Somewhere in Seville, Spain, there are four guys stuffed inside a cramped attic, using internet from a borrowed router, trying to make a video game about their childhood.
Crossing Souls is an upcoming game that's sort of like a cross between Stand By Me and Far Cry: Blood Dragon. It's a retro-style action-adventure game set in 1986, about a bunch of kids in a California suburb who uncover an ancient artifact that opens up a parallel realm. Just about every aspect of the game will remind you of the 1980s, from the pixel art to the classic cartoon-style cutscenes. But the point isn't to make a game just like the classics the team grew up with, says designer and programmer Juan Diego Vázquez. It's to recreate a specific feeling associated with the decade.
"We missed being kids," he says. "We missed those kinds of adventures you used to see in films, where everything was possible and where any kid could become a hero living a unique adventure without stepping out of his or her town."
The game, which is currently in the midst of a Kickstarter campaign, has you controlling a team of five young kids who stumble across an artifact while playing in the woods. This artifact makes it possible to enter the realm of the dead, and the adventure will just get crazier from there, involving everything from government conspiracies to giant pink dinosaurs. According to Vázquez, the goal was to recreate "the feeling of a band of friends joined no matter what happens," that you'd find in movies like E.T. or The Goonies.
"It's not necessary to be born in the ‘80s to fully understand."
Despite all of the obvious retro influences, the game isn't being designed to appeal just to kids from the '80s. In fact, while it looks a lot like an old-school, top down Zelda, Vázquez says the gameplay is strongly inspired by modern games like Sword & Sworcery and the upcoming Hyper Light Drifter: a mix of classic exploration and adventure with elements pulled from role-playing games. "It's not necessary to be born in the ‘80s to fully understand the history we tell in Crossing Souls," explains Vázquez, "nor is it needed to have played games from that time to understand it."
Crossing Souls has been in development off and on for about a year. Shortly into the process, the four-person team had to take a break in order to drum up some extra funds, so they worked on a few mobile games on the side. Eventually they were able to save up enough to secure the tiny attic office (hence the studio name Fourattic) and get enough of the game complete so they could launch the crowdfunding campaign. Vázquez says that the core of the game is done, but it's in a "very raw state," and the goal is to have it completed in about a year's time. The studio is looking for $45,000 to fund development, with a planned launch on PC, Mac, and Linux some time in early 2016.
What the team hopes to avoid is something that has plagued plenty of similar projects: failing to live up to the game's very obvious inspirations. "How many people think that Prometheus is not like Alien, or that Super 8 is far from the magic that E.T. or The Goonies had?" Vázquez asks. It's a balancing act between mining nostalgia and creating something brand new, and the team at Fourattic is still trying to find the ratio right in order to recapture the magic of those classics.
"We're trying to get a middle point," says Vázquez.