the height of a platform or object.

One small issue in the looks, though: Yo what
Yeah, if one places Botchan right where an enemy will spawn, then the playable character will appear to be inside the enemy. This actually ends up having no consequence at all, as the player can simply move out the enemy and afterward the enemy will be its usual non-transparent self, but it is slightly jarring. I mean, come on, the enemies hurt Botchan by essentially touching her, so being INSIDE on of them is horrible. Like I said, it bares no consequence at the moment, but if a large enemy were to spawn on top of Botchan in later releases this could cause some issues. Past that one issue, though, the game looks nice and being able to recognize what every object on the screen is at a glance is a definite plus.

'Course, this is a gameplay focused demo, so...

‘Course, this is a gameplay focused demo, so…

As with the visuals, the gameplay of CrossCode is simple. In fact, the developers themselves described the full of the TechDemo’s gameplay in one, simple picture:

Crosscode Game

Why is this worth a healthy analysis, then? Simple, it’s worth discussion because of just how nice throwing balls is in CrossCode. Throwing a ball can be done in two ways. One way is to just quickly click or mash the LMB in order to do a Quick Shot or Shots, which are less damaging and less accurate than a charged shot, and another way is to hold the LMB and throw out a Charged Shot, which is more powerful than a Quick Shot but take some time without quickly changing the aim (which can happen by dodging or abruptly moving the mouse) in order to charge. Charging a shot also allows the ball to be bounced off of a wall, which adds another layer of depth to the simple act of throwing a ball. Throwing a ball in CrossCode really does feel like fast-paced Pool; there’s so much thought that can be put behind each shot even in the few scenarios that this TechDemo presents that each connected shot turns out to be simply gratifying and each missed shot is met with disappointment and, in some cases, panic about the enemies’ counter attack. The pressure put behind each shot really makes the act of “throwing energy balls at everything” so intense and makes CrossCode exciting.

Angling Shots

Simple angle shot from the tutorial.

Crosscode Enemies

The enemies of the techdemo. Though they are few, there’s still hella fun to dodge

However, CrossCode’s combat involves yet another mechanic, dodging. Dodging in CrossCode is done by simply holding down the direction one wants to dodge in and pressing the RMB. This causes Botchan to spin in the given direction for short distance. Dodging can be used to dodge enemy attacks and to cancel out the Shot Delay that happens for a short period of time after a Charged Shot. Even though dodging can be performed multiple times in a row, the enemies’ ability to correct the direction of their attack before actually charging discourages the rapid use of the dodge. Instead, in order to successfully dodge an enemy attack one must wait until the attack is just about to hit Botchan before dodging. This matador-y dodging style makes dodging an attack in CrossCode an exhilarating experience.

Now, it’s easy to look at the fact that those two mechanics, throwing a ball and dodging, are currently the only things the TechDemo offers and scoff at my excitement over this project, but that’s only if one doesn’t pay any mind to the Final Challenge that this TechDemo offers. The Final Challenge is where the combat really shines as its difficulty introduces a level of depth that the rest of the demo, which is mostly for introducing the simple, core mechanics of CrossCode, simply isn’t about. The Final Challenge challenges players to defeat waves of an increasing number of baddies (there are only two enemies that show up in this challenge, the mice and the charging top-looking robots), and as the number of enemies increases the player must start thinking about spacing, target prioritizing, dodging multiple enemy attacks, properly charging an attack versus just throwing out some balls, and a wealth of other issues in order to survive. Having to think about so many different things in this simple combat is what makes me most excited about this game; I’m used to dealing with a high level of depth and flow from Japanese action games and such, but the potential depth and the present flow of CrossCode’s combat is very intriguing.

Nice for a techdemo, but leaves me worried nonetheless.

Nice for a techdemo, but leaves me worried nonetheless.

