Reviewed on Sony PlayStation 4Also available on Microsoft Xbox One, PC and Nintendo Switch
In your later years, you'll undoubtedly want to enjoy the peace and quiet that retirement offers you in your dream home, away from the hustle and bustle of modern life. Unfortunately for Henry and Florence - the happily married protagonists of CrossKrush - this is no longer possible, as a busy motorway has been built on their doorstep that drowns out their music and is a constant interruption to their harmonious lifestyle. Finally having had enough, the pair set out to destroy the road and the vehicles driving on it that are ruining their lives, and it's up to you to get the job done.
In each of the ten levels, there are ten puzzles to clear, with the width of the road and the number of cells it is divided into increasing as you progress. Individual cells can be selected by walking onto them and pressing X, and though only one cell can be activated at a time, multiple can be affected through the strategic destruction of the available vehicles. Red cars carry TNT, which explodes every vehicle in a one cell radius, while white cars activate the cells around them ready for a unified explosion on your command. This means that you can take out a large number of vehicles in fewer moves if you're smart about it, and can earn a higher score by improving your combo. If you're feeling feisty, you can beat vehicles into a metal pulp with your walking stick, or can utilise the various power-ups presented by random vehicles in the levels - such as health packs, laser beams and the ability to go Hulk - to take them out instead.
Though the goal of each level is to destroy all of the vehicles, you must be careful not to destroy ambulances, as doing so causes the entire lot of remaining vehicles to race across the crossing and tanks your score by a significant amount. Ambulances can freely pass across the crossing without hindering your score, and as they can sometimes be the vehicles which bear power-ups, you don't want to accidentally blow them away. Equally, rollers - a vehicle unique to the harder difficulties of the game where cells do not recover from damage - may also pass the crossing without ruining your score, and as they are a great help in repairing the damaged cells you need to complete each puzzle, it is worth keeping them intact.
Despite the various mechanics available, the gameplay of CrossKrush is unavoidably simplistic, and in its standard mode, the puzzles pose little challenge. Though solving the puzzles is somewhat gratifying, and some levels can take a little while to overcome, on the whole the game feels underwhelming in its difficulty and does not take long at all to complete. The puzzles follow the exact same format each time they are played, so if you're the sort of person who can memorise sequences of actions, there is very little replay value aside from maximising your scores, the limited multiplayer offerings, and the other difficulty modes to try. The multiplayer can be played in co-operative or versus modes, but even in those the levels remain the same, so there is no diversity in the gameplay; similarly, though the higher difficulties increase the insensity of the game by limiting the player to one life or no cell recovery, these challenges can be easily overcome if the solution is already known.
The graphics of the game are largely colourful and stylised, though the menus and level openings adopt a black-and-white classic cinema look, much like those used in Cuphead. The environments vary by level, but this variation is not enough to distract from the issues posed throughout. During the night-time levels, it becomes difficult to distinguish the colour of the vehicles with the bright headlights glaring across most of the screen, and this makes for a frustrating time when trying to efficiently wipe out the cars on the screen. When looking at far-off objects, the outlines are faded and blurred, and the overall quality of the surrounding environments is poor in comparison to the actual playable areas and the surrounding UI, which remains easy to read in any level. Given the loose story centred around the proximity to Henry and Florence's house, it would have made more sense to see their house featured more prominently, than so many different segments of the road.
The controls and mechanics of the game were also points of contention for me at various times. The aforementioned effect of the ambulances on the remaining cars was not well explained in the game's "how to play" sequence, mentioning only that the vehicles would start one line of cells closer to the crossing for each ambulance destroyed in a level. After selecting a cell, there is seemingly no way to cancel this selection without attempting to blow it up, and this was particularly frustrating after a white car was exploded and the cells it activated could not be cancelled off. While this arguably adds some difficulty, it was more infuriating than challenging, and did not fit in well with the otherwise intuitive control scheme. A final point is the movement speed of the characters; while I understand they are pensioners, often when rising from being knocked down, they were too slow to even move out of the way of the next row of vehicles, making for an unpleasant and repetitive sequence of knock-downs until finally safe.
At the very least, the jazzy soundtrack of CrossKrush is well-composed and is pleasant to listen to, not feeling dull or repetitive even after replaying a level a few times. The introductory cutscene for the game is nicely animated and articulated, conveying much of the loose story of the game in a very short space of time, and creates a sense of investment in getting Henry and Florence what they want. If you're a trophy or achievement hunter, the game is also excellent on that front, with fairly easy objectives to complete that encourage you to try out several of the game's modes as well as experiment with several of the different mechanics.
If you're looking for a quick, simple puzzle game to dive into every now and again, CrossKrush may fit the bill for you - but its limited replay value makes it very much a "when it's over, it's over" kind of game. It's fun while it lasts, even despite its flaws, and though it would have been nice to see more of a challenge from the game - perhaps in the form of an endless mode - it's worth the asking price of a few quid to have an occasional play of as is.