Raskulls is, if anything, unique. A 2D racing-based platformer featuring miniature skull-headed inhabitants - facing off against a group of three space pirate rats. Obviously, Raskulls doesn't particularly take itself seriously, but the silly premise fits perfectly with its biggest selling point -- a casual four player split-screen multiplayer system. Invite a few friends over and pass a few hours playing Raskulls, mixing races in-between the conversation and snacks.
Though, don't expect much more than that because, despite a quirky single player campaign, Raskulls doesn't have much to keep players coming back for more. Read on for Game Rant's full review of Halfbrick's Raskulls.
Raskulls' developer Halfbrick is known for its addictive mobile games, such as Fruit Ninja, Age of Zombies and Monster Dash. So it should come as no surprise that Raskulls' gameplay is simple, intuitive, and very fun. Keep running forward bashing blocks (and opponents) when they get in the way - until the finish line is in reach. Of course, there's also a boost mechanic which is activated for brief durations as well as a variety of power-ups. Sadly, Raskulls' simple mechanics inevitably become its greatest flaw.
After only a few hours of practice, most players will become quite comfortable with the constraints of the game's mechanics. The design of the maps, power-up placement and the randomness of the blocks maintains the competitive aspects of the game but sadly, after only a few hours, the game becomes quite predictable and, quite frankly, a bit boring.
The initial moments of each race are always exciting, because each player is on even ground, fighting for the quick advantage. Soon enough though, a player or a pair, will take the lead and catching up is near-impossible - despite skill. Even close matches inevitably come down to who has the stronger random power-up, or who saved their boost for the last moments of the race. That's not to say the game doesn't have great moments, but at times it can feel frustrating knowing you're behind - and there's nothing you can really do to improve the situation. Even slight deviations from the most direct route in the race can have disastrous consequences. Again, just keep running forward and hope an opportunity presents itself.
Split-screen multiplayer is of course where the best moments of Raskulls can be found. Place four excitable friends on a single couch in direct competition and it's difficult not to have fun. Vendettas arise, or alliances for that matter as well. It's similar in many ways to experiences I've had with Bomberman through the years. Certainly, it's not complex or nuanced enough to be particularly enjoyable alone, but there's simply nothing better with a group of friends looking for a quick and exciting game to relax and play.
For those who do prefer the anonymity of random online matchmaking, Halfbrick has added a leveling system into the game so, as players compete online, they'll rank up depending on their performance. Whether the matchmaking system compares rankings or not is a bit of a mystery, as I was put up against an assortment of different ranks - but I never felt like I was placed against an opponent with an incomparable skill level to mine. Whether that would continue into higher rankings or not is hard to say. Don't expect any rewards from leveling up - though there is one unlockable costume I have yet to acquire...
Raskulls' campaign is, at its best, promising. The quirky narrative involving the skull-faced citizens of the world facing off against a trio of stranded space rats is charming and can be quite funny, but is mostly taped together for the sake of progression. Still, each of the differently costumed Raskulls has their own personality. The Dragon, chasing butterflies, and the King, chucking half-bricks, steal the show, but since they each have one of the three chapters to themselves they certainly get more face time than the others. Cameos by the other characters are chuckle-worthy, but hardly noteworthy. If each of the characters had their own chapters, however, that would be something else.
The levels in the single player campaign follow a similar thread -- there's certain gametypes and maps that are a blast to play, but others quickly become repetitive. The map-types that shine are often the puzzle-based ones, which require the player to carefully measure their "zaps", either for sculpting block groups or to disarm touchy bombs. Precision is definitely not what Halfbrick was aiming for though, as even in those most delicate instances, it still feels like you're being hurried or rushed. I would love to see Halfbrick work further on these puzzle modes, and perhaps release a DLC pack that focuses more on precision rather than frantic button-mashing.
The campaign will take only four or five hours for the average player to 100%, unlocking the majority of playable multiplayer characters, along with some pause menu cheat codes. It's a great counterpart to Raskulls' multiplayer, and experiments with some interesting ideas. Certainly, if there was anything the single player needed it would simply be greater depth. Go farther with some of these puzzle elements, show more of each Raskull's personality, put in more of the great humor that's sparsely spread through the campaign. The game, as it is, feels like more of an introduction, to a fault, but that only means I'd like to see more Raskulls soon.
Raskulls provides a unique and fun experience that anyone can pick up and enjoy -- for a time. The cheerful aesthetic and playful competitive elements of the game won't scare anyone away, but at the same time nothing in the game feels particularly gripping either. While the game would certainly be enjoyable to play with friends on Friday night, there's not enough content for Raskulls to maintain gamers' interest longer than a few weeks. That doesn't take away from the fact the Raskulls is certainly a very solid experience, but it is worth saying for gamers looking for a title with a bit more depth.
There's still a lot to enjoy in the downloadable title -- a good four hour campaign with great humor and some exciting puzzle and platforming levels; a multiplayer system that will have groups of friends reminiscing about those classic Bomberman days - and a bunch of unlockable multiplayer skins, cheat codes and achievements. Raskulls aims to be a great arcade game anyone can pick up and enjoy, and they do that well, but depite that it feels like it could be much more.
Raskulls is available today on the Xbox Live Marketpace for 800MSP.