Review: RaskullsPosted on Monday, 24th January 2011 by Abhisheik Dahiya
Charm counts. For a lot. Not that you can overlook every flaw for it, but it certainly helps pave over some cracks here and there. And as in real life, it’s also true in video games. Let’s face it; this industry seems to be full of sequels and me-too clones, so whenever something with a sliver of soul comes around, it’s easy to forget its flaws. Raskulls just happens to be one of those games. Unfortunately, it’s also a game with more flaws than can be swept over by just good humor or funny storytelling.
[singlepic id=2476 w=450 float=center]
The bad guys land on the good guys’ planet and try to steal something precious. The good guys try to stop them. The story is simple enough, but it’s told in a wonderful way. It’s clever, and sometimes laugh-out-loud funny. In fact, it’s one of the funniest games I have played this gen. It has a very Pixar-like quality to it, where it looks childish, but the jokes are very tongue-in-cheek and clever. It has no voice overs and even that seems to work in its favor. In fact, there were times when I was going through the single player part of the game just to get to the next cutscene.
The single player portion takes place on a very classical Mario style overworld map. There are different worlds with their own themes and each world consists of a certain number of levels you have to run through to get to the final boss or challenge. There are a few alternate routes and enough side levels to keep frustration from piling up if you get stuck at one event. There are even multiple characters you play as, but the difference there is mostly visual rather than having any significant impact on gameplay. Though the overworld design seems to fit in quite nicely, the mini games you have to play to get through those worlds let the game down significantly.
[singlepic id=2475 w=450 float=center]
The central theme of the gameplay revolves around zapping colored blocks in a 2D plane. Once you zap a block, your character can move through the empty space it creates. And there are about half a dozen mini games built around that theme. The good ones are those that require some thinking. You might have to zap the blocks in a certain way or a certain order. These are quite a bit of fun and even show a bit of creativity and imagination, but they are not used often enough. Instead, most of the time, you will be playing race events.
The race types (checkpoint races, coutdown races and races against others) are easily the weakest of the mini games. It mostly seems to come down to pure luck. There are the odd items thrown around to help you navigate around the levels faster, ala Mario Kart, but by and large, you will find that it’s mostly a roll of the dice. You could do everything right and still not win, and other times, you will do nothing special and still win easily. At first, I thought it was the AI cheating or just being stupid, but having played online, the same problem is persistent there as well.
[singlepic id=2473 w=450 float=center]
Online is hardly worth bothering with. For one, all it seems to include is race events with four players and as I said earlier, the race mode is the weakest on offer. The second problem with multiplayer is that there aren’t too many people playing it. Granted this isn’t the game’s fault, but there are still some things the developers could have done right. For example, I kept being put into this active lobby, where the host was AFK. So I would back out, restart search, and end up in the same lobby again and again. From the looks of things, two other guys were having the same problem, as they kept leaving and joining too. I gave up after a few tries.
But despite all its flaws, I still look back fondly upon this game. It’s funny, clever and it has a soul. If you are getting sick of aiming down the sights of a military weapon, Raskulls is a welcome distraction. Like I said at the start, charm counts for a lot, but there are too many cracks here to be paved over. So a hesitant recommendation is all I can offer.
- Funny, clever and charming
- Some mini games are great fun
- Races are bland
- Online is limited in nature
Halfbrick Games’ latest XBLA effort is full of laughs.