XC by CrossCountry is a prototype of a foot racing game published on itch.io. It has you compete with other runners on a retro, 2D interface, following the arrows across various terrains. While simple to play now, the game is receiving continual updates and development on its mechanics and interface daily.
Race on foot
Most racing games send you off competing on a motorcycle or mountain bike, if not a full-blown car. Even the ones with simpler vehicles, such as Bike Unchained, add extra features to spice up the story. If the title revolves around foot racing, it’s usually exciting and slightly over-blown, like Run Race 3D.
XC doesn’t accept any of these conventions. Instead, it builds a straightforward, follow-the-path race where it’s you against other 2D runners. All you need is your Windows or Mac computer, your keyboard, a lot of patience, and strong fingers.
Once you launch the game, you get a pre-made avatar with zero customization options. XC skips the bells and whistles and sends you straight to your first race. There are three types available. You start with Junior Varsity, and if you win it frequently enough, you unlock Varsity. Rinse and repeat, and you’ll gain access to Elite races, the final version.
Although playing this game consist of pressing keyboard buttons, there’s a lot to think about while you play. You’ll see a stamina bar on top of your screen, depleting when you sprint and filling up when you jog.
Staying close behind other characters helps you conserve your power, but there’s always a chance of colliding with them. You could also run into another object if you’re not careful, making this one a challenging title to master.
Paper cut-out graphics
While the gameplay is quite engaging, the developer hasn’t spent much time focusing on the graphics. Some of the 2D, simple-style elements seem purposeful, as they stated they’re going for a retro look. The environment you’re racing in doesn’t provide any sense of immersion, though. Instead, it looks lack-lustre and hand-drawn, even while rendering the smooth gameplay experience.
Since XC is only in prototype mode, it’s still an impressive little game. The mechanics are simple to grasp but challenging to master, making it engaging. However, apart from the races, there’s not much else to do. Plus, the graphics need polishing to reach the level of quality set by the gameplay.