Simply put, Raskulls has been in development for a long time. Between the actual cycle and waiting for a successful release window, we’ve been covering the game for almost a year. I first discussed the game at GDC last year and Geoff further dove into the experience at PAX. But at the end of December, just before time ticked into 2011 the game hit XBLA running (and zapping) and was finally available to the masses. Raskulls was created by the Australian developer Halfbrick Studios who we’ve talked about frequently with their hit iOS games Fruit Ninja, Monster Dash and Age of Zombies. This new experience is a multiplayer dash on Xbox that can be played alone, with four friends on the same screen or online against four strangers.
Raskulls takes elements from a wide variety of genres and blends them seamlessly into an exciting new kind of adventure. At its core, Raskulls is a platform game in which you run and jump your way from the start to the finish. But to shake things up, each level is filled with colorful blocks that hinder your way. Using a magical wand your character holds, you zap your way through the level’s blocks in order to race quickly from start to finish. Most of the levels you’ll encounter require you to beat other characters to the finish line, so in essence, Raskulls is a platform racer utilizing colorful cartoon characters and a cheeky sense of humor.
The controls are fantastically tight and you’ll be celebrating every win – as many are only won by millimeters. Levels are full of boost sections, block sections and blocks of water that can be swam through. Swimming brought up my only control qualm as it was often jagged and difficult to maneuver precisely through the fluid. But outside of a few missed powerups, the water setback wasn’t a major flaw in the overall experience.
The main single player quest throughout the game follows the story of pirate rats – Pirats – who crash land on the planet of the Raskulls and must steal powerful stones in order to restore power to their ship. But standing in their way are the Raskulls who must maneuver their way through dozens of levels in order to keep the Pirats from getting what they desire. Through the three worlds of the quest you’ll take control of a Dragon Raskull, a Ninja Raskull and finally the King Raskull. Depending on your times and wins, you’ll unlock content in the single player quest that will give you more multiplayer characters and other such perks.
The game is set across a map world of winding paths reminiscent of Super Mario World or another cartoon-style platform game. Gates with foreboding numbers block your way to certain areas, and you must collect the represented number of Medals in order to unlock those areas. For a perfectionist, Raskulls contains a staggering amount of content to conquer.
Multiplayer is what truly shines once the whole experience is said and done. While the single player races and puzzle levels offer a fun challenge, it’s pitting yourself against human opponents that makes or breaks a real Raskull. The exhilaration that comes from beating Xbox Live racers is unparalleled. If you enjoy local multiplayer, like everyone did in the days of yore, you can play with up to four different people in your own living room. Someone will most likely get heckled and subsequently punched in the arm – such are the unspoken rules of local multiplayer.
Raskulls sports an appealing cartoon style that showcases just what Raskulls are. They’re quite literally skulls adorned with costumes making each one unique. They’re cute characters and getting a shot at unlocking all of them for multiplayer is quite fun.
In general the jokes and humor pan out well and I as often laughing heartily. Not everything works, but such is the risk of comedy.
Adept sound effects and fun music populate the world of the Raskulls. But it’s not the main point that’s going to keep you coming back for more.
Raskulls is fun. If you’re into small scale racing with other players, especially locally, I highly recommend the game to play with friends. There are sixteen multiplayer levels to master and online leaderboards and placing to conquer. Your Xbox Live friends will pop up for many levels, so from the getgo you’ll be inspired to knock down what they’ve accomplished.