I do have my reservations about the gameplay, though. Mainly, while the Final Challenge of this techdemo showcases the intensity of CrossCode’s combat, there’s no such demonstration for the puzzle mechanics of the game. Currently, the “hardest puzzle” one has to solve is angling a ball in just the right way to hit a switch. This can be largely excused because of the fact that this is an early techdemo that shows the core mechanics and little else, but it still leaves me with a fear that most of CrossCode’s puzzles will be figuring out how to angle a shot to hit a switch or how to angle a shot so that a box will be pushed in the right direction. Those kinds of puzzles are okay, but they leave a lot to be desired and if the whole game is full of them, they’ll get boring really, [i]really[/i] fast. I’m trying to refrain from suggestions as much as possible in this preview, but I hope that CrossCode’s puzzles are deeply intertwined with the combat mechanics, kind of like the Trial of the Warrior puzzle/fight from Devil May Cry 3. Hopefully my concerns about the puzzles of CrossCode turn out to be proven wrong.

This techdemo is only a very small portion of what Radical Fish has in store for CrossCode, yet it has already left a great impression on me and gives me hope that Radical Fish can truly deliver on their promises. If you like what you’ve read about CrossCode, please check out the techdemo by clicking the link given at the beginning of this preview, and if you have some comment you’d like to give about CrossCode then feel free to leave a comment on this article or to contact Radical Fish via their tigsource DevLog or from the contact given by their website.

Tl;dropinion:
Visuals:
+ Very visually pleasing game; everything is easy to distinguish.
+ Objects in the world are set close enough that one can tell the relative heights of the platforms
– Enemies can spawn on top of the player. They separate easily, but it’s still slightly jarring.

Gameplay:
+ Very simple shooting mechanic, but satisfying and flows well.
+ Dodging is exciting
+ Final Challenge suggests a good amount of depth in the combat
* Worried about puzzles

Also, if you have any comments about the quality of the article itself, please let us know, and if you like what you’ve read then please follow The Polypinion WordPress blog, subscribe to The Polypinion youtube channel, and follow the Polypinion twitch channel. We have a lot in store and hope that you guys will be entertained by our wild antics and serious discussions. In fact, I’ll leave you guys with a little hint about what the next article will be, considering it will also be about Crosscode:

The Final Challenge is kinda hard, if only there were some sort of guide so that one could better adapt CrossCode's combat. If only...

The Final Challenge is kinda hard, if only there were some sort of guide so that one could better adapt CrossCode’s combat. If only…

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3 Comments on “CrossCode TechDemo Impressions”

  1. Lachsen says:

    Hi there!

    Lachsen here from Radical Fish Games!
    Thanks a lot for the very detailed review!

    Just something I’d like to mention about your two concerns:
    1. We already added work around for the overlapping entities issue. Overlapping entities are simply pushed apart. This makes the whole situation visually much more plausible. You’ll be able to test this in the TechDemo++
    2. We of course plan to add much more variety to the puzzles beyond repeated angle shots, though most puzzles will still involve throwing balls at stuff. It’s more about how the stuff reacts when hit by the ball. There are a lot of possibilities here (simple example: hit an exploding barrel to burn a barrier away).
    Apart from that, we plan to let enemies evolve into something like action-oriented puzzles themselves. Just as we plan to add more variation to the combat (it’s an RPG, so there will be more attacks / ways to throw balls), enemies will get strength and weaknesses that need to be considered. Enemies, which can only be defeated by harnessing the surroundings, are possible as well.
    This is mostly just ideas, but we design the engine specifically to support this kind of complex gameplay.

    Otherwise: The review is nicely structured. You should check for some small formatting issues, though. 😀

    • smnfly says:

      Hey, Lachsen/Radical Fish, thanks for dropping by! Good to know that the few concerns I had for your project have been worked out/are being considered already. Like I said in the article , I’m really looking forward to playing some more CrossCode, so be on the lookout for another impressions article about TechDemo++ from the good ol’ Polypinion.

      Even more thanks for the comments about the article itself! Yeah, I realize that there are a number of issues I need to fix, and and I plan to fix those issues over the next few weeks with some overall improvements to the Polypinion as a whole.


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