CROSSNIQ+ is an interesting take on a cross between a sliding puzzle and the beat-bopping style of the Dreamcast era. With funky characters and a digital-inspired color scheme, you can clearly see their inspiration in every single menu, puzzle, and mode. Ranging from an Endless mode to Multiplayer puzzle-offs, CROSSNIQ+ is certainly a broad game with plenty to play, but is it fun?
CROSSNIQ+ keeps the gameplay simple: move tiles around on a board to make a cross. A cross is where a full horizontal row meets a vertical column, both filled with one color (each board has three, customizable colors). This clears both, moving tiles down, respectively. Tiles can be moved off-board to the other side (think Pac-man) though, so there are multiple ways to play the same moves. If you want to select multiple tiles, you can do that too, and they will all move at once; good for pre-set tiles of the same color that you need to quickly move across the board. A timer on the side of the screen ticks down (in Endless mode), and when it reaches zero, it’s game over. Getting a cross resets the timer, however, leading into a bout of give and take.
Where the challenge comes into play is the addition of locks and frozen tiles. Locks make it so that tile cannot leave the screen, creating a veritable tug-of-war and often requires pulling tiles that are needed to complete a cross in unintended directions. Frozen tiles completely lock out your ability to move them, requiring you to build up crosses near them, as adjacent tiles clearing also clears locked and frozen tiles. These two hindrances may seem like minimal grievances, but with a loaded board, you need all the help you can get clearing it.
Top Scores is what any self-respecting puzzle game is worth these days, and CROSSNIQ+ has you earning leaderboard-topping scores in two ways. Starred tiles, when cleared, give you an extra bonus on top of clearing the cross itself. Speed bonuses are the other way to gain extra points, as you are awarded higher amounts per clear based on how long the next cross took you. These add an additional sense of urgency to focus on the important tiles and ensure you set yourself up for additional crosses in the way you move. Expert players can plan multiple crosses in a row by moving more than one tile at a time, but it takes a lot of concentration to get to that point.
There are plenty of modes in CROSSNIQ+ to keep you busy, ranging from the classics, such as Endless and Timed mode to the heated battle of Versus and the chilled gameplay of Chillout. Endless is your vanilla mode with the ever ticking clock that gets faster as you clear more and more crosses, whereas Timed mode has a set amount of time for you to rack up as many points as possible. Versus brings out the character of the game, where you literally have to choose from one of many anime-inspired characters to battle head-to-head against friends and foes alike; items add a new twist to the battling mayhem. Chillout rounds the game off with a totally no-frills version of the game with no timer or rules; it’s just you, the tranquil music and customizable backgrounds, and an endless batch of tiles to clear. Each mode feels great and with tons of options to customize both the appearance and how easy or hard the game is, there’s a lot to do in this fantastic puzzle game.
CROSSNIQ+ takes a great idea and spreads it thick all over the y2k-era graphics, music and overall style to make a well-rounded package that is as fun to watch as it is to play. With multiplayer and the inclusion of the other various modes, you can play CROSSNIQ+ as much as you want to, and will experience something new each time. The Kickstarter didn’t meet the goal in order to give us a single-player experience similar to Puyo Puyo Tetris, but I feel that it would have been a short distraction that most would have ignored compared to the main gameplay modes, anyways. If you’re looking for something new and love Tetris, Lumines and the bevy of other games that use shapes and tiles to clear, give CROSSNIQ+ a try, as it has something for everyone.
||Gameplay is fresh and original|
||Art and music are both wonderful|
||No online play|
||Would had liked a Story Mode, but no big deal|