30th Oct2018

‘Rage in Peace’ Review (PC/Steam)

by Britt Roberts

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Rage in Peace takes a lot of inspiration from ‘trial and error’ platformers such as Super Meat Boy (which it directly references) and, of course…Rick Dangerous (I mention it because I can), but Rage in Peace focuses on a surprisingly in-depth narrative behind the grind and this elevates it somewhat above other types of game in this most challenging of genres.

Rage in Peace tells the story of 27 year old Timmy Malinu, and boy, this dude is existential ennui in a shirt and tie. The game begins with Timmy arriving at the bank where he works as an actuary, only to be visited by a very chirpy Grim Reaper with an irritating laugh who promptly informs him that this is his last day on Earth and he is due to die by having his head cut off, wowsers. Timmy’s typically inert response to this is to just want to get home and die alone in bed with no drama, thus the game begins.

Rage in Peace is a game in which you will die so, so many times (at one teeth-grinding section later in the game, I racked up over 350 deaths on one part alone…the game handily keeps a counter of your demises in the top-left corner…yay) that it almost loses meaning. There are checkpoints scattered around upon which, I assure you, you will exhale with relief when you pass (there’s also a ‘goldfish mode’ which makes the checkpoints more frequent…which I may have used at certain points…who’s to say?) but aside from this, it’s you against everything in the entire world. Presented in a 2D platforming style, for the most part, aside from running left to right, the only other movement in Timmy’s gymnastic arsenal is to jump. This means that the vast chunk of the game is pretty stripped-back in terms of what the character is capable of and boils down to a memory test. Each time you die, a ‘death report’ pops up on screen and it tells you what kicked your bucket.

To give an example; at the start of the game you run along a corridor and a light collapses on you. Dead. Then you dodge the light by edging towards it and moving away as it falls to see a puddle beyond it, thinking that this spelt death (it did), I cleverly jumped the puddle only to be killed by spikes shooting out of the floor. Dead. This pattern repeats a lot and, whilst initially fun, it does become a grind as feel like you may as well just blindly run forward, setting everything off and then just remember what happened so you can make it incrementally further on subsequent attempts. The levels are quite short and punchy however, and the game does change up this pattern later on with some pretty hallucinogenic sections in act 4 (there are 6 acts in total) which really are a welcome change as, although the dangers change, a lot of the patterns, tricks and traps repeat themselves. Does it matter if it’s a tree that collapses on you or spiky camel or stalactite?

That said, I really, really enjoyed the game…if indeed ‘enjoyed’ is the right word. It’s so tightly designed and the controls so responsive that it hits that sweet spot of knowing that you can do that tough segment where sharks are leaping out at you as you run away from a boulder…even if that springing invisible bamboo-trap is a little sausage just before that double-jump at the end of the sequence so that you can then leap over that raising platform that is just before the tentacles that shoot out of the wall…*sigh*.

The visuals are reminiscent of Castle Crashers, especially in the face of the protagonist. The sharply drawn and quite varied levels are mixed in with music that ranges from beautiful melancholic ambient sounds to indie rock and full-on metal (the game uses music with lyrics which is always a risk) for me the music was a real mixed-bag ranging from cringeworthy to emotionally-affecting but admittedly always suited the scenes taking place at the time…even if I muted one or two after a few minutes.

I don’t want to discuss the story too much as it’s such a huge part of what makes you want to drive Timmy forwards, watching his goals and even self-perceptions change. I will say that the tonal shifts can sometimes be jarring and the conversations between characters a bit forced and overwrought at times (think Garden State – screaming into a quarry) but it’s the actual unveiling of the story and the clever call-backs to hints dropped by characters or locations previously encountered in the game are to be admired and heavy focus on an unfolding narrative in such a grind-heavy, challenging title is actually quite refreshing.

Aside from a section in act 5 where the visuals stutter due to the speed of movement, making the segment even harder than it should be, most of the difficulty in Rage in Peace comes from the design, whilst tough, the game is clearly developed with love and at no point feels unduly unfair due to glitches or the like.

Rage in Peace is one that lovers of uber-hard platformers will love as well as having a story that should be enjoyed by those gamers who find a narrative appealing. There’s also a speed-run mode for those who are into the competitive side of things.

I didn’t expect to complete Rage in Peace as I struggle with trial and error games due to my patience not being designed for such things but the developers have catered for a lot of styles of play here, which is to be admired. Aside from some ‘on the nose’ moments in the tale and the aforementioned visual issues in act 5, Rage in Peace is a really solid title with a relatively wide appeal despite the niche genre it springs from.

Right, I’m off to rub my temples.

Rage in Peace is released on PC and Nintedno Switch on November 8th.

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