Raskulls

Raskulls is determined not to be boring. The game flirts with monotony, in spite of its zany premise: Your skeletal character chases a pack of rodent pirates across a series of worlds, using a magic wand to clear a way through the Tetris-like stacks of blocks that litter the landscape. Motivated by a healthy fear of complacency, Raskulls places its simple puzzle-platformer concept into countless different guises. Sometimes the emphasis is on cerebral puzzle-solving, while at other times, it’s more of a harried dash in the spirit of Dig Dug or Mr. Driller. The variety staves off staleness and gives the game a potato-chip type of appeal: It’s tough to play just one level.

The focal point of play is your Raskull’s zapper wand, which destroys a block (and all connected blocks of the same color) on contact. Most levels require players to use the basic wand action in conjunction with a power-up taken from the game’s deep toolbox. One memorable challenge asks players to sculpt the colored blocks into a particular shape, so the wand gets a lightsaber-ish add-on to allow more precise cuts. The race stages are the most fun—both in the single-player quest and with friends—as a bunch of Raskulls jockey for position on elaborate obstacle courses. Here, the standard block-zapping is augmented by a refillable fuel meter, which can give you a momentary speed burst, and an array of Mario Kart-style weapons placed amid the blocks.

The humor of the Raskulls’ animated world skews a little young, as does the fairly benign difficulty of the central path on the main quest. That path has a number of optional turns, though, many of which lead to brutally challenging missions that require perfect execution down to the split-second. If there is a hole in Raskulls’ varied presentation, it’s a need for more stages toward the middle of the difficulty scale. As is, the game feels a bit slight, but it’s better to have an experience that’s been whittled down to the essentials than one bloated with repetition. Raskulls’ crisp, inoffensive variety strikes the right note for gamers in the midst of the post-holiday hangover.

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