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‘Head’ of the Pack- Raskulls Review

Over the last three decades, Namco has labored to keep Pac-Man relevant. From forsaking his labyrinthine confines for a puzzle solving quest in 1994’s Pac-Man 2: The New Adventures to restructuring memorable dot-munching mechanics into multi-million point scoring runs for Championship Edition DX, the iconic protagonist has been repeatedly re-envisioned. Regretfully, Namco’s Mr. Driller hasn’t garnered the same attention.  Beyond the addition of a near-equivalent entourage, the steadfast spelunker’s formula has remained consistent since its debut in 1999.

Leave it to Halfbrick, the retro-minded mavens behind Fruit Ninja and Echoes, to use Mr. Driller‘s mechanics as a launching point for their new title. Using the Namco series’ notable color-coded quarrying, new XBLA release Raskulls, adds an absorbing racing mechanic, a frenzied multiplayer component, as well as expands the franchise’s puzzle potential. By throwing a shifting smorgasbord of challenges at players, the title presents enough interesting nuances to keep gamers nourished for a four hour span. As with most games from the down-under development house, a robust amount of hardcore supplemental challenges should keep completionists occupied for even longer.

At the heart of Raskulls is the game’s single player campaign, which involves a squad of skull-faced heroes vying with a nefarious rat-gang known as the Pirats, for possession of the Shiny Stones. While the narrative  impetus is rudimentary, each of the individual characters are brought to life by the game’s amusing dialog, which often pokes fun at videogame tropes. To access each of the game’s stages, players move around a trio of world maps, each offering a set of branching paths for players to follow. Levels are comprised of two main diversions: pensive puzzles and action-oriented trials.

The game’s conundrums range from the effortless to the diabolical. Some dilemmas task your Raskull with lowering fragile Shroomie homes onto pads, requiring players to vigilantly carve away at the environment, so the diminutive dwelling don’t fall from a height of more than three blocks. Others challenge your character to defy their limited jumping ability, and ascend to the top of the screen, cautiously removing sections to create an impromptu stairway. Races pit either a solo player again the clock or alongside a trio of bots, in both lap and point-to-point  competitions. Both activities share the same set of power-ups with allow players to eliminate a string of blocks or hurdle forward as a fireball. Racing grants one additional ability- by collecting bubbles, player can fill a frenzy meter which grants players additional speed for short durations.

The game’s sprints spill over into Raskulls‘ local splitscreen and online contest, which send up to four players jumping, bounding off boost strips and hurtling toward the finish line. While these competitions  are a welcome addition to the title’s Mega Quest, they are undermined by minor balancing issues. Players in the lead must eliminate block clusters to proceed, which gives trailing players a opportunity to catch up. While the intermittent opportunity to create an avalanche for lagging competitors exists, it’s not exploited with enough frequency.

Raskulls‘ crafty puzzles and frenzied chases are undeniably satisfying, offering the type of blissful amusement delivered by the upper tier of XBLA titles. With in-game leaderboards which show your friends efforts and a generous amount of collectables to amass, the title is a well-rounded package worthy of your 800 Microsoft Point investment. With the hooks in place for DLC, Halfbrick will hopefully keep the Raskulls evolving, avoiding the stagnancy faced my other, once-great game heroes.

About Robert Allen

With over 35 years of gaming experience, Robert 'DesertEagle' Allen is Tech-Gaming's resident worrier/warrior who spends his days teaching at three colleges and his nights devoted to JRPGs.

31 comments

  1. Is this up on XBLA now? I’ve been waiting for this one. Halfbrick seems to have a thing for Ninjas.

  2. Totally looks like Mr. Driller. I’m glad it does a lot more.

    I’d love to heard what Mr. Drillers developers think about the game.

  3. Being that there’s a Destructoid skin in the game, I wonder what their site is going to give it. (LOL)

    Makes you think there should be some space between reviewers and publishers.

  4. The game is cute enough to get a demo. From the review, it sounds like I might like it.

  5. You’re kidding right? Whats next a friggin’ CheapyD and Brian Crescente character in Super Street Fighter Turbo+

    Does anyone still like Destructoid? Their writing and snark is atrocious.

  6. I’m a little meh on the game. It’s cool, but never felt great to me. I would have given it a B- probably.

  7. Is there a fat Jim Sterling character who is unnecessarily angry and crude? Sign me up!

  8. that’s a turn off. Why would Halfbrick connect themselves to those goons???

  9. I don’t see what the big deal is. It’s just a stupid character. They don’t have “read D-Toid” sign in the background or anything.

  10. I’ll give it a try. Seems like this would make a great PSP Mini. I hope they convert it.

  11. Seems like it might be a tad too simple. I don’t think racing would keep my attention for more than a few times.

  12. Whats wrong with D-Toid?

  13. Cool. Maybe Fallout: NV’s DLC will have collectable National Enquirer pieces. (rools eyes)

  14. Fun game so far. Some of those red button challenges are a bitch though.

  15. I’m laughing at Metacritics two reviews- 100 and 65. I guess it’s either a love or hate type game.

  16. How many different costumes are there?

    BTW- It would be great to get these guys on your podcast!

  17. First IGN in the Conduit credits, now this?

  18. If you ask to ask, I probably can’t help you.

    (The site is pure rubbish)

  19. “one of the hottest XBLA titles this year.” – Jim Sterling, D-Toid.

    Coincidence.

  20. Any game that still offers a split screen option is OK by me. I’ll probably get this when I get home from work tonight.

  21. Only four hours long? Thats kind of a bummer.

  22. Metacritic is broken- they put all these small ass sites no one cares about then basically make their own number up.

    Ive seen a game with a 75 and 80 score. Metacritic had a 90. HOW?

  23. Cute games. But it took me 22 minutes to blow through the first world.

  24. I’m glad this is 800 point and not 1200 like most games these days.

  25. Deagle, you’re a game reviewing poet! I love the way you describe things.

  26. HAHA Cute title. The game looks really fun.

  27. Should I get this or Case Frank West?

  28. Yep, that is cool. I wish more games offered split screen.

  29. As soon as I get some MS points, this will be first on my list to buy. I’ve been following this one since Halfbrick first released screenshots.

  30. This looks like something I’d like. Does Halfbricks non-iphone stuff ever go on sale? I don’t think I’ve even seen it get marked down.

  31. this! It’s really fun!