Raskulls is a unique premise that combines block-smashing puzzles with platforming and racing. The single-player is varied, but short and shallow, and the multiplayer isn't skill-based enough and lacks options. What starts off fresh and exciting quickly grows tiresome.
- Lots of variety with the different levels
- Infinite boost levels are fun
- Cute characters
- Races rely on luck and require little skill
- Multiplayer lacks options
- Not much depth to the game overall
- Jokes fall flat
We're seeing a resurgence of 2D platformers lately with Super Meat Boy, Comic Jumper, and Limbo, so for another 2D platformer to even have a chance of standing out from the crowd it needs to bring something new to the table. Halfbrick's Raskulls attempts to differentiate itself with a unique blend of puzzle solving and racing. Despite its novel concept, Raskulls is too simple for its own good and rarely rises above mediocrity.
Raskulls is a 2D platformer with a twist. Each level is littered with blocks of various shapes and sizes that need to be vanquished in order to progress. Destroying a block causes the others it's supporting to fall, and if two pieces of the same color touch, they merge into one larger, awkward shaped piece.
The game is built around racing, where you attempt to carve your own path through these block-ridden obstacle courses. Adding depth is a boost gauge (which refills by picking up jars), and power-ups, granting abilities such as quickly dashing through obstacles or stealing boosts from opponents.
There's some variation too, with changing objectives and rules. Some levels are timed with checkpoints that extend the clock by a few precious seconds, others are built around attacking your opponents, and my favorite requires you to boost through an entire level without letting your ever-dwindling boost gauge deplete all the way. These challenges are generally more fun than traditional races, because you know when you lose that it's your own fault and not the AI getting lucky.
Certain levels aren't time-sensitive and instead task you with methodically vaporizing blocks under specific conditions. Some limit the amount of blocks you can zap, while others require you to defuse bombs by reaching them without allowing any blocks (or yourself) to fall on them, and some task you with sculpting blocks a specific shape with a laser that can saw them in two. These stages are a nice change of pace, but too simple and easy with little lasting appeal.
Unfortunately, racing is Raskulls's weakest element. While it sounds fun to discover your own way to the finish line, it quickly becomes apparent that whoever's in first is doing the heavy lifting while the rest benefit from their handiwork. While an interesting concept in theory, block smashing is inherently at odds with the sense of speed required in a racing game and it's all too often that those lagging behind will have ample opportunity to catch up when the leading player hits a cluster of blocks. As a result, it often comes down to whoever boosts the most near the finish line, rendering the rest of the race moot.
It's a shame then that racing is the only mode available in multiplayer. This is a huge missed opportunity as competing to solve puzzles quickest sounds more fun – and more fair. There are not even any options to tweek race rulesets. Given that the best single-player levels are those that give you unlimited boost, it would've been nice to see this enabled in multiplayer.
Elsewhere, the game exudes a degree of charm, but not enough to rise above the competition. Its cartoony graphics are cute, if uninspired, and the script is a mixed bag. Much of the dialogue relies on juvenile gags and puns (pirats; they're rat pirates. Get it?) making it pleasant and inoffensive, though rarely especially funny or memorable.
Where's Henry Hatsworth when you need him?
Raskulls is a solid idea, but it's poorly implemented and lacks depth. The single-player campaign is varied enough to hold one's interest for awhile, but even it starts to grate by the end of its scant 3-hour length (longer if you go for all the medals). Multiplayer, however, is sorely devoid of options and feels too random and luck-based. Raskulls's boost gauge is representative of the entire game: when it's on, it's fast and frantic, but the rest of the time, it resembles speed walking.