At A Glance
|Positives||+ Tough as nails platforming|
|+ Charming pixel art style|
|+ Quick platinum trophy|
|Negatives||– Controls can glitch|
|– 50 levels isn’t enough|
|– Useless collectables|
It certainly wasn’t the first 2D, tough-as-nails platformer, but since Super Meat Boy splattered his way onto the gaming scene in 2010, it has become the yardstick against which all rage-inducing precision platformers are compared. Rift Racoon is the latest in the controller snapping genre; developed by Marcos Game Dev(with the help of console porting gurus Ratalaika Games and publisher eastasiasoft), to try to wrestle the crown from the animated lump of beef. Will it succeed? Read on to find out.
Rift Racoon, which according to Wikipedia is an acceptable alternative for spelling Raccoon, ticks a lot of boxes out of the gate. We’re introduced to Tucker the Raccoon, who is caught up in a case of mistaken identity. Given a machine that allows him to teleport through walls, he sets off on a quest to test the machine – there’s no rhyme or reason behind this really, Rift Racoon is simply about making sure the little guy completes the fifty levels set out before him. I have to admit that I liked this approach – it’s allowed the developers the opportunity to offer a pure platformer rather than try to gussy it up into a narrative driven experience which sometimes feels a little forced.
Instead of working on a plot device, Marcos Game Dev decided to focus on the visuals and mechanics of the Rift Racoon. The first world, set in a lab, eases you into the game and teaches you everything you need to know about moving and teleporting. It’s simple enough and a stress free experience; a few times I’d miss where I was aiming for but after a super quick restart, I was off again and without much fuss. The levels themselves are a little on the short side, only lasting a few minutes each, but there’s occasionally a longer one that pops along that’s punctuated with checkpoints so that if you did have to restart, you wouldn’t have to start all over again. Once the laboratory stage was over it was time to head into the real world, where the difficulty significantly ramps up. Obstacles become more tightly packed, you gain the ability to string jumps together and there is a single gem stashed somewhere in the level for to track down. The gems only act as cosmetic skins for Tucker and while it does extend the game a little, the reward doesn’t really warrant the effort.
I have to say that the 16-bit chunky pixel art style is simply gorgeous to look at. The little fella isn’t the most detailed but he doesn’t need to be; he fits in with every environment he enters, whether it’s the opening laboratory or the main outside world. Since this is an indie game made on a budget, there are a lot of repeated assets and minimal characters, but they’re not really required. The soundtrack too is a little on the generic side but it’s soothing, and considering the amount of retries I ended up taking, was an absolute godsend. All in all, it’s safe to say that Rift Racoon is a pretty looking package, but perhaps a little lacking in some areas.
But as my mum used to say, “Don’t worry love, looks aren’t everything”, and she’s unfortunately right in the case of Rift Racoon where I came across some pretty big problems with the controls. When trying to teleport upwards, I often found the raccoon changing his mind and committing suicide by trying to travel through a wall, andwhen landing next to a spike on a tiny platform, I had to be a substantial distance away from the obstacle or I’d send my trusty raccoon companion to the big rubbish bin in the sky. This is fine in the earlier levels where things are more forgiving, but when deadly things are either side of me, it becomes a game of “which thing should I die on next”.
I began to think that, perhaps in my old age, I was doing something wrong – it is a precision platformer after all and perhaps my reflexes were too sluggish. I tried two different controllers and was sure to use the D-Pad and analogue sticks on both, but met with the same results. Even plugging the controller directly into the console didn’t help and teleportation sent me in all manner of directions. It’s as if the developers cackled manically and said, “If the level layout doesn’t kill you, then the controls certainly will!”
Even if this is a case of a workman blaming his tools, there’s another unforgiving problem to contend with. If you clip into either the wall or the floor when teleporting, even by one or two pixels, you’re given just a couple of milliseconds to try to jump free or it’s back to the start for you, Trash Panda. That in itself isn’t a problem, but in a precision platforming game I would expect the key focus to be on the precision, and because of the troubles with aiming, it becomes an infuriating issue of having to plan a pixel perfect jump while trying to preempt any funny business from the controller. This worked great in the first few levels where you had the time to plan your moves, but as you creep towards the end goal, Rift Racoon becomes one of the hardest platformers to navigate that I’ve ever experienced.
Underneath all of the time spent barrelling the cute little guy into the floor, walls, and ceiling, Rift Racoon does have a half decent platforming mechanic that doesn’t just expect perfect precision, it demands it. For all of the flaws , I found that if I played the game in short sharp bursts, I could spread out the game’s fifty short levels and not build up enough rage to yeet my controller at the nearest wall.
It is a shame that Rift Racoon’s levels weren’t a tad longer and the controller issues prevented a more balanced outcome. Just tweaking the control scheme slightly and spending a few more seconds clearing one extra obstacle, or even having something more to unlock with the gems would’ve elevated the game from “OK” to “Pretty Great”. Granted, the PlayStation 5 version of Rift Racoon also nets you a PS4 copy, but aside from the two sets of trophies, which can be Platinumed in less than an hour, the troubles with clipping and the glitchy aiming offer little motivation to play through the same game twice in quick succession. While it doesn’t come close to the levels of Super Meat Boy, Rift Racoon does have some glimmers of a good game in there somewhere, if only they didn’t keep clipping into the walls… .
In the interest of full disclosure, the publisher provided VGamingNews with a copy of the game in order to conduct this review.