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Cross Hearts Arcadia (Android) artwork

Cross Hearts Arcadia (Android) review

"Hit-Point proves that when they stick to the basics, they can release a half-decent game!"

Cross Hearts Arcadia is a simple RPG that, while nothing special in the grand scheme of things, will provide a reasonably enjoyable 15-hour experience if you're the sort of person who has an affinity for low-budget, low-cost games like those Kemco regularly releases.

Damnation by faint praise? Perhaps, but considering this game was produced by Hit-Point, that still is more complimentary than I expected to be. Of Kemco's four main teams, I've struggled the most to connect with their efforts, usually tolerating them until I've had my fill and can move onto something from a different group. As I've stated before, their problem is simple: while the other teams handled Kemco's rapid-fire release schedule by playing it safe and churning out games so similar they could all be joined at the hip, Hit-Point went another route, aping all sorts of games from other companies. They've released a few "mons" titles, have a stripped down clone of something in the Metal Max series and even delved into action-RPGs and the hellish nightmare-scape of free-to-play. Unfortunately, there's one not-so-small problem: due to the rapid-fire release schedule Kemco seems to require, Hit-Point's efforts never amount to anything close to what they should, leaving consumers with cut-rate, clunky and flawed efforts that have difficulty justifying their 99-cent sale price, let alone the handful of dollars it normally costs to purchase them.

So, what makes Cross Hearts Arcadia different is the seemingly contradictory notion that Hit-Point wasn't trying to do anything different. Instead, the team released a stripped-down, simple RPG that can at least connect the dots and offer something both playable and even a bit enjoyable.

The plot: simple, yet fairly effective. You control Nirva, a young mage working as a researcher on his world's floating continent. Not only is that realm apparently a lot cooler than our own, but it possesses strange creatures known as "Engs." In some nearby ruins, Nirva soon finds the egg of an Eng, which immediately hatches in his presence. For the lad, this is big news. Engs are rare and only hatch in front of certain chosen people before bonding with them, essentially becoming two souls joined as one. All the Eng, named Tylt, knows is that it is supposed to find a location called the Genesis Sanctuary. Of course, no one seems to have any clue as to the place's actual location, so Nirva and Tylt find themselves on a journey to explore ruins for hints as to the relationship between Engs and humans, the purpose of Engs, the location of the sanctuary and, more forebodingly, the basis for rumors of a dark force somehow connected to the Engs. Of course, the heroes gain a few more allies in their quest, while also gaining the ire of a menacing figure with an Eng of his own.

To get to all the necessary ruins, the party will journey between the floating continent and the surface world. This process is made easy due to the fact the world map is simply a pair of screen-sized continents, where traveling between locations is as simple as scrolling through an ever-growing collection of dots. For a Kemco game, this is a positive. Most of their teams struggle mightily at crafting worlds appearing to be anything more than placeholders for towns and dungeons, so removing the tedious walks between locations feels more like trimming the fat than removing any integral element.

And Cross Hearts Arcadia benefits from such streamlining. The game moves quickly, as you go to the pertinent locations in a town and then to the next dungeon in order to unlock new locations to explore. Dungeons are fairly linear in general, but many of them have enough branching paths to at least deliver the illusion of large mazes. And you'll want to stroll down every path in order to find harvesting locations, as well. You can buy weapons and armor in towns, but you'll access superior stuff earlier (and in many cases, only) by collecting a lot of goods from dungeons and taking them to a town's forge in order to craft new equipment from recipes found by talking to a particular NPC who appears in virtually every locale. While a dedicated player could spend a lot of time revisiting dungeons to get sufficient materials to obtain every great piece of equipment available, I found that I was able to finish the game without much difficulty simply by thoroughly exploring every place as I came across it. Most of my stuff still had at least one possible upgrade left, but the final bosses still fell without too much fuss.

This game also gets a few of those "little things" right. To symbolize the connection between Engs and their human, while Nirva and Tylt are separate entities in battle, they share the same health and magic supply. If one perishes, the other is also out of action. While the plot revolves around their quest to locate the Genesis Sanctuary, the designers found time to add a subplot concerning the ambitious lord of one of the surface world's kingdoms and his plot to rebel against the current governmental system in order to install himself as High King of the entire realm... a matter complicated by how the current High King is married to that lord's daughter.

That subplot does a lot to liven up the middle portion of the game. Unfortunately, when it's resolved, the rest of the game devolves into a lengthy pattern of being told to explore a particular place, going there and then returning to the High King's castle to find the next place to visit for clues. While the game never becomes tedious due to how fast-moving things remain, the story does run out of steam in its latter hours.

That's one of the reasons why Cross Hearts Arcadia fits into the "almost good, but…" category. This is also one of Kemco's uglier games, loaded with small sprites featuring very little animation that's mainly present in your party members. A few late-game dungeons, in particular the final one, are long, linear and boring to traverse. Much like most Kemco games, this one utilizes IAP to access extra content. However, there is no way to earn IAP points other than purchasing it with real-life money, and one of the items hidden behind that paywall is an optional dungeon. Occasionally, Hit-Point crams in some bizarre humor for no real purpose, such as when one character--normally presented as a famed badass mercenary--gets flustered because other characters decide her (apparently massive) chest is a great topic for open conversation. Meanwhile, minor details like character development for anyone not named Tylt fall by the wayside.

Saying a game is essentially disposable junk food that is easy to consume, but not memorable in any way, might not sound like much of a complement on the surface. However, having played a few of Hit-Point's other attempts, I have to declare that description to be a step up from the norm! Is it a simple RPG that, other than equipment upgrading, is completely by-the-books? Yes. Is it littered with minor (or major, if you're the sort to be easily triggered by out-of-place crude commentary) annoyances? Sure. But on the other hand, it's a fast-paced adventure with a decent premise and it manages to avoid some of Kemco's most consistent failings. Cross Hearts Arcadia might not be anything special, but it's at least competently designed to the point where it's a fairly enjoyable time-waster.


overdrive's avatar
Staff review by Rob Hamilton (February 20, 2018)

Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.

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