Seeds of Ralark and Rise of the Ravager

Oopsie.  Last night, I meant to download Rise of the Ravager by Gentleman Squid.  Instead, I downloaded Seeds of Ralark.  The reason for that was I wasn’t 100% sure what the title was, except it had the word “of” in it and the cover art looked a bit generic.  You could see how I might make such a mistake.

Could be twins!

Could be twins!

Well, I plunked down 80 Mystic Syrup Ponies for Seeds of Ralark, so I figure I might as well play it.  Or attempt to at least.  Seeds is the type of game where you almost wonder if it’s meant to be played at all.  It’s a platformer without jumping.  I think the aim of the developer was to be like Bionic Commando, because gameplay revolves around walking around as a gecko, moving from platform to platform by way of a grappling hook.  Or, in the case of Seeds, a sticky tongue.  Positive thing out-of-the-way first: the graphics are pretty.  That’s the only nice thing I can say about Seeds.  The play control is atrocious.  Aiming the tongue is too loose, and the physics don’t want to cooperate.  In a short play time, I even found some little quirks that make me wonder.  Like, how come platforms don’t swing back and forth once you’ve moved them?  You can use the tongue to grapple onto a platform, but move the platform you’re standing on by using sticky feet.  However, when you let go with your tongue, the platform goes back to its starting position and locks into place.  That’s just nonsensical.

I can’t really squeeze a full review out of Ralark because I didn’t even finish the tutorial.  I put about thirty minutes into trying, but Seeds of Ralark had already become one of the most painful gaming sessions I had ever experienced.  I guess this is being passed off as “difficult” by the developers, and I suppose that is the case.  Of course, piecing together a broken statue with super glue might also be difficult, but even if you manage it, that doesn’t change the fact that the statue is broken.  If Ralark handled better, it might be fun.  Might. As it stands now, it’s one of the worst games I’ve ever played.

Seeds of Ralark offended my platforming fandom, and also gave me a desire to dump Geico as my insurance carrier.

Seeds of Ralark offended my platforming fandom, and also gave me a desire to dump Geico as my insurance carrier.

How does a game this bad come along, and how does a developer not realize it’s a problem?  In the case of Seeds of Ralark, I’m guessing this is a simple case of a developer becoming the best at their own game, not realizing that others are going to find it to be a frustrating, joyless chore to play.  After all, they had no problem with the controls.  The ones they designed, and know all the stupid quirks of that nobody else in their right mind would take the time to learn.  And then you have a game like Rise of the Ravager, where the difficulty spikes so dramatically that any lingering fun is sapped away.

Ravager is a decent concept.  A gallery shooter sort of like Galaga, only with the colored-bullets gameplay of something like Ikaruga.  Sounds good, and at first, it is.  Of course, Ikaruga is insanely difficult with just two colors of bullets.  Ravager has four colors to worry about.  For the less coordinated of the populace (raises hand), that alone could be enough of a turnoff to make Ravager easily skippable.  But, the action was decent enough and showed enough promise that I felt I should continue.  This lasted until I encountered the first boss, which was too spongy for its own good.  I tried reshuffling my experience points into other categories (by far the smartest move the guys at Gentleman Squid did here) but still struggled.  After roughly a dozen attempts, I finally beat it.  But, by this point, I was fatigued by this less-than-exciting sequence and was just anxious for the game to be over.  I call this Steven Seagal Syndrome, because I feel the same way when watching his movies.

This is the way the world ends.  Not with a bang but with giant colored heads raining down from the sky.  Just like the Mayans predicted.

This is the way the world ends. Not with a bang but with giant colored heads raining down from the sky. Just like the Mayans predicted.

