Crossniq is a slick puzzle game in which you slide tiles on its board to form crosses. Its design harkens back to the ’90s idea of science fiction, featuring pops of neon and futuristic silhouettes. It’s available for free on the web on the indie game site itch.io, but Cleveland-based indie dev Max Krieger has also launched a Kickstarter campaign today for an expanded version called Crossniq Plus on PC and potentially on consoles such as the Nintendo Switch.
Krieger was finishing up his previous game, Train, when he came up with the idea for Crossniq. Players slide entire rows and columns in order to match up tiles and clear them from the board before they run out of time. Special tiles also limit movement, such as a locked tile that prevents certain rows and columns from moving.
The game currently only has an endless mode, but the success of puzzle games such as Puyo Puyo Tetris encouraged Krieger to add more ways to play his title. Though the two aren’t similar in execution, Puyo Puyo mashes up tile-matching and Tetris-like gameplay across various single-player and four-player modes.
With the Kickstarter campaign, Krieger plans to add various time challenges, a versus mode, a “chill” mode that has no timer, and possibly a multiplayer mode. He’s also considering a mobile port of the game, which would be called Crossniq Light. However, the small screens of iOS and Android devices require a total redesign because they don’t support as many rows and columns. It’s something that Krieger says he plans to do in the future, but in the meantime, he’s working on fleshing out the game mechanics and design. He’s been working with artists who have helped him design a roster of characters for players to choose from.
“Right now I’m the only developer on the project, but I do have a couple of artists and musicians helping me out,” said Krieger in a phone call with GamesBeat. “My best friend, Alice Morrow in Chicago, has been doing the character art. A fantastic local Cleveland-area composer named Dave McKee did all of the music, which really hearkens back to Ape Escape and Super Monkey Ball and all these late ’90s, early ’00s titles.”
Fundamentally, Crossniq is all about its simple puzzle mechanic and its “Y2K” aesthetic. Krieger describes the look as a nostalgic callback to the visual design of ’90s. He’s attracted to its “confidence about its coolness,” the way it didn’t rely on market testing but rather on its own commitment to a shiny, sometimes unbelievable, but always unironic view of the future.
“It was this vision of the future that was really sleek, a bit edgy, but mostly optimistic,” said Krieger. “I feel that optimism about the future and optimism in technology, in regards to the future, is something that’s in really short supply nowadays. And for good reason. Things are kind of scary. [Just because Y2K] didn’t happen, doesn’t mean it’s not an ideal that we could really take a lot of morale from in 2018. That we could potentially make a cool future where technology and humanity are not diametrically opposed as oppressors and the oppressed.”
Along with its colorful look and easy-to-grok mechanics, Crossniq also has a number of accessibility options baked in. Krieger was inspired to incorporate these features when he met Ian Hamilton, an advocate for gamers with disabilities, at the 2017 Game Developers Conference. He also met a lot of folks at the conference who played using alternative controllers or had color blindness.
All the accessibility options are right in Crossniq’s menu. Krieger says he didn’t want add a “mode” for it that was tucked away from the “main game.” For people who might have vision impairments, Krieger added a changeable color palette. Fourteen different colors are available, and you can click around to create a custom theme. Crossniq Plus will also include textures and pictures, which can help players differentiate between the tiles. The game also has gamepad support, which Krieger says is important for folks who can’t play with a traditional keyboard and mouse. Often players with disabilities use custom controllers, and if a title isn’t compatible with a gamepad, then they simply can’t play.
“If you plan it early enough, from the outset, [accessibility] becomes an organic part of the design,” said Krieger. “It’s something you think about in everything you do. The key is not to think of it as a check box – oh, I have to do this for disabled players – but think about how you reach as many players as you can. Of course, that includes disabled players. But yeah, it really doesn’t take that much time. Do it.”