PAX East ’10: Raskulls
Tucked away on the interior of the Xbox Live Arcade area inside the Microsoft booth was a little known – to me at least – game called Raskulls. At first glance the game beared a resemblance to Mr. Driller, thanks to its cute tiny protagonists, simple platforming and colored block destruction. While there certainly are some comparisons to be made between the two, Raskulls isn’t nearly as puzzle focused as Namco’s cuddly spelunker.
When it came time for Anthony – fellow Senior Staff Writer – and I to play, the gloves came off. Phil Larsen of Halfbrick Studios set us up in a multiplayer versus match with a pair of computer controlled opponents. We then selected our Raskulls of choice before choosing the Presents Cup as our course for battle – that’s right I said Cup, as in a racing circuit.
As soon as the initial round started the four of us were immediately thrown into a mad dash towards the finish line. Using the X button we were able to punch through the various colored blocks that obstructed our path, as well as punch one another. Along the way we collected orbs and passed through areas that slowly filled our boost gauge, which could be triggered with the Left Trigger. Additionally, various power-ups were scattered throughout the stage that could be used for a variety of effects including stunning or even cursing opponents. Despite the platforming nature of the title, the multiplayer proceedings had me recalling the better, simpler days of Super Mario Kart.
After our four races were in the bag Anthony had emerged victorious, but I wouldn’t say that either of us did particularly well considering the AI had taken two podiums along the way. Despite our relative lack of skill, the game stuck with the both of us later on into the day. It was simple unadulterated enjoyment, and it was only a matter of hours before we found ourselves wandering back to the kiosk for another go.
During our second Cup, I started to think more about the strategic uses of the boost gauge, punching and the blocks. Like any racing game the time you employ your boost is just as important as the use itself. In Raskulls I found myself using it in large sections where I had to proceed downward through tons of blocks. The boost allowed me to cut through them like hot butter and didn’t give me the risk of bumping into a wall or unbreakable obstacle, and thus waste any portion of my boost. Additionally boosting at points which have longer jumping sections allowed me to take the occasional – and possibly faster – high road.
The biggest way I found to screw over the competition was through the use of block management. As blocks are destroyed the ones above them will fall or form up with those of a similar color. While you’re choosing your path you have to think about which blocks to punch in terms of getting through the quickest but you should also consider which blocks will cause the most frustration for the Raskull behind you. If a falling block happens to land on your head it’ll stun you, wasting valuable seconds. Combining the strategic use of falling blocks and the unexpected punch to nudge a fellow racer into harm’s way is a devious and satisfying way of widening a lead.
Although we didn’t get to see any of Raskulls’ single player, Phil assured us the game would be shipping with a lengthy campaign including over seventy levels across a classic looking world map. He said the single player levels ranged from the more platform heavy, to puzzle focused and even included some boss levels. Regardless of how the single player turns out, Halfbrick seems to have a winning multiplayer formula in place.
And to make a long story short, I ended up sweeping the entire Cup during our second playthrough.
Anthony and I haven’t spoken since.