Raskulls review: Having crash-landed their ship on the Raskulls' home planet, Captain J. Turncoat and his gang of evil Pirats set off in search of a new power source
- Fun puzzles, a unique twist on familiar gameplay types, plenty of text-based humour
- Time based levels may cause fits of cursing, most levels require multiple attempts to be beaten
Don't be misled by its adorable aesthetic and cutesy characters -- Halfbrick's Raskulls is a challenging puzzle-platformer that's more than worth a look at.
At first glance, Raskulls seems like the type of game your little brother or sister should be playing. It stars colorful, pint-sized characters that would look more at home in an episode of Muppet Babies than a video game. But don't let its adorable exterior fool you -- these skull-faced critters pack a touch of PG-13 sass, and beneath the game's cutesy façade is a hardcore puzzle-platformer with an old school feel that's sure to test your skills.
The story in Raskulls is both straightforward and ridiculous, a theme that is carried throughout the title. Having crash-landed their ship on the Raskulls' home planet, Captain J. Turncoat and his gang of evil Pirats (pirates that are also rats) set off in search of a new power source, and learn of two Shiny Stones that can do the trick. Plans to steal the stones are thwarted by the Raskulls, prompting a showdown that spans three chapters and sixty levels.
The tug of war for control of the two stones begins on a Super Mario World-inspired top-down map, where players can move from level to level and chapter to chapter. As they advance, players are presented with three different types of platform-based levels: races, puzzles, and timed events. While gameplay is linear, there is enough wiggle room to allow gamers to move forward using only two of the three different game types. This is a good thing, as the difficulty (and frustration) of each event varies greatly.
Races are the most common event. The objective is to beat one or more AI opponents to an unseen finish line. Using a wand, your Raskull creates a path for itself by breaking bricks and grabbing offensive and defensive power ups ala Mario Kart. Rounds are quick -- usually two minutes or less in length -- and require strategy and quick thumbs. Because of their brevity and the savvy AI opponents, races are generally close and exciting affairs.
Gamers can also race against the clock to complete levels in timed events. Unfortunately, these are not races with a countdown timer. Instead, gamers have to reach checkpoints in a certain amount of time as they go along a predetermined path. Many gamers are bound to find this game type frustrating; time constraints are rigid, almost punitive. After failing numerous times I was cursing like a sailor. I was frustrated by how little time I was given to complete levels and eventually ended up skipping many of the timed events I came across.
While the timed events are anger inducing, the puzzles are fantastic. The brick breaking/brick shaping puzzles in Raskulls play out like Tetris in reverse. Instead of making lines by joining shapes, players make new lines by destroying old ones and melding blocks together. The absence of a clock is a welcome reprieve, and it doesn't take anything away from the sense of accomplishment earned by completing the puzzle levels.
But there's more to Raskulls than enjoyable platforming and puzzles. Interesting characters, continuously progressive gameplay, and some of the funniest dialogue since Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People keep things fresh. Despite some flaws, Rakulls is the best kind of downloadable title -- a humorous game with elements from well-designed classics, but integrated with a modern touch.
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