As the middle child of the Games For The Holidays promotion, some might expect Raskulls to be a letdown, especially after A World of Keflings’ impressive debut last week. If you were one of those people, consider yourself corrected. Instead of disappointing gamers, Halfbrick’s entry into the series picks up right where Ninjabee left off, delivering unique and varied gameplay, solid sound design, and an interesting art style in an 800 MSP package.
The part of Raskulls that stands out the most is the game’s tone. Your trip to rescue the shiny skull (original right?) from the hands of the evil cat pirate will see you encountering some of craziest characters in gaming: a talking duck, a dragon who is the king’s whipping boy, and a crafty ninja, among others. Although some of these are stereotypical, they are given a steady dose of character by the cutscenes and dialog. When complimented with a bright and cartoony 2D graphics engine, the second game for the holidays packs a massive punch in the personality department.
Contributing further to the uniqueness of Halfbrick’s title is the variety of challenges you must complete. The game consists of a number of individual tasks which can be accessed via a Super Mario Bros style map. At each stop along your path you’ll have to break blocks in order to accomplish goals ranging from slowly sculpting blocks into the correct shape sprinting through a stage to avoid a boss. By including such a wide range of tasks, Raskulls keeps you continually thinking and never bored . What’s more, each stage is bite sized and contains music that fits perfectly with the task at hand, allowing for well paced fun whether you play for three minutes or thirty.
Although it is heavy on the number of challenges, Raskulls is light on the difficulty, making most of the single player campaign a breeze. Aware of this, the developers have also included a set of optional challenge problems which ramp up the difficulty. Not only do these give gamers who crave more thought-provoking puzzles something to keep busy with, but also they reward you with unlockables. Even the special stages won’t satisfy the most masochistic gamers, but they do have the advantage of actually making you want to go back and complete them.
Should the difficulty get you down, you can also jump into either online or offline multiplayer to show off some of the skins you’ve earned. Unfortunately, playing with friends significantly reduces the number of modes available to just racing. However, there is some fun to be had racing against your friends as you complete in one of the four cups. Interestingly, there is no host system nor are the maps chosen totally random; instead, each player selects which of the four grand prix’s they’d like to play and the result is chosen at random out of the choices. It is a nice compromise, but the lack of maps makes online play feel shallow.
Mediocre multiplayer is only a blemish on an otherwise solid title. As the middle child in the Games For The Holidays, Raskulls won’t blow the doors off your expectations, however, it will make you smile and provide some varied gameplay options. If you’re a hardcore fan of any genre, it is best to shy away, but everyone else should at the very least take a look at Raskulls to experience the game’s personality.