|Publisher(s)||Microsoft Game Studios|
|Release date(s)||December 29, 2010|
|Genre(s)||Platform game, Action|
Raskulls is an action platform game video game independently developed by Halfbrick Studios and published by Microsoft Game Studios for the Xbox 360 via Xbox Live Arcade. It was released on December 29, 2010. In Raskulls players must navigate through platform-based levels filled with blocks of varying shape and size. The characters must use their brick-breaking wands to create the fastest route to the end of the level.
Raskulls received above average reviews from critics; it currently averages 75/100 at aggregate website Metacritic and 77.23% at fellow aggregate site GameRankings. Reviewers praised the comic character design, humorous dialogue and emotions, and overall gameplay. Many reviewers praised the number of game modes and the multiplayer component as well, however some reviewers felt the game would not keep its novelty as it aged. Initial sales were high, with over 19,000 units sold during the month of its release. Year-end 2011 sales were in excess of 101,000 units.
Raskulls is an action platform game where players must move through platform-based levels filled with blocks of different shapes and sizes. The objective is to complete the level in the shortest time possible. The Raskulls possess block-breaking wands, and the key to gaining an advantage is by using the character's wand against the blocks to create the most efficient path through the level. When blocks are destroyed, remaining blocks fall and like-colored blocks combine in large blocks. When four or more gray block come into contact with each other, all touching gray blocks explode.
The single player campaign, known as Mega Quest, takes places over three game worlds. Players navigate from stage to stage using an overworld layout, similar to Super Mario World. Once a level is selected, the game switches to a side-scrolling, platforming game. The game consists of ten game types which include Ammo Scrooge and Bomb Disposal. Both offensive and defensive items can be acquired during gameplay to traverse through levels and defeat opponents. One such item, known as Boosties, can be collected within each level which fill the character's Frenzy bar. When Frenzy is activated, the Raskull is powered with super speed while the Frenzy energy depletes. Multiplayer is either online via Xbox Live or up to four players locally via splitscreen. In addition to attempting to get the best time in a match, players can also use wands and powerups to throw other players off course or into environment hazards. Players can also level up their characters after multiplayer matches.
The game is set in the fictional world of the titular characters, the Raskulls. An evil race of intergalactic buccaneers known as the Pirats have crashed-landed on the Raskulls' world in their search for the cheese planet. As the Pirats seek a source of fuel for their ship, their leader, Captain J. Turncoat, learns of the Shiny Stone; an object with incredible power. The Pirats fail in an attempt to steal the stone, and the Raskull King devises a plan to catch their enemies. A tournament is created in which the winner will receive the Shiny Stone as a surprise. The original plan goes awry; the Raskull named Dragon sends a royal decree to Knight, who winds up getting beaten up by the Pirat henchmen. As per the contingency plan, Dragon emerges the victor of the tournament, but as he claims his prize the second place competitor, revealing himself as Captain Turncoat, punches Dragon in the face and makes off with the Shiny Stone.
The Raskull king sends the Raskull known as Ninja to recover a previously unknown second Shiny Stone from an ancient tomb, under the condition that the latter does not take anything else. Along the way, Ninja encounters Wizard, who opens the door to the temple for him in exchange for a beverage called Jungle Juice; a mummy Raskull who assists in navigating the tombs; the Pirat henchmen Scurv and Barney, who are also searching for the second Shiny Stone; and the Temple Guardian, who attempts to incinerate Ninja with a laser that is reflected back by a mirror that Mummy finds. Stealing the second Shiny Stone from under Captain Turncoat's nose, Ninja is successful in his mission, and the king himself then sets out to recover the first Shiny Stone from the Pirats.
During his journey he encounters opposition from some territorial Raskulls. The king is forced to complete each of the challenges given to progress. Also, Scurv and Barney try to drive him to insanity by hiding under a block and an antique vase, respectively. He eventually arrives at the Pirats' downed ship, which landed near an active volcano called Mount Madness, and recovers the first Shiny Stone only to find out that Captain Turncoat has stolen the second from his castle. The two run into each other on their journey back to their homes. During an initially awkward conversation, the king suggests a game of Rock-Paper-Scissors to see who gets both Shiny Stones, but is forced to battle the Pirat captain as he pilots his choice, which turns out to be "ship with lots of cannons". When the machine is defeated, Turncoat pulls the second stone from King. This enrages the latter enough to engage in fisticuffs with the former, only to have both Shiny Stones escape their grasp and fall into a pool of lava. The lava erupts, sending the king, the captain and the Pirat's ship flying upward. The captain kicks the king back to the ground and boards his ship as it reaches orbit. As the ship continues to gain momentum the crew discovers that the molten lava is actually cheese, indicating the Raskulls' planet was the cheese planet they were searching for. King falls back to the ground in front of his subjects, who sat watching the battle. However, just after King comments on the battle being a "'cheesy ending'", Dragon reappears and throws a brick into King's face, knocking him out.
