Raskulls was developed and published by Halfbrick Studios for XBLA on December 29, 2010, and retails for 800 Microsoft Points. The publisher provided us with a copy of the game for reviewing purposes.

Raskulls is a unique blend of action-platforming, objective racing and puzzle solving, and is something you won’t really find anywhere else on the XBLA. It is also the type of game to that starts off at almost mind-numbing levels of simplicity before it really begins to grow on you as you spend more time with it.

From a visual standpoint, Raskulls looks very similar to Castle Crashers, which is not a bad comparison to have, and features delightfully vivid graphics and fluid animations.  The audio is appropriate throughout as well, with some fun, upbeat songs to match the frantic gameplay. However, the lack of any voices whatsoever makes the game seem a little more barren than it really is.

The gameplay, however, is much more difficult to describe. Try to imagine a mash-up of Super Mario Brothers, Tetris and Mario Kart, and you’ll start getting close to the type of experience Raskulls offers. It can be a competitive and frantic experience one minute, and then be a slow, carefully thought-out experience the next. Raskulls is always changing things up and keeping you on your toes, and will catch you off guard with its level of fun.

Here’s what we liked:

Varied gameplay modes keep things exciting – Raskulls’ mash-up of different genres will likely catch people off guard. Just when you think it’s a game about punching through colored blocks, it becomes a racer, and then just as quickly throws in some puzzle solving amidst all the platforming. The game’s simplistic and cartoone-y looks are deceiving, because there is quite a bit of game to be had here. Halfbrick could’ve easily chosen to focus on one style of gameplay for Raskulls, but instead keeps things varied and challenging, thus adding the game’s value.

Beautiful to look at – Graphics aren’t everything, but Raskulls really does shine in this area. Vibrant colors and pretty artwork truly stand out in some instances, and they look even better thanks to the game’s fluid animations. The Raskulls themselves are cute and burst with personality, despite the fact you never actually hear them speak. Comparisons could certainly be drawn between Raskulls and Castle Crashers in the graphical department, which is a very good thing.

Captures what makes the different genres special – Racing, platforming, puzzle solving – whatever event or particular mode you’re playing has its own special feel and strategic approach. Raskulls succeeds at being fun in all of these areas, and while it may start off slow or too easy for some, picks up in difficulty and challenge as players progress through the game’s singleplayer mode.

Here’s what we didn’t like:

Writing is hit-or-miss – Without any voice acting to carry along the story or characters, Raskulls relies entirely on it’s writing to get the plot and the humor across. Because of this, it occasionally falls flat or seems like it is trying too hard to be humorous. But that’s only if you don’t cycle through all the dialogue boxes, which seems inevitable during some of the lengthy, voiceless conversations.

Multiplayer will determine its lifespan – Playing Raskulls alone is fun for a while, but grows old without other players to join in on the frantic gameplay. At the time of this review, playing the online multiplayer was impossible since the game wasn’t out yet. But without anyone playing this game online, the time people spend with it might be diminished a great deal.

Missed opportunities for an even better game – It’s hard not to feel like Halfbrick missed some golden opportunities to make Raskulls even better. For example, some deeper game modes would have been nice, and the game seems perfect for some sort of Raskull customization. Since they’re already cute and have a lot of personality, why not let players customize and create their own? Adding in extra collectables or challenges to unlock more customizable options for your own Raskull would have definitely made the game more rewarding.

It’s hard to say how much attention Raskulls will receive. On one hand, it’s coming out a time when there aren’t many new or notable releases, which could work for the game’s advantage, but there also hasn’t been much press about Raskulls to even put it on gamers’ radars.

It’s certainly a title deserving of attention, but if its multiplayer doesn’t stick, then Raskull’s lifespan may be much shorter than it could be.

Score: Try