10/04/2011

Review - Raskulls - XBox Live Arcade

Funny, my family photos usually look similar to this too...
Gamers can usually be arranged into a verity of different categories; there are the Casual Gamers, Hardcore Gamers, Indie gamers, Mmorpgers and so on.  Underneath all of these however are the two inescapable foundations from which all gamers sprout, the Enthusiasts, and the Masochists.
The Enthusiasts play video games for the fun of it, they enjoy the experience rather than then challenge, granted some of them may turn the difficulty up to Hard Mode ever once in a while but this is to enhance their experience of the game.

The Masochists, conversely, rarely play video games for the sheer experience and by and large find themselves cranking the difficulty meter all the way up to 11 in order to throw themselves, kicking and screaming, into the deep end.

The final showdown. Please note this reveals absolutely
no spoilers, and besides, you can't unsee it now anyway!
I though a while ago that I had moved from Masochistic Gamer firmly into Enthusiastic territory.  I no longer felt the need to play games on the hardest difficulty and for my shame, played some games on their Medium setting, completed them and didn’t go back to them again…

However I recently found Raskulls on the Xbox Live Arcade and whilst I thought those masochistic days were behind me, I found that some of the pure trail and error missions in Raskulls bought out the gene in my bloodstream that craved the kind of digital abuse that only a hate filled video game could give.  I needed to feel like the game hated my character and wanted him to die, and I was granted my wish.

Developed by Halfbrick, famous for their growing collection of mobile games such as Fruit Ninja and Age of Zombies, Raskulls is an XBox Live Arcade title that has fallen directly from the 'easy to play, hard to master' tree which has bore many wonderful fruit in the past. 

The game is set in the fictional world of the titular characters, the Raskulls, who are a race of small animated folk with skulls instead of heads, their emotions only being shown through anime-esque eye movements. An evil race known as the Pirats have crashed-landed on the Raskulls' world in their search for The Cheese Planet. As the Pirats seek a source of fuel for their ship, their leader, Captain J. Turncoat, learns of the Shiny Stone; an object with incredible power which is being protected by the Raskulls.  Through this adventure you get to play as a number of different Raskulls such as Dragon, Ninja, King, Devil, Angel, Policeman and Mummy to name but a few, each with their own personality and their own amusing dialogue.

Even royalty takes part in the block-zapping in Raskulls
You move through the puzzles in Raskulls by zapping coloured blocks out of your way with your magic wand. Each level requires a different objective ranging from Race: where you need to reach the end goal in 1st place, to Checkpoint Dash: where you need to hit checkpoints and do laps around the map.  There are also more difficult puzzles such as Frenzy Dash: where you need to go through the entire level without running out of Frenzy; Frenzy allows your Raskull to run at super speed and shoot very quickly through blocks, this power is collected normally via small orbs that come from zapping blocks or from jars that you can pick up during the level.

As you progress through the Main Quest of the game, you discover that even though you are replaying the same five or six mini games over and over again, they are slightly varied enough to keep you interested .and sometimes brutally difficult enough to keep you pleading for more punishment.

As with most puzzle game of this nature, I quickly found that the controls were sometimes either unresponsive or brutally unforgiving as when I pressed down to zap through a block at my feet in the middle of a race my Raskull would actually zap the block to his side, it appears that one of three things occurred: either my controller hates me, the game didn’t register my button press or the game simply hates me and wants my character dead  Given my previous love for masochistic games such as Raskulls I’m kind of hoping it’s the last option.

Can you say 'Button Spammage'??
There are, of course, multiplayer options to Raskulls which seem to work well with this game, the inclusion of four player split screen races can offer up some chaotic fun.  This is a good party game that is sure to generate some moments that gamers will be reminiscing about for a while to come.

Raskulls is a quirky, fun and actually pretty funny game that gamers may feel is the lovechild of Castle Crashers and Bomberman, the solo campaign can offer up to 5 hours game time with some genuinely funny ‘laugh out loud’ moments and with the Grad Prix option: where you play a tournament of four races and can win a medal for each difficulty you complete it on, if you’re a perfectionist (like myself) you will find yourself returning to Raskulls more than a few times.

6/10