Developer - 13AM Games
Publisher - Graffiti Games
Platform - Steam, Nintendo Switch [version tested]
Genre - Platformer
Double Cross has a wonderful premise. Our heroine, Zahra Sinclair, is an officer for RIFT - Regulators of Interdimensional Frontiers and Technology - an organisation that polices travel between universes. Routine operations include tracking down interdimensional criminals, who might be smuggling advanced weapons to universes that can’t even change dimensions yet, and keeping to RIFT’s version of the Star Trek Prime Directive of non-interference. The idea is figuratively ripe with possibility.
What we end up with is an awkward cross between Mega Man, Shantae and Phoenix Wright (yes) with a smattering of redeeming features. The best of these is the Proton Slinger, Zahra’s grappling hook. Activating it slows time down and brings up a reticle that you use to target grapple points within range; it feels odd initially but soon becomes an essential part of gameplay. Even better, you can use it to pluck an enemy projectile out of the air and throw it back at them, aiming it like an egg in Yoshi’s Island. Beating an enemy at its own game is pretty satisfying, and it never feels overused.
What does feel overused is enemy sprites. There are three worlds, each with three levels: a world where dinosaurs evolved to be like humans, a world that’s basically a casino run by robots, and a world containing goo monsters. Although level furniture is always different, enemy types remain the same in each world, so things get samey fast. Having said that, some of the levels are really well-designed and it’s these, as well as the super-colourful cast of characters in RIFT’s headquarters, that you’ll remember once the game is finished.
Zahra returns to RIFT HQ to analyse the clues she found at the end of every level. This hub is home to RIFT’s motley crew of mostly humanoid interdimensional souls, although some of them feel like DeviantArt bait. One of the team will be able to help Zahra make sense of what she’s found, at which point it becomes evidence in her case against the villain of that world. Once Zahra has all the evidence she needs - in practice, once a world’s three levels are complete - she can take down said villain. These levels culminate in boss fights to stretch your combat skills. Once a world’s case is solved, Zahra gets a bit closer to figuring out the identity of the overall Big Bad - Suspect X.
Combat as a whole is mostly forgettable. Zahra has a standard three-punch combo and a series of kicks that level up when you collect the upgradium (that is its in-game name) hidden throughout levels. Some levels lock you in place for a face-off against a series of goons, à la Guacamelee! The comparison is not a great one: there’s so much variety in Guac-combat, and so little in Double Cross’s, that you almost wonder why they bothered having it in the game in the first place. The music is in pretty much the same boat, too - a huge shame when you consider that 13AM Games’s previous title, Runbow, featured some great tunes.
On the plus side the levels zip along at a decent pace. Some of the bosses are good fun, and the Saturday morning cartoon polish remains throughout, communicated via Shantae-like stills with text. The lifts in RIFT HQ move with a pleasing ticking sound (yes, this is a plus point!). Finding all the upgradium and getting all the achievements will take a while… but you would have to ask yourself why you would bother. Being an average game on the Switch eShop and/or Steam just means there are plenty of better games out there that are more deserving of your time. Ones where you can have more than one save file and skip cutscenes…
Final Verdict: Double Cross is not the finished article in two senses: firstly, because we ran into a couple of bugs and strange goings-on during our playthrough. Secondly, and worse, it’s an idea whose potential feels barely explored. Despite occasional glimpses of greatness, we’re left to hope for better in a sequel.