Early 2000s were a wild time. It gave us Avril Lavigne, the scene kids, High School Musical and an embarrassing amount of denim outfits. In the gaming world Sega was still standing with its Dreamcast, which was full of contemporary yet stylish titles. And now, like from a time capsule arrives CROSSNIQ+ — a love letter to all things Y2K and Dreamcast.
CROSSNIQ+ is a puzzle game. Playing on a board with three different colors of squares, the point is to create crosses of one color by scrolling the rows or columns. That cross disappears, leaving you with more squares and more crosses to create. To make the whole thing more interesting there are blocks that cannot be scrolled to the other side of the screen, ones that cannot be moved at all and ones that give you point bonuses.
The main mode is endless, where you play until you fail (by taking too long to build the cross). There is also a time trial mode, a chillout mode and a two-player mode, which means you can show your superiority to your friends. All of this and more is overflowing with that Y2K aesthetic; full of chrome, white and cool blues.
It’s been a while since I’ve played a game with such a detailed and consistent art-style. Everything from the company logos, through all of the menus and locations to the main game. The blocks are incredibly clean and instantly readable, just like the rest of the UI. Someone could tell me that CROSSNIQ+ is a game from the Sega Dreamcast and I wouldn’t question it at all. Only complaint that I have is that some of the color combinations for blocks (which can be changed, so it’s not a big deal) make it difficult to focus on one of the colors.
The only thing that didn’t feel immediately Y2K are the characters — the player can meet them in different locations such as the shop or the art gallery that hosts the chillout mode. They are all incredibly stylized and consistent, and some of them can be used during the two-player mode.
The music only adds to the aesthetic. The tracks are a good background music while my gears spin hard to figure out where to place the next cross. The track choice is limited, but it doesn’t really matter that much, they’re all really nice.
Looking good gets you only so far. Thankfully, CROSSNIQ+ also plays great. The main loop plays smoothly, with your cursor going around the board, moving the blocks around and making crosses. All the important things are clearly marked, such as special blocks, and the UI shows you everything you need.
It takes a second to learn the game and the tutorials are very useful. One of the characters, Monitan, explains both the basics and then the advanced techniques very clearly. The advanced stuff includes being able to do bigger crosses where either columns or rows is two-blocks wide and the ability to put down markers which allows for scrolling in multiple places at the same time. I found that one to be way more complex for me and haven’t really used it.
But even without using my full potential, I’m having immense fun with the game. Like other puzzle games a single play sessions can end up being hours just because you wanted to beat your own record or maybe be the best in the world. The multiplayer also has some power-ups that can be used to spice up the fight between the players — it’s optional though, so if you want some straight-up competition you can go for it.
CROSSNIQ+ might just be a new Tetris for me. A simple idea executed perfectly with insane skill ceiling. A puzzle game I could potentially spend hours getting immersed in. All masterfully done with the beautiful Y2K aesthetic — a word I never know how to write correctly.
CROSSNIQ+ releases on October 4th on Windows, Mac, Linux and Nintendo Switch.