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Review

Review: Raskulls

Drillin'.

Halfbrick, the Australian developers behind iPhone hits Fruit Ninja and Monster Dash, seem to possess something of a spark when it comes to crafting immediate, accessible titles that appeal to a wide audience. Raskulls, their latest titles (and currently an Xbox 360 exclusive) follows this idiom to the letter – it’s a side scrolling 2D platformer at heart, but has clear echoes of Mr. Driller thrown into the mix which manages to create a distinctive yet old-school game with enough charm for everyone.

The single player aspect is split over a few different sections, with the main Mega Quest mode the principle way for solo gamers to get the most out of their 800 Microsoft Points investment as it takes you through a fairly lengthy story which, whilst hokum and a little silly plays off with a healthy dose of charm and humour. And besides, as a means to an end, a filler for the platforming sections that pepper the world map, it’s pitched perfectly and at least gives you reason to continue beyond the gameplay.

The gameplay itself consists mostly of you rushing from one part of the level to another assisted by a generously floaty jump and all manner of pick-ups, in a race against either time or your opponents who are equally as determined to get to the chequered flag first. Motivations change depending on the exposition, but the goal is the same: be the quickest, and if you’re not, be the best at using the weapons and environmental aspects of each level to knock back the other racers before they get there first.

Also littering the world map in Mega Quest are a collection of leaderboard-powered challenge sections, which vary from thought-provoking puzzles to flat out race sections, and as you walk over to each a high score table pops up at the side which shows your position against all your friends in real time. This has the potential to be a wonderful feature as nothing beats a bit of friendly competition, and will hopefully give the game a fair amount of extra live once you’re through with the story.

Of course, there’s also the option to quickly dive into a single race or a Grand Prix (with selectable AI difficulty levels) but Raskulls really comes alive in multiplayer. Away from the slight predictability of the one player mode, if you’ve got a room of friends Raskulls is an absolute blast, the split screen still nice and smooth and the interaction between buddies physically close by is something Live cannot hope to replicate. Naturally, though, Raskulls fully supports online play.

Control wise it’s all nice and easy – the left analog moves your character, A jumps and B zaps, which is used to break apart the blocks that appear all over each level (and also give any nearby enemies a quick jolt). Once your Frenzy bar is filled (by topping up with the yellow potion jars or by running through fuzzy yellow square sections) you can hold the left trigger to activate Frenzy mode, which lets you run and zap a lot quicker – handy for bigger jumps and for making a dash for the finish line.

Visually the 3D characters merge nicely with the flat backgrounds, the chunky black outlines providing an appealing aesthetic which always remains colourful and sharp. Visual cues are clear, your current weapon appearing above your head and the presentation throughout is consistent and nicely done. Load times are tiny, the menus allow for quick replays and the music, which bubbles along as you play, complements the on-screen action with a jovial, playful backdrop. Raskulls’ visuals won’t wow you, but they’re perfectly adequate.

Which probably doesn’t really hold true with the game itself, which raises itself above other XBLA fodder by virtue of raw gameplay which despite being spread out over a few game types and a single player campaign that stretches over a few hours, always remains pure.  There’s a distinct, raw thrill to be had from hammering down through a screen full of blocks as three opponents chase you, all tumbling into freefall as gravity gives way – and whilst this particular mechanic isn’t exactly unique to Raskulls, it’s handled better here than Namco ever managed.

Pros:

  • Decent four hour or so single player quest
  • Hugely enjoyable multiplayer sections
  • Cute graphics
  • Brilliant sense of humour

Cons:

  • Most of the game isn’t really new
  • Could do with some additional maps or a map editor

Raskulls isn’t going to appeal to everyone, and it’s clearly aimed at a slightly younger market than your average Xbox Live Arcade title might be.  That’s not to say it’s not for adults, but unless you’re going to go off the beaten track in the single player game the challenge level might be a little smooth for a good chunk of the game.  Still, as expected, it’s riotous fun with mates (as all the best games are) and if you’ve got some like-minded buddies (and a few controllers) this might be perfect for those snowed-in blues.  Halfbrick do it again.

Score: 8/10

Please note that Raskulls is part of Microsoft’s Games for the Holidays promotion. This is a special three-part game compilation which also includes ilomilo and World of Keflings. If you purchase all three games, extra characters will unlock in each game, including ilo in Raskulls and Raskulls characters in the other two.

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2 Comments
  1. Serebii.Net
    Member
    Since: Apr 2010

    I want it now… :(

    Comment posted on 29/12/2010 at 09:13.
  2. Foxhound_Solid
    Is a smart cookie.
    Since: Dec 2009

    It sounds beauty! Good review.

    Comment posted on 29/12/2010 at 09:32.