My boyfriend would like me to note that I’m not this game’s target audience.  I try to be as unbiased as possible, but I also generally dislike shmups and have a tough time warming up to them.  Having said that, Ravager has problems that extend beyond its genre.  The color system requires skills that are typically a cut above what an average gamer possesses.  I can handle it up to a certain point, but when you have different-colored enemies coming at you from different sides, with a couple of waves following right behind them, it really can be a bit overwhelming, to the point of being demoralizing.  I also thought there were a few flaws in the upgrade system.  Some of the upgrades are too expensive.  You also get upgrade points by not taking damage on levels.  However, to do so often requires utter perfection.  If you could go back to previous stages and attempt to earn those points you missed (just the missed points, so as to avoid mindless grinding), this would be a great feature to have.  But you can’t go back.  Thus, those upgrade points that the majority of the gaming population really could use will be unobtainable.

Put it this way: let’s say you put me in a foot race with Usain Bolt.  He would absolutely smoke me the first race.  Now let’s say that because he beat me, I have to run the next race with my shoelaces tied together.  Hey wait, shouldn’t HE be the one running with his shoelaces tied together?  That would make for a closer, more exciting race, and I, the person ill-equipped to do well in such a task, would have a better chance of staying competitive.  And that’s what is wrong with Ravager.  Those upgrade points are out of reach for those who are in need of them the most.  Being able to go back and get those points would take the edge off, but the developers are worried that their game might get too easy.  So I guess that’s that.  If only gaming was a medium where, and I’m speaking hypothetically here, you could have adjustable difficulty levels to cater to players of all skill levels.  I know, there I go again, spouting off pure fanciful crazy talk.  I still hold out hope that my insanely absurd “adjustable difficulty” crap will become a reality.  Maybe the 720 or PS4 will have the processing power to pull of such a radical space age innovation.

I probably should also put out there that the developer was anxious for Brian and I to experiment with the co-op stuff, so we did.  Brian jumped in at level 13.  Again, not wanting their game to be “too easy”, the game features what they claim to be “scaling difficulty” that increases with the number of players.  Thus, once Brian jumped in, the game suddenly had what seemed like three times the amount of enemies you would normally encounter, and those enemies took more bullets to kill.  The dudes at Gentleman Squid based this off Diablo 2.  Which you’ll note is a dungeon crawling hack-and-slasher, not a single-screened gallery shooter with limited movement.  Scaling difficulty they say?  I say the amount of shit two people had to deal with seemed more in line with something meant for four players.  I actually shudder how much shit could be in a four player game.  This was not well thought out.

Rise of the Ravager didn't do much for me, besides make me want to go back and watch Legends of the Hidden Temple.  I'm partial to the Orange Iguanas myself, although the Silver Snakes were not without charm.

Rise of the Ravager didn’t do much for me, besides make me want to go back and watch Legends of the Hidden Temple. I’m partial to the Orange Iguanas myself, although the Silver Snakes were not without charm.

I’m sure there is an audience for Rise of the Ravager.  It has decent enough play control, pretty graphics, and a nice hook.  The fact that I came close to enjoying it might speak volumes of its quality.  But, based on my own subjective opinions, I can’t recommend it.  It’s just not for me, in the same way that hiring someone to tie me to a bed and beat me with a bullwhip isn’t for me.  Some people are into that kind of shit.

Seeds of Ralark was developed by Escapism Entertainment

Rise of the Ravager was developed by Gentleman Squid

80 Microsoft Points apiece noted that the Leaderboard’s ranked percentage is the lowest now that it’s ever been in the making of this review.  Pick it up, guys.

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About Indie Gamer Chick
The most read Xbox Live Indie Game critic in the world.

2 Responses to Seeds of Ralark and Rise of the Ravager

  1. Pingback: REVIEW: Rise of the Ravager | the / . / XBLIG

  2. BandanaGames says:

    With regard to Seeds of Ralark, the difficulty was highlighted by many of us when the game was going through apphub review. I think the problem is that a lot of Devs just want the game to be released when it gets to the review stage. Of course you can put your game into playtest first, but you often don’t get much feedback ;(

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