After trying the demo for Raskulls (and after falling off my chair from laughing too hard for the sixth time) I decided to give the full game a whirl. 800 points and four hours later I felt kind of cheated. Yes, it was filled with great laughs and silly premises, but the main gameplay left me will an unsettling sensation in my stomach.
Raskulls, the new platformer from Halfbrick and Microsoft Game Studios, follows the adventures of the title characters as they do everything in their power to protect the Shiny Stones from the evil Pirats (no typo here, they're rat pirates). Gamers tackle three gaming worlds where they take on various levels that involve digging and racing enemy characters, time-limited races to the finish, boss battles that involve racing to the finish, best lap rounds and bomb diffusion rounds. (You can also use power-ups to run or dig faster.) As you can see there's not a lot of variety to the gameplay; in fact Raskulls's gameplay seems like a mediocre Mr. Driller knockoff.
That isn't to say that Raskulls isn't enjoyable. The sense of humor the game features is both cutesy and priceless, ranging from the explanation of the Shiny Stones' importance to the Raskull Kingdom to the haughty-taughty personality of the Raskull King himself. You are almost guaranteed a good chuckle every couple minutes of playing Raskulls, all without the frustration that was found in another game I reviewed a couple months back. I also liked the character designs by Daniel Vogt, whose adorable-looking visuals helped to push the humor towards the right direction.
Besides the Master Quest there is also a multiplayer mode, and unfortunately this is where Halfbrick dropped the ball the hardest. All you do with your fellow online gamers is race, race and race some more. Where are the cool mini-games? Is a Raskulls Battle Chess Mode too much to ask; or even something as overdone as a Mortal Kombat parody? I would've been really happy if there was just one other game mode that was different from what you did in the Master Quest, but alas it seemed to be too much for the developers to handle.
The controls can also be an issue. I lost count at how many times I misused a power-up while racing the clock, then having it blow up in my face and ending with a "Try Again" screen. Then there's the way the controls are configured. One type of level involves having to dig upwards so the Finish section reaches down to you before the 30-second time limit runs out. The way they have it set up makes it impossible to complete this level; not even the power-ups you're given do anything to help get to your goal any quicker.
Master Quest mode will take you around 4-5 hours to beat, depending on how good you are with the racing modes, and sadly there's really nothing else to go back to after you've beaten it. There are some added medals to collect and bonus levels to beat, but in the end you're only given what you've already done so many times before in Raskulls. The lack in replay value and gaming variety is what kills the game, almost as much as the humor kills in the storyline.
- Great cartoonish graphics and cutesy character designs
- One of the funniest games around
- Ninja Raskull's bomb diffusion levels
- Game gets repetitive fast
- Lacks level variety
- Controls can be a hassle
The demo for Raskulls led me to believe that I was in for an all-out fun gaming experience with a large dose of comedy thrown in for good measure. Regrettably I was half-right on this one. The lack of different gaming styles disappointed me, leading me to believe that lazy gaming design is to blame for its mediocrity. My only hope is that more will be added to the game later on, although it better not have a 400 Xbox Points price tag on it. My advice: wait for Raskulls to go on sale sometime before you buy it, as 800 points for recurrent gaming is too much to ask for.
FINAL GRADE: 5.5 (out of 10)