If anything has been in vogue in gaming over the last five years, it’s been retro-style platformers. Pixel art never really goes out of style, we’re always in the market for some 8 to 16-bit goodness. We’ve had some modern classics like Shovel Knight and The Messenger, but also a plethora of games of mixed quality. A quick search through Steam will return dozens of retro style games, and with respect to all the hard-working developers out there, we really don’t need many more. Speaking of The Messenger, if you haven’t played it I highly recommend it. It’s absolutely exceptional, but I bring it up to make a point. When I first saw The Messenger, I brushed it off as just another nostalgia game. A Ninja Gaiden clone hoping to cash in on the fuzzy feeling fans get when they see their favourite game brought back. Once I played it, I realised The Messenger is one of those quality games like Shovel Knight. This is the thing, you put out a nostalgia game in a flooded market and people roll their eyes. That’s pretty much what I did when I was sent Ravva and the Cyclops Curse to review. Was my judgment premature? Let’s find out!
Ravva and the Cyclops Curse is about as pure a NES-talgia game as you’ll get. The game is simple in its design, lot’s of primary colours and straight forward sprites. You play as Ravva, the young child of a summoner. In the introduction, a cyclops places a curse on the mother and it is up to you to journey across the land to break the curse. Almost identical to Shovel Knight, Ravva and the Cyclops Curse has a storyboard intro and an over-world map for you to cross. Ravva is a more linear game, you play through all ten stages in order. No backtracking, no collectibles, no upgrades. As the child of a summoner, you get to summon spirits of your own. Being a little lad yourself, you get cutesy versions of each of the bigger spirits. This is where your main gameplay mechanic comes from, each summoned spirit gives you a different ability.
Aside from your basic straight shot, you have an angled multi-shot, freeze attack, bombs and an ability that reveals invisible items. There’s a good variety, and quickly swapping between abilities does most of the work to keep the gameplay interesting. That said, the gameplay isn’t very interesting. You use these various abilities to traverse quite generic platformer levels. There is little variety in the environment and even less in the enemies. All the monsters look very similar, the same colour palette over a couple of different designs. The biggest issue here is the amount of damage they take. You very often find yourself pumping shots into waves of enemies, who spawn almost quicker than you can kill them. Easily the worst part of this game is the amount of time spent repetitively shooting monsters. It takes too long, it just isn’t fun.
My initial feeling on this game was that it would fade into the background with its thousands of counterparts. Having finished it, I only mostly agree with that assessment. Ravva and the Cyclops Curse is fairly generic, but it’s also very cheap. It doesn’t break any new ground, and I wouldn’t say it modernises or perfects any of its old school ideas. The one vibe I got from this game is it’s potential as a game for younger players. Maybe you’ve got a younger sibling, cousin or child and you want to introduce them to classic games. The game has a kid mode that gives you infinite lives, so it seems the developer intended this one for a young audience. All well and good, but it’s a hard argument to pick this over Mario. Ravva and the Cyclops Curse is cute, but it’s no classic.