Development and marketing
Raskulls was announced for the Xbox 360 via Xbox Live Arcade on March 27, 2009 at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, California. Two promo images accompanied the press release and featured King and Dragon, two of the main characters. Following the initial reveal, character profiles were distributed among the gaming media to demonstrate the game's art style and humor. A teaser trailer was also released on May 13, 2009 which took a satirical view on traditional game trailers featuring "epic" music and bold statements, whereas the Raskulls teaser shows an abrupt change in tone as King is shown flexing his muscles in front of a mirror accompanied by elevator music. On June 12, 2009, Halfbrick released the first official trailer for Raskulls. The trailer shows various levels, characters and gameplay modes, including snippets of multiplayer. The game was originally slated for a Q3 2009 release, however this was later pushed back. In mid-2009 Halfbrick held a contest in which community members could design their own Raskull based on a template given by Halfbrick. The winning entry was a police-themed Raskull which was added to the game.
In February 2010, Halfbrick posted a poll in order to choose the official cover for the game. The winning box art was announced on March 2, 2010. On May 21, 2010, a Raskulls tournament took place at the Mana Bar in Brisbane, Australia. It was next shown at Penny Arcade Expo East in Boston, Massachusetts in April 2010, where it was again made playable to conference attendees. A second tournament at the Mana Bar is scheduled for December 23, 2010, where winners received a free copy of the game upon its release. Raskulls is slated for release on December 29, 2010. The game is also featured in Microsoft's Games for the Holidays promotion. As part of the promotion, additional content is made available if players also purchase A World of Keflings or ilomilo. Players can also use the mascot from Destructoid, a video game blog, which can be unlocked during the game's Mega Quest campaign. Raskulls was released for the Xbox 360 on December 29, 2010. On January 26, 2011 Halfbrick released a downloadable content pack entitled Raskulls Reinforcements 1. It contains four new playable characters; three Raskulls, Viking, Spaceman and Kitten, and one Pirat, Barney.
In a preview of the game Cinema Blend described Raskulls as "Mario Kart + Castle Crashers + Bomberman". It has also drawn comparisons to Mr. Driller. It has been praised by various members of the video game media. David Hinkle of Joystiq felt that the blending of genres in Raskulls could be a "dangerously fun combination". Destructoid's Jim Sterling also praised the game in previews, stating that it may be one of the "hottest XBLA titles this year."
Raskulls received above average reviews from critics, with several critics giving very positive reviews. It currently averages 77.23% at GameRankings and 75/100 at Metacritic, two aggregate websites. Individual scores for the game varied between the 60-100% approval range. It received an Editor's Choice award from Peter Eykemans of TeamXbox who praised the re-playability factor of the game. Gamer Limit's Chris Carter gave the game a perfect score and stated that it is "one of the best puzzle games I've ever played." Initial sales were high, with over 19,000 units sold during the month of its release. Year-end 2011 sales were in excess of 101,000 units.
The reviewer from The Sixth Axis praised the game's humor and "cute graphics". Gamer Limit reviewer Chris Carter agreed and said the game has a "strong sense of humor" and "cutscenes [that] are adorable." Tom Mc Shea of GameSpot also praised the game's humor. He stated "the comedic timing is done exceptionally well" and added Raskulls is "a game overflowing with quirky touches." 1UP.com's Chris Pinga also praised the humor; he called it "a lot of Saturday-morning style cartoon goofiness [...] and a good deal of fourth-wall-breaking, self-referential jokes."
Mixed views were given in regards to gameplay. Many reviewers felt that the overall gameplay mechanics were solid, however some reviewers felt that it was at times repetitious. Joystiq reviewer Garratt Martin felt the game had solid mechanics and well designed levels. Dakota Grabowski of GameZone praised the game's puzzle mechanics. Grabowski stated that the "best portions of Raskulls are when the game slows down and asks players to solve puzzles." Grabowski did however feel that the game may not be able to hold a player's interest long-term. The reviewer from Gaming Bits lauded the number of game modes available. He further felt the levels were "fresh, well designed and fun to play."
Mike Rose, reviewer for Strategy Informer, lauded the split-screen multiplayer, but noted that the online play needed adjustment. He gave some examples of his online experience; "if a player leaves partway through a race, they are not penalised, and you don't gain the experience points [...] only one other player stuck around until the end of our race - and that's only because they won!" Reviewer Bryce Zubriski of GamesRadar felt that the game's Mega Quest was short in length, but gave high remarks towards the developer's decision to provide various event types and to provide a "high energy level" during gameplay to keep players interested.
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