Raskulls (XBLA) Review
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Genre: Platformer, Action
Rated: E+10 for Everyone ages 10+
Until a few months ago, I really hadn’t heard much about Raskulls, a platform/action game from Halfbrick. However, after playing it for a while, I think it may be one of the better Xbox Live Arcade titles to fly under the radar.
The Mega Quest in the game has you controlling three different Raskulls (dragon, ninja and king) that are trying to help protect the Shiny Skulls from falling into the hands of the Pirats. To do so, you race through various stages using your wand to zap blocks out of your way to get to the goal. Sometimes, you’ll run into gray skull blocks that take three zaps to break, but groups of four or more will automatically break if they touch. Falling blocks and lava will also stun you for a few seconds, as well as drain your frenzy bar.
Along the way, you can collect Frenzy to use to make you run and zap quicker, along with presents that can give you various powers to blast blocks or steal boost or items or even go ghost.
The main thing that sets this game apart from most isn’t the mechanic, though; it’s how it’s used. There’s about 10 different ways that it’s used, from racing other people to running from bosses to trying to break through a level with a limited number of zaps and more. One of the more interesting ones later in the game has you trying to match the object color and shape with zaps. It’s a great mode that I wish would have been used more in chapters one and two, but using it so little makes it not get repetitive.
Beating each level gets you a gold coin, which can be used to open up new paths to get to harder challenges. New paths can also open up by beating levels, and will normally give a new character to use in multiplayer or new cheat to enter for a visual effect. These new levels normally rank your time or zaps remaining, so you can also challenge friends by beating their records.
Another thing that each chapter has is a boss battle that consists of running away from various lasers that the bosses use to chase you, or trying to beat the Pirats and their robot to the finish. Again, you don’t run into these too much, but it helps change the gameplay up to keep everything fresh.
Outside of the Mega Quest, you can race entire circuits in grand prix mode, or just do an individual race. These can be done against AI or friends, and allow you to choose what Raskull you want to use that you’ve unlocked.
The game does feature some decent humor, with the king having a height issue and dragon constantly getting beat up or things thrown at him. The humor normally plays out in the cut scenes, which look nice.
What doesn’t always look nice, though, is the transition from the cut scenes to the game. They often felt grainy and just out of place. It would have almost been better to have used a quick load screen to break them up.
Other than the transitions, though, the game’s graphics look good. Each Raskull has a unique look, and all the levels offer a good variety so that blocks won’t be positioned the same way twice. It also lets players control a Kefling or ilomilo if the other Games of Winter Arcade games are bought.
Finally, the music in the levels is pretty good as well. It’s fairly lighthearted, but keeps the nature of the game in having a good pulse that always pushes you forward.
Overall, Raskulls offers some great platforming fun, and really helps show other companies how to vary one mechanic without it going stale. Out of the three games for the Games for the Holidays promotion, it may be the best one out there. However, be sure to come back next week for the ilomilo review to see how it compares.