|System: Xbox 360|
|Pub: Microsoft Game Studios|
|Release: December 29, 2010|
|Screen Resolution: 480p||Crude Humor and Mild Violence|
by Jake Valentine
It's pretty easy to tell where developer Halfbrick got their influences for Raskulls, their latest Xbox Live Arcade entry. The presentation is exactly what you'd expect from a game developed by The Behemoth (Castle Crashers, Alien Homind), and the gameplay could be simply described as Mr. Driller meets Mario Kart. When everything ultimately comes together, Raskulls is able to deliver a good experience. Good, but not great.
From within the game's opening cutscene, it becomes quite clear that humor is going to be the main focus for the story, so it's a relief that most of the jokes are actually pretty funny. The game even acknowledges that the coveted shiny stones, the objects that you are trying to recover as you progress through the campaign, are merely a plot device, allowing you to progress through each of the game's sixty puzzles and have our heroes, the Raskulls, engage in friendly banter against a trio of enemy pirates.
The story is inconsequential and rightfully so. Other than offering up jokes, it doesn't serve a purpose other than to set up the gameplay, which really can be classified as puzzle solving, platforming, and racing. As you progress through a Super Mario World-esque overworld and choose specific levels, you'll be tasked to, more often than not, race through puzzles that will remind you of Mr. Driller. Some levels will focus more on puzzle solving and platforming while others will focus more on frantic racing. For the most part, the combination of three genres work well, but the campaign offers little to no difficulty, aside from a handful of frustrating puzzles. In fact, when the campaign missions do focus more on puzzles rather than racing, the pacing slows down too much.
The campaign never really overstays its welcome, topping out at about three or so hours, plus the amount of time you wish to take in defeating every individual puzzle. Chances are, you'll spend most of your time playing through the game's Grand Prix mode, the real star of the show here. You'll be given four different Grands Prix, just like Mario Kart, each with four different difficulty modes, also just like Mario Kart. Each difficulty is tuned properly to give the adequate challenge to your choice, i.e. Easy is easy and Insane is a challenge. You have the option to both play against the computer, something that is more fun than it should be, as well as playing against friends on split screen or over Xbox Live. While the former is fun in small doses at parties, the latter doesn't have the same appeal, partially because I couldn't find many people willing to play.
I really wanted to like Raskulls, and don't get me wrong, I do. It's a good game, but it's not a great game. The puzzles throughout the missions are fun and varied, with some focused on defusing bombs and others focused on creating specific shapes of colored blocks, but they don't offer enough of a challenge and the races aren't as frantic as the Grand Prix races. Speaking of which, said Grand Prix races are fun, but only when played in small bursts before repetition sits in; the tracks aren't all that long. The graphics and presentation are irresistibly cute, but they lack a certain polish.
When all is said and done, Raskulls is indeed a good game. Good, but not great. But if you're willing to sit back and not take a game too seriously, Rasksulls won't do you wrong.
CCC Freelance Writer