CrossSide: The Prison is a new “Escape the Room” style game from ARVI LLC that is, in short, very impressive. I’m normally not a fan of these types of games – I find that they force difficulty by adding in puzzles that can’t be solved except through excessive trial and error, overly complex puzzles that are fairly unsatisfying, and a they cause a sense of frustration that makes me want to “escape the room” by clicking Exit Game. CrossSide: The Prison is a new breed, however. It combines Escape the Room style gameplay with intuitive puzzles that make you think, but don’t leave you ripping your hair out. It has a narrative that is fairly simple, yet compelling. It has great graphics without sacrificing too much performance. All together it reminds me of a classic gaming experience reminiscent of classic games from decades ago – except modern and in Virtual Reality.

Here in the tutorial area is a great showcase of what the game can do graphically. This is on all maxed out settings. Performance was great in this part of the game, although I did hit some performance snags in the second chapter (the dev is working to resolve this at time of writing.) You can see the world is very dense with objects and doesn’t seem bogged down by that like many other VR games I’ve played. Detail is great, text is legible in VR which is an amazing feat in-and-of itself.

Another thing this .gif shows, which is a really great feature, is the color-coded system for objects. Objects that can be picked up are one color – objects that can be dragged around are another. Clues are a special color (so you can seek them, or avoid them for more of a challenge,) and “important” items needed to progress are another color entirely. I like how this part is designed, it really helps to keep gameplay going, but gives you an option to ignore anything you see is “clue colored” so you can make the game more challenging, if you’d like. I like challenges, but I also don’t like to just sit around scratching my head, so I use all the clues.

Here in this .gif we see a good representation of the amount of items, and the density, in which the game is able to handle on screen. I was not expecting the glass bottles to break quite frankly. Nor was I expecting to be able to turn that fan on and off. Everything reacts very nicely, and there’s no issues grabbing objects or having to reach super far. The grab distance is nice, without having things flying across the room to zoom to your hand like you summoned it with the Force.

Gameplay wise, this ability to put a lot of objects in one area well really lends itself to the atmosphere and overall gameplay. One part, which you’ll see in a later .gif, has you almost wading through trash in a disused part of the prison. While that seems odd in text, it is extremely immersive in practice. Sure, you could walk right through it in the real world, but your character gets movement blocked. Trying to teleport or arm swing through it (The game supports both simultaneously,) however, leaves you feeling like you’re blocked by trash. I found myself moving trash out of my way to try to proceed, which was actually really cool. The conditions were cramped, dirty, and felt like I was trying to escape a prison through mainly disused service access areas.

Also, for some reason, you can actually wear hats in the game, which is what you see above my screen. I do my capture by capturing a single eye’s display, so the image you see regarding the hat is a bit misleading. It actually looks really good in game, it looks like you’re wearing a normal hat. I couldn’t say if this has any particular gameplay effect or not yet, but the feature is there and it works without being obtrusive.

So here in Chapter 1 we get a really great example of the lighting effects of this game. I know I’ve gone on about the graphics, but the lighting is honestly more spectacular. That first switch when you put the purple light in was a bit mind blowing, as I didn’t really pay attention to the lighting until it changed so drastically. You can even see me look around when I was just kind of shocked by how dark it suddenly got. I’ve never seen a VR game with such dynamic lighting – things are usually always dark for scary games or particularly bright for everything else.

This also gives a great showcase of how the game progresses. Each part of the puzzle you solve thrusts you into the next bit, and more importantly – you keep moving. The first time you’re in this room it can take a little bit to figure it out and get out – but as soon as you get moving you don’t stop. It’s a game of constant feelings of “what do I do next…?” and then “Aha!” as you figure it out. Again, it doesn’t leave you scratching your head in frustration due to overly complex puzzles, but it isn’t so easy that you don’t have to think about anything either. So in this case, you can see that once you figure out the lightbulb situation, the game naturally directs you to the next part – and all of this fits within the narrative that slowly unfolds as you play.

This .gif here is the one I mentioned earlier with the tight, confined space full of clutter. This part was particularly immersive for me because I really felt I needed to get all that junk out of the way. Once I realized I was wrong, then I really had to move all the junk again because it was now definitely in my way.

Another interesting point about the narrative of the story is how many ways its presented to you. It starts in the tutorial even, although I didn’t quite realize until it played it out for me. The character gives off a narrative from the first person, while the newspapers and other items in the game give you perspective on the story from another view. As far as the story goes… I find myself conflicted. The main character presents it one way, but if the storytelling holds, I suspect as I get even further in the game these news paper articles are going to reveal more and more about the story. So now I find myself wondering… “Is my character telling himself, or rather me, the truth? Is his perspective warped? What’s going on?”

Now I’ve thrown these two .gifs together as a bit of a finale because not long into the game I was taken out of an “escape the room” style game, and thrust straight into a stealth game, and that was not something I was expecting. It’s not too easy to see in the .gif, (that amazing lighting!) but in the first one I nearly get spotted by the guard. I had a sense of dread in that moment – was he going to spot me? What’s he going to do? Shoot? Do I have to fight him? Well, without anything to fight with, I had to sneak past. I’m not honestly sure if you can fight them – I’d guess not, they probably have guns. As you can see, I felt inclined to grab the knife just in case. This part of the game was an intense moment, and was proceeded by another intense moment, and the game doesn’t stop there.

All in all, I owe this game a ton of praise. It’s hard to find a fault with it. The only thing I could think of is the voice acting, which sounds like they’re doing it themselves, and they still do a great job – especially considering they’re doing English voice over’s and don’t sound like native speakers. While it’s not the highest quality VO’s, it also adds a sense of gritty realism that I can’t deny has a charm. I had a bit of a performance issue in Chapter 2, which the dev is already working on.

The game is interesting and immersive, and the narrative really drives you through the game wondering what’s next, what you’ll see and what you’ll have to do to escape. I haven’t finished it just yet, but I’m looking forward to it. For “Escape the Room” style game fans, I’d say this is a must own. For those skeptical, the price is definitely right at $12.99 US, and I think for those who haven’t enjoyed Escape the Room style games in the past, this title shows exactly how good this style of game can be when someone with talent puts good effort into it. To me, it sets a new standard for the style of game. At this point, I can fairly say they’ve set a new standard for Escape the Room style games, and any games following are going to have to at least meet that bar to be worth the time.

CrossSide: The Prison on Steam

——————————————————————————————————————

Thank you to Kitsuga for hosting my reviews and to ARVI LLC for the game! You can find more from me, crimsonBZD at twitch.tv/crimsonBZD , twitter.com/crimsonBZD , and on Instagram! My music studio’s website is Element115Studios.com