by Quinn Levandoski
reviewed on PC
I suppose this isn’t an experience that most people who don’t review games will be able to relate to, but playing through Randall was one of the few times I’ve become angry with a game for taking my free time away from games I enjoy. I did not enjoy playing Randall. I wanted to stop playing pretty early on, and that never really changed. I wish I could have spent that time playing one of the shiny new titles I picked up during the Steam Summer Sale, and that’s not a good thing to think. Randall, an action platformer in the vein of the lovely Guacamelee, is a disappointing experience in most every regard.
Putting everything else that goes into an enjoyable game aside, the one thing a platformer needs to have above everything else is rock solid, consistent platforming. Randall, simply put, does not. It was a poor design decision to have Randall’s movement distances during a number of his aerial maneuvers vary depending on how long the buttons are pressed. I’ve seen it work in other games, but it doesn’t here, and it’s one of many reasons why I had a difficult time getting Randall to do what I wanted him to do. Look, I’m all for punishingly difficult platformers, but there’s a right and a wrong way to do it. Difficulty should come from testing your reflexes and timing, not inconsistent controls. The former drives you to be better, while the latter drives you to boot up your copy of Super Meat Boy. Furthermore, though I might not particularly like the jumping mechanics, I’d at least like them to work. Glitches and combination presses not registering were common occurrences, particularly with wall jumping and the hop maneuver. I honestly spent about 15 minutes on a small series of four or five jumps in the tutorial level not because of any real, designed challenge, but because every single time I tried either the hop would register as a jump or dash and get me killed, or I would just hit the wall and fall instead of doing a wall jump. I’d honestly have turned the game off right there if I were playing under normal circumstances, but unfortunately I was forced to keep trudging.
It’s an awfully bad thing if your platforming game has rubbish platforming, but at least decent combat could salvage the experience enough to still provide some fun. Unfortunately that isn’t the case, with Randall’s combat continuing the inconsistent, uninspired qualities I’ve already spoken to. A few more options open up later in the game, but combat encounters are mostly resolved through the use of basic hits (standard punch, low kick, and uppercut), jumping, and grabs that can separate enemies from each other. I think Randall was trying to imbue its combat with the same need for accuracy in spacing and timing as the platforming, but it never really pans out. Even with multiple attacks and abilities that I used once in awhile, more often than not I wouldn’t have to use anything but my dash, jump, and basic punch to take down the standard baddies, which isn’t terribly engaging or exciting. This lack of interest is only compounded by relatively inconsistent hit detection and a nasty penchant for enemies to wind up for a hit, then magically glide a bit towards you, both of which makes working your timing and spacing difficult. It’s also strange that when killed, enemies would be laying down, then quickly stand up, only to drop back down again. I suppose it’s an issue of there only being one death animation that gets triggered regardless of the character’s positioning, and it doesn’t affect gameplay at all, but it is silly and a bit annoying.
Poor Design and Writing
While the game’s art is decent, if not particularly exceptional, the level and environmental designs suffer from a drought of creativity. Things change a bit in each of the game’s few different areas, but none are particularly interesting or unique. Environmental obstacles, a core part of the platforming experience, don’t fair any better. For example, there’s open electricity everywhere.. I had to sit and ponder a few moments what to even call the things, because they aren’t real things. They aren’t even electrified floor tiles or fence. They’re just two little protrusions that can be on just about any surface, always uniformly spaced, with open electricity flowing between them. I understand that it seems like a strange, small thing to get caught up on, but in a platformer the environments and obstacles are a major part of the experience, and having the screen constantly flooded with lazy, uninspired obstacles grew tired before I even got through the tutorial level. Tangentially, speaking of presentation and design, the writing’s pretty rough. The story, focused around a mad scientist that controls people through addiction, is fine, but the dialogue extremely unnatural, and there are a number of grammar and word errors that I spotted. The humor didn’t hit for me either, rarely getting funnier than “Hey there, how good does my hair look?”
Being that the action platformer genre is as incredibly flooded as it is, it’s difficult for me to find any reason to recommend a game that’s disappointing in so many ways and exceptional in none. Contrary to what you might think, I don’t enjoy writing reviews that are this negative. Even poor games are the result of a lot of people’s long time and hard work, and it does make me feel bad to throw all of that under the bus in a quick thousand words. That’s reality, though. Sometimes things don’t work out, and Randall is a textbook example.
While the entire game isn’t a dumpster fire, there isn’t anything that stands out as a notable high point.
Inconsistent and glitchy platforming, boring combat, poor dialogue and humor, uninspired environments, and a forgettable story.