A speedrunning platformer that misses the mark.
Difficult games are usually fun because the payoff is so sweet. Take this year’s Celeste, or 2017’s Cuphead. Both extremely difficult and frustrating, yet so damn fun. For these games, the brilliance lies in the balance between mechanics that work and good level design. But unlike Celeste and Cuphead, RAZED never quite finds that middle-ground.
At the start of the game, you receive a pair of shoes. The left is a pretty stand-up shoe, but the right just wants to explode—what a jerk. The only way to keep yourself from exploding is to run or collect power crystals placed around each course. Abilities like jumping, drifting or speed boosting will cause the circular meter surrounding your character to decrease. Once the juice is all used up? Boom.
RAZED is part-platformer, part-speedrunner, part-80s techno dance party. The objective is to get from one end of the map to the other as fast as possible.
On paper, RAZED sounds like a lot of fun. Hell, sometimes it even IS fun. But most of the game is held back by its mechanics. The gimmick of pitting the character’s own abilities against it takes the fun out of the best parts of the game. The whole time I just wanted to jump and drift through the courses, but the core mechanic essentially forces the player not to do those things, which is a shame. What if you received a yellow card for kicking the football? That’s sort of what this felt like.
I get that being economical with the resources you’re given is part of the game, but in RAZED’s case, it almost feels like the player has no freedom. With all these cool abilities at my disposal, I wish the game would have allowed me to be more creative in my approach. However, in your first playthrough at least, you’re mostly stuck to doing it the ‘right way.’ Once you go back and play old levels with new abilities, you’ll find shortcuts to help improve your time, but they’re not enough to keep the courses interesting.
For a ‘speedrunning’ game, it never feels like you’re going all that fast either. Even when you get the speed boost ability, it just kind of feels like you’re strolling along. Incorporating a sense of speed can go a long way. It’s tough to achieve and even harder to explain, but that speed and momentum is something you can really feel and build upon in games like N++. RAZED never really gets there.
The game is hard, but for the wrong reasons. Occasionally, I felt like I had the level all figured out, but I just couldn’t execute. Sometimes the platforms would stop me dead in my tracks for no reason. Launch pads are unpredictable—you’ll hop off one and completely overshoot it, then undershoot it the very next try. The randomness of it makes the game nearly impossible to master.
The default controls on PC are also a nightmare. If you have the option of playing on Xbox One, or using an Xbox One controller, do it. You’ll be doing yourself a favour. Using the arrow keys to move and the spacebar to jump just seems like playing a 2004 flash game. Constantly reaching for the ctrl button to drift gave me carpal tunnel in one playthrough.
RAZED looks good and runs pretty well, at least. The art style is interesting, and works for the most part. I’m a big fan of the neon gradient colour palette. The polygonal shapes definitely set a tone and actually mesh well with the game’s music, which has a sort of dark, dreamy, electronic dance feel. As frustrating as the game can be, at least you’ll be bobbing your head.
I never noticeably dropped any frames or had to relaunch the game for any reason. That being said, the requirements shouldn’t be all the taxing on most computers anyway.
I’m sure Warpfish Games anticipates that most of RAZED’s lasting value will come from players attempting to climb the leaderboards. Unfortunately, RAZED is just too frustrating and unsatisfying to spend any more time with it than necessary.