The long awaited side scrolling action adventure game “Randall” has finally released! Developed by the indie development company “We The Force Studios” based out of Saltillo, Mexico, Randall boasts a “metroidvania” type gameplay style. Can Randall stand up to the immense pressure of the already watered down genre and shine? Or, will it crack under the weight of the genre’s previous legends such as the Castlevania and Metroid series’?
The plot of many of the early metroidvania styled games is often very similar. As a player, you are plopped into a completely unknown world with very limited information about who and where you are. Randall sticks to this trend. Waking up in a foreign dystopian world with a pounding headache, all Randall knows is that he has a knack for parkour, the ability to kick some serious ass, two voices in his head, and a killer hairdo. Quickly he discovers he is trapped in a military state under the rule of a brutal dictator who controls the masses with either mind control or a violent military police force. Realizing the city of Nook’s plight, Randall joins up with a small group of revolutionaries whose only goal is to eliminate the dictator himself.
Perhaps the most important part of metroidvania games is the need to unlock new abilities and power-ups in order to progress throughout the world. Randall is no different. Giving players the ability to go back and replay previous areas with their new found tricks, Randall sticks to this archetype. The problem is, the player never feels the need to do so. Unlike the Metroid and Castlevania games of old, Randall’s plot is incredibly guided, leaving very little desire to re-explore old areas. Outside of making specific trips back to old areas for a shot at a borderline useless power-up, players will never revisit any locations unless the combat forces them to.
It is very apparent that much effort went into trying to make Randall’s combat fast and exciting, however when it all comes together, We The Force Studios slightly missed the mark. The game offers numerous strings of combos including fast punches, low kicks, aerial throws, and later, psionic powered attacks. All the tools are there to create an incredible beat ’em up experience, if only it wasn’t so rough. Riddled with awkward enemy recovery animations, you are quick to learn that it is best to avoid using combos altogether. In lieu of using the existing combos, the most effective way to dispatch enemies is to spam single jabs in succession. This completely stun locks any enemy allowing Randall to “jab jab jab” any foe to death, which effectively ruins the action combat experience. Luckily the majority of bosses use unique mechanics, which put a halt to Randall literally being able to jab his way through the entire game.
The bosses throughout the city of Nook are what gives flavor to the overall combat experience. Each boss fight mixes in different mechanics, forcing players to not only duck, dodge, fight, and platform, but also think to win. After figuring out how each boss fight works and repeating the required actions to kill them, players are left feeling, “meh.” The bosses that weren’t disappointingly easy simply felt bland. Memorize the boss’s pattern and execute simple movements for five long minutes, and you have killed yourself a boss! Although the bosses feel a little empty, they do offer a pleasant change of pace from Randall’s main attraction, platforming.
If there is one area that We The Force Studios executed very well, it would be platforming. Taking full advantage of Randall’s athleticism, players are given many vital tools to navigate every trap-filled room. Randall personifies everything that platforming fans have come to love. Spikes, massive saws, flame throwers, poison sprayers, and lasers coupled with moving platforms, elevators, holes, and annoyingly placed enemies fill each treacherous area. Randall’s parkour abilities along with precise timing and impeccable movement still aren’t enough to maneuver the dangerous city. Only supernatural abilities can pave the path to success.
One of the many important tricks that Randall remembers throughout the game is the ability to control enemy’s minds. We The Force Studios uses this to its full extent when it comes to platforming. Some enemies wear gas masks, others can walk upside down, and another can even fly! The skill to control enemies brings innovative depth to the game’s platforming, allowing for secrets to be tucked in very crazy places. Use your enemies well and be fast because you can only maintain control for a short time.
Everything said, Randall is a good platformer with a decent plot and unpolished combat. The in-game art style is easy on the eyes, but We The Force Studios should probably have left their cutscenes out. Being worth about five hours of gameplay for your first playthrough, Randall is asking for a lot for its $14.99 price tag. I personally recommend watching closely for sales and picking up the title at a cheaper price.
If you are interested in challenging yourself with the action adventure game “Randall,” check it out on its Steam page. For those who don’t believe in Steam, Randall is also available on the PS4 Store. Listen to the voices in your head and save the city of Nook. Good Luck!
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