360 XBLA Review - Raskulls

11th January 2011 - Downloadable titles are getting better and better. And they continue to prove to all that some of the best gaming experiences are the most easy going and casual ones. Raskulls continues the same trend as titles like Castle Crashers, but can it break ground and actually compete with the best of the best? Read on to find out.

Raskulls is a very simple game. Very simple, yet very enjoyable. You take the role of various ‘Raskulls’, as you make your way through a series of very well designed levels, usually on a timer of sorts, or racing against other Raskulls. Your only available tools are a simple ‘Zapper’, whatever special abilities you manage to pick up, and the always present special meter, which allows for super fast speed and zapping abilities, making you all the more dangerous an opponent. Throw in a rather humorous story, in true casual Arcade game style, and you have yourself a picture perfect single player experience. Compete with friends on leaderboards, and earn stars to unlock even more challenging stages, and you have further reason to visit and re-visit the world of Raskulls. That’s the single player anyway, and while it may be quite the experience, the real fun here is to be had in multiplayer.

Ah yes, multiplayer. The backbone to most of todays video games which lack engaging single player experiences. But the difference here is that everything about Raskulls feels built perfectly for multiplayer mayhem. While the single player levels actually vary up and include different objectives or types of races, its sad to see that multiplayer only actually features standard races. Up to 4 players can take each other on here, online, or ideally, locally via Splitscreen. The stages are pretty small, making for fast paced fun, full of competition. Its comparable to the likes of Nintendo’s best multiplayer experiences - Smash Bros, Mario Kart, etc. - for local multiplayer mayhem, and its easily the star of the show in the whole Raskulls package.

Back at the start, I mentioned this game follows the same trend as titles like Castle Crashers. Let me elaborate; its not just in the ideals of multiplayer-based fun that takes simple controls, mechanics and more, but its also heavily Flash-based, making some very childish, however, drop-dead awesome characters and visuals. The titular Raskulls as little cutely designed and dressed people with fleshy Skulls as heads, while the environments and levels are overly-colourful and in a similar bid to the gameplay itself, make the simplicity and child-friendly design go further to increase the fun you can get from the game.

Again, Raskulls heavily displays its child-friendly, yet all-the-more-awesome features. This time, in the form of happy-go-lucky theme tunes and a general lack of sound effects other than the most basic of beeps, bleeps and blops. It almost seems out of place when the action heats up with some friends and before fists start flying from that last push of desperation to win a race, but by the end, you wouldn’t want to be acting like such Raskulls to anything other than what’s on offer here.

In a game which doesn’t necessarily have an engrossing single-player story or experience, I generally base the value on how much fun I can get out of the multiplayer portion of things. And to me -and im sure im not alone here - the best multiplayer is that which can be had in the comfort of your lounge room with a handful of close friends beside you. Also known as Splitscreen. And with so many games failing to include such game modes, im overjoyed when a good one finally does. Raskulls is that one. But that’s not to say it entirely without fault. No, you see, while the quality of what’s on offer here is second to almost none, the quantity is 8th to everything. With only 4 short races to make up a ‘Grand Prix’, and only 4 of these Grand Prixs’ to race through, the multiplayer is all but done and dusted within a short half-hour sitting. It gets very repetitive given the short level length, which even intelligent design cannot help to revive. And while the single-players great deal of variety could make up for this lack of repeat enjoyment, it simply doesn’t manage to when you consider the immense difference between just how fun single and multiplayer is. Some good ol’ DLC could very well fix this massive issue, but until then, Raskulls quantity simply doesn’t match its quality, leaving you wanting more, and with a slight taste of disappointment once you’ve raced your mates through the same old levels over and over.

There’s no denying - Raskulls is awesome. One of the best Arcade titles of the year. But what stops it from being better than the rest is that what it has in style and design, it lacks in different game modes, levels and the general numbers side of things. It’s a shame, as the game truly is an experience to behold - while its lasts.

AAG SCORE: 7.5/10

+ Great Multiplayer fun
+ Intelligent level and mechanics design
+ Varied Single-player quest

- Severe lack of game modes and multiplayer levels
- Can get easily repetitive


Reviewed and Written By John Elliott