Friday, 1 September 2017

Rabi-Ribi PS4 Review

The carrot or the stick?

I'm a little worried, as at some point in this mind nourishing review I'm going to have to explain the plot of Rabi-Ribi even though I don't quite fully understand it myself, but hey, let's have a crack at it, yeah. You're a actual factual rabbit who's been transformed into a bunny girl called Erina. Erina wakes up in a box in what seems to be a hospital, a short wander later and Erina is transported to a forest where she decides to hunt for her master, Rumi...initially unarmed she soon grabs a comedy style mallet and gains the friendship of Ribbon the fairy, the second playable aspect of this duo. Without spoiling too much you'll find out that rabbits are rare and sought after creatures (mostly by pretend rabbit girls), that there's another world and that your master's sister, Miru seems to be at the centre of the troubles.

What this all translates into is a metroid-vania platform with cute pixel graphics, random world design, some clever RPG elements and some awkward stumbles. To start off with you'll be controlling Erina who takes up the tasks of platforming and melee attacks and as with most games of this nature you'll find new items that give you expanded abilities and most of these abilities are the usual, wall jumping, slides to get through smaller gaps, that sort of thing. Ribbon plays the part of long range attacker with a variety of beam attacks...again the usual. One unique feature is that everything has a bar...your melee attacks have an SP bar, long range attacks have an MP bar and so on. This adds a more tactical aspect that meansyou'll have to switch things up a bit pretty regularly. This could have been an annoying addition but is implemented surprisingly well.

Although Rabi-Ribi's DNA is mostly comprised of Metroid-vania goodness it does share some chromosomes with another surprising genre, the bullet hell game. The bullet hell goodness rears its head most in the numerous boss battles as you try to take down other animal/human hybrid character...usual after some silly mis-understanding. These boss battles are the games toughest challenge as you desperately try to dodge barrages of complex and varied attack patterns. Generally these fights are pretty creative but there are attacks that feel close to unfair as you'll end up baffled as to how the game expected you to avoid particular attacks. What's more bullet hell games are usually space shooters, allowing players full 2D movement, but with Rabi-Ribi being a platformer at heart you'll always have gravity pulling you down....and sometimes it doesn't feel like the game took this fully into account.

There is however one other game Rabi Ribi made me think of...Mickey's castle of illusion. This is mainly because the world of Rabi Ribi feels so random and cobbled together. The environments range for the expected such as forests and science labs and random sky castles....the real issue is that there's no rhyme or reason to the transitions between'll be wandering along a beach when suddenly you'll find a hole that leads to the pyramid that has trippy TV screen's on the wall...if you carry on down the beach you'll find the town of Rabi-Ribi, past that a rocky area that leads straight into a Tundra section. This certainly isn't game breaking but it does make Rabi-Ribi feel a bit cobbled together, a bit more explanation and coherence would have helped.

This is issue only increases when it comes to the enemy design which is even more random. The main meat of the enemies consists of fake bunny girls and fairies...but theres also cats...normal cats you whack in the face with a mallet, baby chicks, spikey multi-coloured balls of light, rabbit blob things, Kirby (yes THAT Kirby) and the one I feel is weirdest...what appears to be a packet of carrot seeds that has arms and legs and throws spears at you. Again there's nothing wrong with this, it's just a bit cobbled together and makes it a little difficult to engage with the game...there's some interesting characters and the story is least to start with, but it just feels like someone wanted to create an anime themed 8-bit style metroid-vania game and didn't really think about it much more than that.

There is one other issue of note and that's to do with the level design most games of this type you'll wander around bite-sized chunks of the game and when you get to the edge of a given area it'll transition to the next, however these transitions can often be downright unfair as on many occasions I bumped straight into an enemy...and when you moving upwards to a new screen there are often problems with landing on a platform, leading to you missing the jump and heading straight back down. The enemies spawn back immediately so you can miss the upper screen, head back to the lower screen and then find yourself fighting the same enemies again just to get a chance to get back up there again. The map screen in the menu is also confusing as most metoid-vania games indicate where the screen transitions are, but Rabi-Ribi's map screen isn't that kind so you may end up wandering around areas trying to remember to figure out where the passage you need is. These little niggles make the game world more of a chore to traverse than it needed to be.

Rabi-ribi certainly isn't a bad game, it'll certainly scratch your metroid-vania itch especially if you want something with bags of challenge as it's very tough at times and has lots of options to make things even tougher. The RPG elements work well and do a good job of making the player switch things up without ever feeling unfair. But there are niggles especially when it comes to world design and I wished there was more coherence to the plot and the world it's set in as well as some more imagination with the character upgrades. But having said this I did find myself playing Rabi-ribi for pretty long periods of time, showing that the game does have the capacity to draw people in. Rabi-ribi is a challenging addition to the metroid-vania genre, but a bit more shine when it comes to world and map design would have pushed it up with the best.

Time for the joyful finale that is the clean up

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