What if you could travel to parallel worlds? The same year, the same Earth, only different dimensions? RIFT found the gateway. In Double Cross, you’re Zahra, a multidimensional agent solving crimes across the multiverse. When a mysterious hooded figure attacks the agency, it’s up to you to solve the mysteries surrounding the attack and your evil twin. Coming from the studio behind Runbow, Double Cross is an action platformer with a few neat tricks up its sleeves and a few less than neat tricks elsewhere. It all comes together into something that flings itself towards greatness but lands short.
Double Cross review – Making the next leap
If there’s one thing the developers at 13AM Games nails, it’s worldbuilding. There are so many pieces of media depicting otherworldy creatures with decidedly Earth-inspired design. Forehead ridges and different skin colors are nice, but you have to imagine that aliens and extradimensional beings are going to be a bit weirder than that. Double Cross understands this, presenting players with a many-eyed character named V”!!k}~X right off the bat. The rest of the campaign continues with these clever moments, subverting expectations and eliciting genuine laughter.
The case Zahra embarks on takes place in three distinct alternate realities. Each one is beautifully realized through dialogue and level design. No boss or character just shows up ready for a fight; they all subtly introduce themselves as you make your way through each stage. Most facilities feel like they have a purpose, even when it breaks into some typical floating platforms. Even better, said purpose usually ties into whatever you happen to be looking into on the mission.
Levels have you gathering clues that you bring back to your base and present to your teammates. Of course, you can present any item to any character and get some adventure game-esque goofs out of it. Nothing’s funnier to me than going against all presented logic, swinging towards the absurd, and forcing characters to rightly question whether your protagonist has gone nuts. Double Cross‘ writers must have had a ton of fun making these scenarios.
Double Cross review – Wrestling with shadows
It’s great that Double Cross nails its story and characters, but that’s the only thing holding it up. In contrast to Runbow‘s unique spin on its genres, Double Cross is utterly generic in execution. The action splits into platforming, combat, and investigation segments. All three of these elements work, but significant flaws hold them down at every turn. When strung together, the gameplay swings from frustrating to sleep-inducing, and there are precious few moments where it hits the sweet center.
Take jumping, the most basic action. Zahra gets good height on her leaps, but she’s incredibly floaty. Double Cross continually demands precision despite not giving you the tools to decipher exactly where you’ll land. The unique grappling hook ability alleviates some of the problems by slowing down time as you aim. However, you need to hit grapple points with the tool, and your angle of approach changes with your air positioning. Add in the hook’s short timer and you’ll accidentally fling yourself into spikes over and over.
One challenge where you need to fling yourself through gaps for 60 seconds without touching the floor was particularly frustrating because of these shortcomings. You need to complete six challenges in total here, but only this one puts you under such strict limitations. I threw myself at it for over an hour before finally getting through, a massive difficulty spike compared to the rest of the game. If I had a bit more control over my actions in the air, this would have been somewhat more manageable.
Double Cross review – Finding objection
Combat isn’t any better. It has the tiniest amount of depth thanks to a meter full of powers you can charge by bashing foes. You can get a fireball, a blinding flash, or a regular heal after gathering enough energy. Beyond that, you get bog standard punches and a few interesting air moves, including a wicked divekick. Still, it’s nothing to write home about, and the endless combat arenas Double Cross throws in your path are just filler.
With all the great writing on display, you’d hope that there’d be something to chew on in the investigative segments. Handing over items to people on the ship is a good addition, but unfortunately, since there’s also no penalty for doing that, there’s nothing stopping players from brute forcing their way through each segment. There’s no failure state and no stakes; just some jokes at your expense until you find the right person. Double Cross wants you to connect with its crew here, but it’s hard to do. All the dialogue just ends up as a hurdle to unlock each level, and it takes work to build up the interest in all the goings-on.
Finally, in a statement that won’t win me any popularity contests, Double Cross‘s visual style is just as bad as its platforming. The anime inspiration doesn’t pull through and the characters and settings all look forgettable. Games like Shantae: Half-Genie Hero pull off this 2D animated look well, but there’s always a risk of producing something generic. As great as the world of Double Cross is, it would come alive that much more if it had any distinct style whatsoever.
Double Cross is an up and down ride, but I can’t shake the feeling that there’s another dimension out there. There has to be a world where the jumping feels on point and the combat has more punch, the investigative elements match up to the writing’s overall quality, and a dimension where Double Cross stands out from the crowd rather than fading into the background. A lot of talent assuredly went into this production. I just hope that 13AM’s next project does more to showcase it.
Double Cross was reviewed on Nintendo Switch with a code provided by the developer.