Games like Chrono Trigger and Day of the Tentacle revolutionized time travel in gaming, a concept that has since been used in numerous ways. The idea of being able to change how the future will turn out by fixing a problem before it happens has provoked the interest of just about everyone. Across Age does a good job of playing off this concept, but comes up short in its overall execution.
Across Age tells the story of two young and ambitious adventurers. There’s Ales, a confident young knight, and Ceska, a grand mage who at the start of the game has not yet been able to fully harness any of her powers other than time travel. They have a common goal: defeat an evil mage who has been erasing people, landmarks, and even entire towns from history. In order to do this, they must collect three hourglasses that will allow them to control time. It’s a pretty generic story, but it does have its moments, such as when Ceska’s only living relative, her grandma, gets erased.
The biggest gameplay change between Across Age and similar Zelda-like RPGs is your control over multiple characters. In order to proceed through dungeons and collect items, you must utilize the two characters’ special abilities. For example, Ales can pick up Ceska and throw her over holes and ledges so that she can release a bridge for him. Other times an enemy will be immune to one character’s attacks and must be killed by the other. You can split the characters up whenever you like, but to team up again they must be next to each other.
Super Nintendo, eat your heart out.
Time traveling also plays a big part in the game. Since only Ceska can perform this spell, only she can move through time. Portals allow her to go to the past or future and alter the state of the environment, removing objects or collecting items. In town, she can use the pool of rebirth to bring an item to another time period, thus altering it.
However, Across Age suffers from some major issues that keep the best parts from shining through. The most immediately noticeable problem is the controls. The tiny analog pad makes movement stiff and imprecise. People with larger hands will have a particularly hard time. The buttons are equally small, and the menus could use work, as they are quite clunky.
Exciting combat in an action-RPG is a must, but Across Age also lets us down on this front. Ales attacks enemies simply by running into them. The goal is to attack diagonally so that the enemy can’t fight back as much, but this doesn’t always seem to work. Ceska is a bit better, with multiple spells she can cast from a distance. Boss battles have you using both characters simultaneously, but switching between them quickly is a pain and often results in your death.
I just found an enormous Lego. Let’s go play!
Some elements of the environment also are poorly considered. For example, in many areas holes and water must be avoided, or else you must restart the room. Falling through these is far too easy and breaks the flow of the game. Enemy placement is also an issue, with some arranged so that Ales can’t come at them diagonally. Luckily, the game allows you to restart in a simplified version of the room if you die, but it doesn’t make up for unfair encounters.
Once an enemy leaves your line of vision it respawns, and due to the sheer amount of them, this can lead to tough situations. We don’t mind them coming back after leaving an area, but fighting through the same enemies over and over again due to excessive backtracking becomes a tedious and time-consuming task. The lack of a map can also send you wandering back through enemy-ridden rooms many times until finding where you need to go, especially in some of the maze-like areas.
Instead of aiming for the experienced, hardcore audience, Across Age is good for newcomers with its straightforward level progression and few distracting side quests. By taking out the need to micromanage numerous stats, items, and abilities, Across Age is great for casual play. Also, the ability to save anywhere is a big plus for any iPhone game.
RPG experts will definitely still find some enjoyment in Across Age, but otherwise we can’t recommend it at a high price point unless some of its issues are cleared up.