Raskulls is a very odd title. Lovely, but odd. To look at it, you’d think it were a multiplayer title through and through. Indeed, my first forays into the game were all multiplayer efforts, thinking this was where the meat of the game lay. It’s most definitely not though, as the multiplayer modes don’t live up to the single player. Don’t be fooled by the Castle Crashers look of the game, this isn’t the beer-and-mates spectacular that you might expect.
If you’re after a powerful narrative, look elsewhere, as this is the kind of story and script that’s based entirely on comedy, and thankfully it works. It’s cutesy slapstick comedy with a little edge that prevents it’s clichés from becoming irritating. The basic premise for the game is as lightweight as you could wish it to be, and consists of some nonsense about pi-rats (little rat-like creates in a pirate ship, predictably) and shiny stones. Quite exactly what these shiny stones do is undisclosed, even at the end of the game. In essence, the story simply takes you from challenge to challenge and allows you to unlock a bunch of characters, cheats and bonus areas.
And really, that mode is about it for the game. It’s a real tragedy that some of the ideas from the single player campaign didn’t make it into the multiplayer effort. Indeed, it’s rather frustrating that the longevity it so limited, as you’ll probably manage to complete the game in less than six hours, and never touch it again.
So what are these ideas? The basic premise is that you control the titular raskulls in a maze-like course and have to zap your way to the end using your destructo-rod. Various power ups are offered along the way, and the frenzy power bar allows you to boost your speed and zapping for a short period, once filled. It’s a simple concept along the lines of Dig Dug that sees you zapping blocks to finish races, make sculptures and escape bosses.
The single player campaign is astonishing in its variety, and few courses in a zone have the same premise. Some require you to get to the top of a block puzzle, others the bottom, and some of the more interesting ones see you creating particular shapes, or fitting particular blocks into the right places. Some are timed, others not, and it’s the slower-paced ones which, oddly enough, make for the most satisfying challenges.
The various zones along the way to capturing the shiny stones all add something new to the mix, and unlike the multiplayer mode, the variation in gameplay keeps this alive right to the very end. While Halfbrick studios (those responsible for Fruit Ninja) more than likely have some DLC on the way, your satisfaction is short lived when the game ends, as you do feel a little disappointed when the action ends, despite there being a few challenges of hideous difficulty.
Then there’s the multiplayer, which is an entirely different kettle of fish. This is inane and winning is almost completely arbitrary. In the races, the nature of the core gameplay means that whoever is in the lead naturally gets held up clearing a path. There are some instances where taking the correct route gives you an advantage, but any kind of lead is soon wiped out by a even the most simple of obstacles. Not to have included some of the more strategic modes in the multiplayer effort seems complete lunacy, and the whole thing winds up being considerably less fun than it should be.
So, what you have with Raskulls is an excellent purchase for the single player gamer, but one with such glaring oversights in multiplayer that you’d be hard pushed to enjoy more than a couple of races before someone in the room gets bored and frustrated.
It’s always a shame to see this kind of thing, and while it seems to encourage the more mercenary studios, we’re hoping for some top-notch DLC to take away the banality of the multiplayer mode and turn it into something genuinely enjoyable for more than one person. It’s not quite the complete game, but as a concept and a starting point, I have to say it’s a genuinely pleasing title.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Microsoft Xbox 360 code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to email@example.com.
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