Quirky But Outclassed
Raskulls feels like a game that I had heard about for ever, but was never truly able to put my finger on what it really was. It felt like I had been seeing screen shots and video of game play for ages, but I could never come up with a definitive idea of what the game was ever supposed to be. So when I sat down and played it a few days ago, I really was interested to finally find out how this game that had been settled on the edge of my mind had turned out. When I started, I liked it. It felt like a pretty brisk, well paced puzzle game that had a lot of variety to keep it's formula fresh and interesting. Two hours went by and I finished the single player campaign. Another hour and I had gotten most of the achievements. Another hour and I had completed most of the challenges. And after playing about 10 or 15 games online, the game made itself perfectly clear that there simply wasn't much left to be had. I put my controller down, rubbing the stress from the bridge of my nose, checked my credit card information to make sure I really had spent 10 dollars, tossed my feet up on my coffee table and let out a rather deep sigh.
Its too bad because on the surface, the game has a lot to offer. Raskulls plays like a faster paced version of Mr. Driller, where your character uses his wand to destroy a series of shaped blocks he or she is adjacent to. There are a number of various modes, the most common being the race where you and up to 3 opponents get from start to finish in a block filled maze. There are a number of puzzle challenges as well, having you disarm bombs, get sensitive materials to the ground, play hot potato with curses, carve specific shapes out of the blocky terrain with a special power up, try to get from one side of the stage to the other with only a certain amount of wand zaps; superficially, the game looks to be doing exactly what it needs to in order to create an experience it will take time to tire from.
But you do tire from it, and it's mostly because this game is simply too easy. Even when playing Gran Prix modes against bots on Insane, it never gets any more hectic than playing online against people who are familiar with the courses. Most puzzles can be figured out in 3 or 4 attempts, especially when time isn't a factor, and you find yourself cruising through the 3 worlds and 67 puzzles in no time flat. I finished the game during my first play through and the core story path never felt like it was getting any more difficult. Even the challenge tasks were easy, save for only 2 or 3 which I have still yet to beat. And after all that, the game still managed to crash during the ending cutscene.
The most heartbreaking aspect of this game is it's lack of precision. Raskulls has a bit of an identity crisis, where it doesn't know whether or it wants to be a masochore platformer, a hardcore puzzle game or a casual thrill for all ages. Considering that Halfbrick, the developer behind the super popular
Fruit Ninja, is behind this one, it felt like they were conflicted about mass appeal and quickly pulled the difficulty down in order to keep the game accessible for all ages, mimicking the design of their previous success. Even when the action is moving hard and heavy, there are simply too many times where the timing of button presses resulted in varied results on screen. Whether it be jumping, zapping or using specials, the game seems to have a haphazard idea of when things are actually going to activate, and that really hurts it in the end. This fact alone is enough to tell that this game won't break from the shadow of games like Super Meat Boy or Cannabalt. The amount of frustration you feel when you are doing an unlimited frenzy race, only to lose because the game decided not to register your jump is only multiplied when, on your very next play-through, the same path and steps are taken only to have that jump work. But again, it never becomes maddening, because at the end of the day, even the hardest puzzles are still fairly easy.
And unfortunately, the writing on the wall seems to be written in illuminated lettering on the main menu. I can't help but think that the reason why the game is so short is because they're waiting to release the other half of this game for DLC. Given how there are characters only unlockable from buying other games (Ilomilo and A Kingdom of Kefflings) and the multiplayer is so spartan in selection, there doesn't seem to be any other explanation. That's too bad because it gets very easy to get bored of the 4 courses given to you with your initial 10 dollar investment. It's a nasty trend that we're starting to see more and more of these days.
The game is funny though, or rather the cutscenes are. There were a few times where I did chuckle or laugh from the antics of the Raskulls and the does carry a very late 2010 cartoon network vibe , where the jokes are dumb but the delivery is absolutely razor sharp. But the jokes, much like the rest of the game, are short lived and don't hold up upon seeing them a second time. And again, the overall charm of this game is simply overshadowed by more interesting games like Super Meat Boy or Costume Quest, games which are currently cheaper than Raskulls.
When all is said and done, I don't think there's enough here to warrant a 10 dollar price tag. It comes off as feeling like half a game, and its over before it's charm fully pulls you in. If it ever goes on sale for 5 dollars or less, give it a shot, but I can't in good conscious recommend it.