One word comes to mind when I think of Raskulls, addicting. Recently, the game was described as Mario Kart + Castle Crashers + Bomberman, and to be honest, I think that’s dead on. In terms of genre, it can probably be best described as a racing, platforming, adventure game, if that makes sense. It’s tough to describe, but it’s a ton of fun and wildly addicting.
Raskulls basically amounts to having gamers race through platform based levels. The goal, being to win the race, is accomplished by finding the most efficient and quickest path through the level. Adding strategy to the game is the fact that each level has blocks of various shapes and sizes blocking your path. These blocks also change shape and size as you move through them.
As you race through, you use your wand to destroy the blocks and attempt to find the best/quickest path through. In addition to this, each level is filled with Boosties, which increase your frenzy meter. When activated, it speeds up your character. There are also items that you can collect as you run around, each one assisting you in a different way. Think of them as power ups.
If you’re not racing, the level will usually have you going after a different goal. Think of each level more like a stage. Each one is fairly quick, clocking in at a couple of minutes at most. While most of them are straight up races through the level or some variation on a race (like make it to the end before the time runs out, completing a certain number of laps before time runs out, zap your opponents a certain amount of times before you get to the end etc), there are also a number of other game types found here. While the races and the variations are a ton of fun, you’ll find many of the stages play out more like something you would see in a puzzle game and are not a race at all.
For example, a few stages challenge you to make it to the end without running out of zaps. Zaps are usually unlimited but here you have a limit and must wisely and strategically choose which blocks to zap in order to progress through the stage. Other stages will have bombs placed in between the large clumps of blocks. The trick here is not to let the bombs explode. To defuse them you must reach and zap them. The hard part is reaching them. You must make sure that no other blocks fall on the bomb and that you yourself don’t fall on the bomb. If either of these things happen, the bomb will go off. Once again, the game has you thinking and strategically deciding which blocks to move around. Another interesting game type is sculpting. Seeing as blocks change shape and size as you zap through them, the game will give you a shape and colour and ask you to sculpt it out of the blocks in the level. It takes a lot of thinking but it’s a ton of fun.
There’s a nice variety in the gameplay here. When I began the game, I expected it to just be race after race. I was pleasantly surprised though to see more and more different types of gameplay in the various stages as I progressed. Thanks to this, gameplay never feels stale and never gets boring. At any given time, there are always a couple stages open, each boasting a different type of game, whether it be racing, a variation on racing or one of the many puzzle type games.
When it comes to structure, the game uses a formula that is tried and true. It is divided into worlds, with a new world opening up every time you beat the one you are currently on. Once unlocked, you can travel back to a world at any time to replay or retry a stage. In each world you play as a different Raskull and encounter new Raskulls along the way. Within each world you have a bunch of stages. To complete the world, you must make it to the final stage.
When you start off, only one stage is unlocked. Once you beat the initial stage, you unlock a few more and can choose from a couple of options. Once you beat another one a few more open up, and it goes on like this until you make it to the final one. Since you always have a few stages open, you don’t need to beat every stage to make it to the final one. Having trouble winning a race? No problem, just try another stage, perhaps a bomb defusing one. Seeing as you don’t have to beat every stage to make it to the final one, you can always come back and work on them. What’s the point of that you ask? Well every stage gives you a medallion and to unlock certain areas in a world, you need a certain number of medallions. You can beat the world without unlocking the area, but if you want to unlock it, you’ll need to score more medallions. Anyways, once you make it to the final stage of the world, and beat it, a new world will open up.
One of the highlight of Raskulls is the Raskulls themselves. We get to meet a whole colorful crew of them. You’ll encounter the King Raskull, the Knight Raskull, the Angel Raskull, the Ninja Raskull, the Dragon Raskull etc. They all have their own personalities and are all a lot of fun to encounter, play as and interact with.
The story itself is utter nonsense but it actually works out very well. It never pretends to take itself seriously, it knows it’s ridiculous and it even pokes fun at itself at times. The plot has something to do with a group of angry Pirats (yes, that refers to rats who are pirates) who land on Raskull world and try to steal the Shiny Stones from the Raskull king. Like I said, ridiculous but it’s also very funny. There is some great writing here and and I found myself laughing out loud on numerous occasions. The ridiculousness actually serves to enhance the story and overall, it’s fairly enjoyable.
When not engaging in the Mega Quest, which is the main story line, you have a few other options. In terms of single player, you can also choose between Grand Prix or Quick Race. Grand Prix is similar to something you’d see in Mario Kart. You choose your Raskull, choose which cup you want, play through the four stages and earn points depending on what place you finish in. At the end, the person with the most points wins. The other option, Quick Race, is exactly what it sounds like. Choose your course and character and play. Simple, easy and fun. In terms of multiplayer, XBOX Live and Local Play both offer you the options of Grand Prix and Quick Race.
Enough with describing the game, the question is, is it any good? Yes. Yes, yes yes. Raskulls is a ton of fun and far too addictive. This is one of those games where retrying a level isn’t a bad thing. While some games may have you throwing your controller in frustration or shutting of the TV in despair, Raskulls will keep you sitting there until you’ve completed the stage. It’s so much fun that playing the same stage over and over isn’t an annoyance. In addition to this, the game will also give you that ‘just one more stage’ feeling. You’ll find it hard to put down, always wanting to just play one more stage. The platforming, race and puzzle elements are just so satisfying that the game is too hard to put down.
Raskulls is far and away one of the best XBLA games I’ve every played. In terms of complaints, I have only one significant issue and that is, the main quest is pretty short. I progressed through it far quicker than I expected. Unless you’re going to try and be a completionist, and try to get a medallion on every stage, you’ll probably beat the game pretty quickly, quicker than most XBLA games out there. While it would have been nice if they had made it longer, it’s not a huge deal since the Grand Prix and Quick Race options are a ton of fun. Plus, you can always replay any stage. There’s also the local and XBOX Live multiplayer that should keep you busy for a while.
If you can’t tell already, this is a must buy. It’s a great pick up and play game and it’s a ton of fun, whether you’re playing single player or multiplayer. It’s addictive, original and creative and you’re guaranteed a good time with it.
Raskulls offers addicting, fun, pick up and play gameplay that is equally as good whether you play online or off.