Raskulls is a heady mix of platforming, racing and puzzles and while there’s a fair variety of all three elements, even the racing and puzzle-solving revolve around the game’s platforming core. So yes, this is yet another 2D platformer from an indie developer. Raskulls, however, isn’t just another by-the-numbers platformer. It does bring quite a few fresh ideas to the table and wraps it all up in a very cute package.
The game uses a very colorful, yet basic comic book style and the cutscenes are mostly static, with very little animation. Minimalist presentation notwithstanding, Raskulls really surprised us with its humor. Despite the lack of animation or voiced dialogue (dialogue is solely through text) during cutscenes, the game has some genuine laugh-out-loud moments that will at least draw a chuckle out of even the most stone-faced gamer. Most of this is down to the writing and quirky characters, and every now and then, the game even pokes fun at video games in general. Raskull shines in the presentation department and regardless of how the rest of the game fares, it surely can’t be accused of being a boring affair.
Chatoic and fun
The Pirats (pirates who happen to be rats) have crashed their flying ship and are in need of shiny stones to repair it. These stones are in the possession of the Raskulls, who are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice to keep the stones in their possession. Why? As a character in the game puts it, because “it’s important to the plot”. The game spans across three chapters, and you play as a different Raskull in each – Dragon, Ninja and King. Levels are a variety of timed runs, races against AI characters, and a variety of brick-breaking puzzles that can either involve creating shapes, diffusing bombs, or getting objects to safety.
One of the core gameplay mechanics is brick breaking, which is a mix of Tetris and Zuma. Levels are filled with coloured bricks that you must break to move forward. While they’re shaped and connected to one another like the bricks in Tetris, the objective is to break through the bricks quickly, which is best done by breaking through coloured sequences as in Zuma. You’ll find these bricks in all the levels and they’re just one of the elements that go into making this game unique. Being a platformer, completing levels involves a lot of running jumping, and to complicate matters, you’re speed is constantly changing by way of water pockets, through which you must swim slowly, and boost pads that give you a burst of speed. You can also charge up a boost meter of your own for a short speed boost.
The levels are well designed and varied, but you always get the feeling that the game is designed to be played as a speed run, and the most fun levels are the ones where you have unlimited boost. So it’s disappointing that the rest of the time, character movement is painfully slow and sluggish. It almost feels like your character is moving in slo-mo. While elements within the levels use physics well, the same attention isn’t bestowed upon character movement, which feels clunky. Things get quite chaotic during races with AI, and when you run into your opponents (it’s unavoidable), you’re usually the one that ends up with the short end of the stick. The brick-busting puzzles are the most fun though. Unlike the rest of the game, here you can take your time and think about every move as you inch closer to your objective.
Barring the main levels, you also unlock bonus levels, which are much harder, but also reward you with stuff like playable characters for the multi-player mode, and cheat codes. Timed levels also have leaderboards for you to compare your times with friends and other players. The multi-player consists of races for up to four players. It’s fun, but just as in the single-player, it’s chaotic. It also lacks longevity, and we don’t see ourselves going to back to it after the few races we played.
And that probably applies to Raskulls as a whole. It has some good ideas, is fun while it lasts and its quirky presentation won us over, but gameplay sadly doesn’t hold up too well. In a platform-heavy game, that is a serious drawback.
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Oct 27, 2016