To warm up for the cold holidays, Raskulls has launched on the Xbox Live Arcade via the Games For The Holidays lineup. Unfortunately, it’s not the warmest cup of enjoyment to have but it definitely has the appropriate amount of flavor to keep players appeased.
The approach that Raskulls has taken is grabbing the Mr. Driller formula and making it schizophrenic. While a few elements switch from time to time through the single-player campaign, the main objective is often to cross the finish line first. Thrown in the path of the player are multiple square blocks that must be zapped out to continue advancing. The blocks come in all sizes such as water-like blue blocks that will slow down players but allow them to swim up the level.
As a side-scrolling racer at its core, Raskulls is pleasantly simple and nowhere near difficult to pick up and play. Players have their wand that clears blocks set before them and can easily zap opponents to hinder their progression to the finish line. Outside of the racing segments, Raskulls employs basic alterations to the gameplay such as finishing a level with so many wand zaps left, timed levels, accomplishing as many laps as possible, and several others. They aren’t drastic deviations, but they do allow for a change of pace since the run of the mill race to the finish line style of play runs its course in a matter of 20 minutes.
Along the way to the finish line, players can grab bottles of liquid to fill up their frenzy meter to blitz towards the end of the level at a faster speed or pick up power-ups to provide a leg up on the competition. The power-ups leave a lot to be desired, especially since there’s only a small handful at the disposal of the player. At the very least, each power-up has their use and are never overpowering. Properly balanced and, at times, exciting, Raskulls does enough to get by but the limited replay value will detract in the long run.
The single-player takes a matter of three hours to finish and the multiplayer, which is strictly limited to races, only provides a small handful of levels to play on. I do have to hand it to Halfbrick to creating memorable protagonists and a charming storyline, even if the Pirats aren’t worth mentioning. The quirky personalities and simple plot keeps the game afloat when the game becomes long in the tooth due to the repetitious gameplay. But comedy and charm aside, Raskulls’ longevity is limited at best.
The best portions of Raskulls are when the game slows down and asks players to solve puzzles. In one particular level, the finish line is placed high above with 10-14 blocks holding it up away from the player. In order to cross it, players have to zap the blocks in a short amount of time to have it fall down far enough for the player to jump it. It may not be the most exciting element to talk about, but when sitting down and faced with the task, it’s an obstacle that is enjoyable to overcome.
In addition, the game does have a particular look to it that is inviting but sadly the soundtrack is nowhere near the same level. The same tunes are played on repeat and sound effects could’ve been spruced up to create an environment that is as hectic as Halfbrick intended it to be. Raskulls had potential to take the self-aware and chaotic characters and present a truly satisfying title from beginning till end, but instead, the only time when it nearly reaches that point is through the cutscenes that explain the events that are taking place.
With a lack of game types and replay value, Raskulls is a once-through puzzle-platformer that satisfies upon first impressions but fails to hold the attention beyond the first hour of play. Here’s to hoping that DLC comes out that goes beyond new Raskull themed outfits and delivers new maps and/or modes of play.