Games are a fun way to get close and bond with those we share our lives with. While some thrive on games that focus on competition, I’ve always enjoyed playing games cooperatively together. Two-player cooperative games like Luigi’s Mansion are uncommon, but I’m adding Starcrossed to my list of games to enjoy with a partner.
StarCrossed is an action arcade game with a magical girl aesthetic and a cooperative twist centered around themes of togetherness and unity. If you can imagine playing a cross between Pong, Sailor Moon, and a space shooter with a peppy soundtrack by PearlPixel, that’s close to what StarCross offers.
StarCrossed is designed from the ground up as a two-player co-operative experience. There is a split controller mode which would allow theoretically allow one player to control both characters, but in my opinion the only reason to use that mode would be to get extra cuddly with a special someone. Each player chooses one of five characters, and then both players face off against hordes of space monsters. Instead of firing lasers, the two players bounce a star between each other, damaging anything struck by the star.
Getting an enemy between two players can be tricky, especially the fast-moving meanies. Fortunately, the star gets bigger and faster if both players time button presses as the star gets close to their character. My partner and I missed this the first couple of stages, and it makes a difference! As you play you build up points for an Ultimate attack, which when unleashed sends sparkly death across the screen to your foes. Timing when to unleash this attack is strategic, especially during boss battles.
There are two modes to choose from, Arcade or Story. Arcade is for you competitive types with wave after wave of enemies, and a chance to see your name on the online leaderboard. Story mode intersperses visual novel style narration between stages, and the story changes completely based on which two characters you choose. The main plot is the same, you have to rescue the Harmony crystal from the clutches of an evil scientist, but the interactions between different characters along the way encourage a second or third playthrough.
Playing with a buddy is what makes this game special. If you aren’t communicating and coordinating, you won’t succeed. Playing successfully is like dancing with your partner, not drifting too far apart so that the star doesn’t have a long time to travel between you. Strategies must be communicated on the fly, especially to combat pesky enemies hiding in the corners or bosses with lots of hit points. As I said earlier, timing your button presses to accelerate the star is crucial. If one particular stage is particularly challenging, the game gives you a full Ultimate gauge for a boost for that level.
Sparkly explosions, empowered interesting female characters, upbeat music, a message of teamwork and cooperation, and an overall feel-good positive vibe make this magical girl bullet-hell shooter easy to recommend. What makes the experience of playing StarCrossed magical is getting into the flow with your gaming partner and learning their habits, not just the patterns of on-screen enemies, and yelling back and forth ideas, strategies, and encouragement. While a playthrough on story mode is not much more than an hour or two, five playable characters to freshen the story in a replay adds a lot of value, as does the arcade mode once you and your partner get your groove on. Grab someone you care for and get StarCrossed!
A copy of StarCrossed for Nintendo Switch was provided by Contigo Games and Whitethorn Digital for the purpose of this review