I was an avid reader of the Brothers Grimm as a kid, a neighbour of mine once handed me an omnibus of their works. I read that book countless times, my gateway to books that collection was. So, I have a bit of a soft spot for worlds unknown, even if Ravenlok’s Alice in Wonderland setting wasn’t exactly one of Grimms’ works. I picked it up for review for that very reason.
Developed and published by Coccocucumber, Ravenlok follows the adventures of a young girl who moves out to the countryside with her family, away from all that city stuff, and naturally for anyone stuck outside city lines: she’s bored. But all that changes when she opens the doors to the nearby barn…
The girl can be named whatever you so desire. So, after a brief discussion with the family, we unanimously dubbed her ‘WhatsApp 2’. Let’s follow her on a journey with many a quest and a lot of sword swinging.
Beauty is in the Pixels
The world that WhatsApp 2 wakes up in is a gorgeous one. Heck, even before you get into the meat of the game, the player is treated to a beautiful rendition of bright blue skies on a farmland backdrop. The way the game positions the camera is almost panorama-like, not necessarily following your playable character around but close enough and with enough wiggle room to do a few twists and turns if need be. This helps show off the game’s lovely art style well, with what I can best describe as pixel art meets a more dominant 3D. Each area you visit is filled to the brim with colour, objects, and whole lotta detail (even if it’s occasionally to the player’s detriment). The music compliments all the scenery very well, from the moody forests to the voorboden mansions.
With that being said, WhatsApp 2 didn’t come here for sightseeing. No no, she needs to take on an adventure as the ‘Ravenlok’, a hero destined to free the folk of the land from the Red Queen’s tyranny. With your trusty sword and shield, players will be tasked with clearing hordes of enemies, completing quests and puzzles, and ultimately collecting the pieces that will let them confront the old hag tucked away in the castle. There are figures to collect too, which you can only do via an adorable little jig.
Puzzles make up some of the game’s workload, with most of it being combat. The game never holds your hand with regards to questing, instead opting for the player to explore and figure out who is where and where is what. I like this approach, particularly in a time where game designers are so terrified a player will drop their game over being lost for a bit, it’s always refreshing to see the opposite happen. Puzzles never felt obtuse to me and most of them could be solved just by walking around the very place you’re in.
The puzzles are the best parts of Ravenlok because the questing didn’t quite interest me much. And to an even lesser extent, the combat. WhatsApp 2 ran into many characters inspired by the world of Alice in Wonderland, bunnies and frogs et al. And each character had plenty of work to do for her. Much to her dismay, a lot of it amounted to almost MMO-like fetch quests. I even had to pop in and out of a place once or twice to respawn baddies or resources to continue the quest I needed to complete.
Speaking of baddies! There’s a lot of ‘em. It’s a good thing WhatsApp 2 has some of the best dexterity and physical strength that’d make Kratos blush. You can mash the attack button and have the young Ravenlok shred up anything and everything in her way. This is to a fault mind you, because bonking enemies repeatedly keeps them stunlocked. Even bosses struggle to beat the little swordswinging maniac, their area-of-effect attacks typically unable to hit her once. Using the shield to block attacks actually made me lose health more often than not, so it’s best to just run around and dodge a bunch.
This makes up most of Ravenlok’s playtime, and I simply didn’t enjoy any of it. Not a single baddie was a match against WhatApp 2’s destructive force. Which is a shame because the combat isn’t inherently bad and with a bit of tweaking you could have slower but more interesting and challenging battles. And heck, fights against baddies don’t have to be hard, but button mashing my way through Ravenlok ultimately left me disinterested in the game’s worldbuilding.
Sweet and Straightforward
I button mashed through the game’s beautiful environments til the credits rolled. It had a cute little story that plays it straightforward with some questionable decisions that WhatsApp 2 ultimately makes to get the job done. Truth be told, I felt more like a little tyrant myself towards the end considering how many living things I gibbed, but that’s a fairy tale for you I suppose.
In Ravenlok’s well-paced narrative and gameplay structure, I’m sad to say that I didn’t find the game to be very compelling. For every fun puzzle there was another quest or dull combat sequence that I button mashed out of with ease. Still, I could appreciate the expectations the game places on the player to simply figure things out on their own and having a straightforward, no-nonsense plot. A lost art in gaming (and arguably other mediums) today.
Our fair WhatsApp 2’s journey may have ended here, but she has a new quest to take on: buying me a new Xbox controller. I think my ‘X’ button is coming loose.
Xbox Series X
- Gorgeous visuals meshing in pixel art with a stylized 3D environment. It all comes together really well.
- Puzzles that don't hold your hand but never feel obtuse.
- Cute little fairy tale story.
- The combat system is weak and never improves.
- MMO-style questing gets repetitive.